Clay is a heavy material and requires a certain amount of physical finesse to lift, cart and move around. To begin with, clay is usually sold in 50-pound boxes split into two 25-pound plastic bags. Once it’s shaped into a form, it needs to be carried to and from and lifted in and out of the kiln. Some of the clay equipment is also large and heavy. Kilns, potter’s wheels and slab rollers are usually set in one place in a studio – too cumbersome to move around. Creating with clay on the wheel or hand-building at a work table requires some strength, fluid movement and fine-motor skills. Bulky kiln shelves are layered and lifted in and out of a kiln each time it is fired. Many potters mix their own glazes that are carried and stored in large heavy buckets. I've switched to pint-sized paint on glazes which is one less material to lug around. And even when the making is complete, the finished pieces are packed and transported to shows in crates or carefully wrapped for shipping to customers. These actions also require some heavy lifting.
Most potters I know experience their share of aches and pains related to their time with clay. So when the pain in my elbow persisted for the last couple of months, I knew it was time to have it checked. I had avoided diagnosis, afraid I’d be told to stop any clay or knitting activity. Luckily, the ‘tennis elbow’ I have can be rehabilitated through physical therapy, regular exercises and a fancy pressure bracelet I now wear. My daily clay activity, nightly knitting and yoga practice can proceed as usual.
I was able to spend fun-time in the studio this week with some neighborhood friends and their young daughters. I received pleasure introducing my young neighbors to pottery. We painted several clay shapes to make a pot-sticker. It was great to see their enthusiasm and the fantastic outcome of their color application! I'll assemble the finished pieces later this week once the applied sealer is dry!