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Monday, January 9, 2017

Sculpting a Vase By Hand

On Saturday I wrote a response to a prompt I was giving in Blog City ( I want to share it here. It's about seeing Abdul Matin for the second time.

Writing from Remembrance-What stories are in your hands? I've always been fascinated with the lines and stories in people's hands. When you look at your palms what stories do they hold? What have your hands built?

"Friend, do you want to try making something out of clay?" He asked me as he began to step down from the potter's wheel. 
I had met him almost six months ago in Washington, D.C. Abdul Matin was in town for a live pottery demonstration at the Seer Museum. Traveling from Kabul, the museum invited Abdul Matin to show off tradition Afghani crafts for their Afghani art exhibit. I was amazed at what laid in front of my eyes - the latticework sitting area and it was a great area to sit to cool down from the hot temperatures outside. However, that Potter really put a spell on me.

I couldn't stop watching him contort the clay through his hands. I studied ceramics in high school, it wasn't my forte, but it was a fun class. I was telling Abdul Matin about that as he molded a plate, then a teapot, and finally a teacup. He let me take pictures and we talked briefly after the demonstration. He even gave me his e-mail address to send him the pictures when I arrived home (which he was appreciative about).

Fast forward to November, the day after a very dark and bitter day. The Philadelphia Museum of Art announced the Philadelphia Contemporary Craft Show that was being held on November 11-13 with the guest star: Abdul Matin and the Turquoise Mountain School. The Turquoise Mountain School is a school that is trying to bring the arts back into Afghanistan. They are also selling the artwork to raise money to rebuild Afghanistan. People like myself could sign up for classes at the Turquoise Mountain School and learn the traditional Afghani crafts (I would love to go to Kabul to learn Arabic calligraphy... maybe some day!). After seeing this post, I had to go.

I wander around the Philadelphia Convention Center on a blustery Sunday. Everything is too expensive here, but I want to see Abdul Matin. I hope I can find his booth soon and this traveling in the blustery wind isn't in vain. After walking away from a booth that sold $250 satin scarves, I had to sit down and regroup. I looked at my map and it said his booth should be somewhere in the corner. I finally found it after five minutes of zigging and zagging between booths.

He remembered me! He told his translator in Pashto and his translator telling me what he was saying in English, "That's my friend! I met her in Washington, D.C.! She came to see our exhibit and she e-mailed me the beautiful pictures she took!" We all chatted for a bit, but I chatted with the translator a bit more until the show was about to start.

His demonstration was similar to that of Washington, D.C. However, unlike Washington, D.C., when he stepped off the potter wheel, instead of taking a picture with me, he asked if I wanted to try my hand at making pottery.

His female assistant helped me put on the smock and they both said, "let's pretend you're a student at the Turquoise Mountain School. This is how we would instruct you." Abdul Matin's translator took my camera to take pictures. Abdul Matin then showed me how to start the wheel. It was foot powered instead of electric, like what I learned on in school.

As someone with scoliosis, the electric wheel was always tough for me. I never liked how fast it went and it irritated my back. There was something much easier and much more comfortable of powering the wheel with your foot. I could control the speed and I worked better at making a vase, then a candle holder. I made a few different things while I sat there. I was proud of myself; Abdul Matin and his assistant were impressed too. They urged me to sign up for one of their classes. Maybe one day.

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