Dream Dates During Lockdown: Fun with Ceramics

For every romance-head out there, there’s that scene in that one film, which fuelled a thousand dreams and fantasies. The movie and the scene may vary, but for me, there was one, and only one. I’ll give you a hint: it involves clay and an oversize button-down men’s blouse. If you were lucky enough to have experienced any part of the nineties, you’ll know I am, of course, talking about the scene in Ghost, a supernatural tear-jerker thriller starring Demi Moore and the late Patrick Swayze.

The Xennials amongst us know what I’m talking about, where Demi straddles (ahem, sits astride) a pottery wheel, and the ghost of Patrick Swayze’s character sits behind her, helping her transform her clay into a purported piece of art. However, the pair are so overcome by emotions that they end up “getting distracted”.

Even as a very young child, cheekily watching my older family members watch this mature film (I was way too young to watch it when it came out) I remember thinking: one day, I’m going to re-enact this.

Well, within reason, I don’t have a ghost boyfriend that doubles as my guardian angel, nor is his fake best friend secretly plotting to kill me for this inheritance; nor do I have a barely-there white shirt that I can wear the way that Demi Moore wore it.

As time and luck would have it, I came across the chance as an adult, to partially recreate this visual. Since the pandemic, I’ve kept myself on the lookout for interesting, socially-distant compliant activities to do during the lockdown because life must still go on and humans will still meet and fall in love. Before the pandemic, life was simpler; people simply met, went on dates, fell in love etc. However, with the pandemic, people can’t do things quite the same way. In certain parts of the world, people simply went for bike rides, or long walks around parks, after dark. Nigeria doesn’t have parks and there aren’t really many places to ride one’s bike, if indeed one owns one. At best we take walks on the Lekki-Ikoyi bridge, which has its supreme limitations, trust me.

So, of course, when I came across a pottery class, I decided to take full advantage. I went, dressed in my cutest leather skirt and v-necked blouse, ready to check out the socially-distant dating scene. I’d decided against sacrificing one of my white blouses to the cause, because if there’s one thing I remember from my art school days – when it comes to a white shirt, that terracotta clay is there to stay.

Before I went, I imagined a room with ten or fifteen wheels, all manned by advanced pottery throwers, who’d gently guide us in the Promethean art of transforming a lump of clay into something beautiful and alive. Somehow, despite having not touched clay for over fifteen years, after fifteen minutes of pretending to be Demi Moore, my hitherto-latent clay throwing skills would be reactivated. Every delicate movement would enable me to create studio-quality porcelain, gossamer-thin and worthy of any art-studio or tastefully-decorated house.

The event was packed. Where I’d imagined perhaps eight-to-ten people, there were closer to twenty. Apparently a lot of people also wanted to learn how to throw clay. Many of us were around the same age, too. Millenials and Xennials, who had clearly seen the movie too.

If you came to the event looking to meet the love of your life, this certainly wouldn’t be the place. Unless, of course, one identified as a woman who liked other women, then, this was definitely the place to be.

We crowded around two tables, roughly six-to-eight on each table. We took turns kneading small lumps of clay, in order to make it more pliable. I’d forgotten how stiff fresh clay could be. Shortly after that, we handed over the freshly-kneaded clay to the class instructors, who then showed us the different ways to start off a piece of pottery. Disinterested, I looked around for the row of pottery wheels, on which I expected that before long, we’d be humming Unchained Melody, while fantasizing that our beloved boyfriend cradled us tenderly from behind, as we let the magnificently-phallic-shaped clay rise, grow bigger, and then relax, as an allegory for the love act it was meant to symbolise.

It was then that I noticed it: a large blue basin, atop a manual wheel mechanism. It reminded me vaguely of a pepper mill, save for the large metal spinning tabletop that sat in lieu of where the mill should be.

I appreciated the creativity: I’m also a “use what you’ve got” person, myself. There was only one wheel, which people had to take turns using. As luck would have it, I was one of the first people to get a spin on this wheel.

In the end, I did have a man standing behind me and helping me cradle the piece of pottery that I worked on. Less because we were long-lost lovers, and more because I’d completely forgotten how to make pottery. It had been almost twenty years, so I suppose that was to be expected. It took some time to get the motions right: manage the pedals, the clay, and the wheel at the same time.

I marvelled over my memory of the scene, and the reality of the activity. Somehow, Demi Moore had completed the scene with a light film of clay on her hands only. I found that, whether due to the extensive amount of time I’d spent manually powering the pedal on the pottery wheel (it really was like grinding pepper) – I had bits of clay in my hair, on my face – and somehow, even on my leather skirt. I was doubly glad I hadn’t worn anything in white – drenched in sweat as I was, it certainly would’ve leaked through my outfit.

Clay throwing is hard, thirsty work. Like Midas, everything I touched turned to gold – except in this case, it got covered in that sexy clay film. My lovely watch also became one with the earth, and had to be taken off so I’d have a chance of rescuing it, in what was clearly a bitter fight – Efua versus Prometheus – and I was clearly losing, slowly being absorbed back into the clay from whence I came.

Luckily, I had no more time on the wheel. Someone came and saved my pride, by needing to use it. I sweated some more as I washed my hands repeatedly, trying to divest myself of the remaining earth.

All told, it definitely didn’t seem to me like the best decision for a socially-distant date, unless the goal was to bond over getting “down and dirty” in a PG-13 way. It was a fun way to spend some time rekindling new skills, and curating offbeat cultural experiences.

I created a pretty cute piece: a rustic mug without a handle. I plan to paint it in gorgeous earth tones, and sip hot tea from it while I wondered alongside my dream flat, whilst being held by my real-life boyfriend.

 

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