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In which John makes some pottery--specifically a secret keeper for a p4a donor. You can donate and get great perks until midnight tonight:

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Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday. After all the excitement this weekend, I feel like we could use a little peace and quiet, so...let's just make some pottery today. Those birds are some good paid actors. By the way, please don't correct my pottery technique. I'm not trying to be good at pottery, I am trying to distract myself from all the, uh, gestures broadly.

Okay, so I'm centering the clay here. I'm making these little closed forms I call "secret-keepers." The idea is that you whisper something that's difficult or painful or traumatic or whatever into the little holes at the bottom of the secret-keeper, and then the secret kinda lives inside the form instead of having to live inside your brain. I want them to be a little wonky so absolutely centering the clay on the wheel is not, like, mission critical. But with pottery, a-as with brains, centering is helpful.

So as I'm recording this, the 16th annual Project for Awesome has raised just over 3 million dollars for charity. You can still donate at until the end of the day. I don't know what to say about the P4A except that every year, it is awesome in the classical sense of the word. Overwhelming, intimidating, thrilling, and above all, beautiful. All weekend long I kept thinking how lucky we are, Hank, to still be able to do this, to still feel the warmth and the light of this community. It's just incredible.

So now that I've got the clay centered enough for my party, I just start to press down in the middle, and it sort of naturally forms sides. Now you're starting to work with a cylinder. I'm gonna very inefficiently and inelegantly pull the sides of the cylinder up now so that this secret-keeper can have some height to it. The thing about making pottery on a wheel is that the wheel actually does almost all of the work. Wheels, by the way, were not initially invented for transport or whatever. They were invented for pottery, and when I throw pots like this one, I often feel as if I'm doing something ancient. But in fact it's not that ancient, like, both eating bread and drinking beer are older than wheels, and indeed older than wheel-thrown pottery.

I think my favorite part of the Project for Awesome this year was at the very end when our families were on the stream and everyone was celebrating together and the chat got together and wrote, "we're here because we're here because we're here because we're here." That was just so lovely, a kind of written global chorus. The P4A just, it's just the best, Hank. It reminds me that hope is the correct response to consciousness.

Now there's a word to what I'm doing right now with the clay, but I kinda forget what it is. Basically, I'm trying to coax the walls of my vessel toward each other using very light pressure from my palms and my fingers. If before I was bringing the clay up, now I'm trying to bring it in. And this is the place where it can, and often does, all fall apart. I have to be everything my highly distracted Internet-based brain does not want me to be: attentive, steady, patient. It's something close to meditation. Once I've got the form closed at last, then it's happy happy fun time. I'm gonna play with a tool here, mostly just for giggles, but also I do enjoy the spiral and this lets me carve little spirals into the clay. Sometimes I end up wanting to keep them, other times I end up mostly smoothing them over. But even when you can't see the spiral, you can sometimes feel it in your hand when you hold the secret-keeper, and I like how some things that cannot be seen are nonetheless felt. And then once it's done, I take it off the wheel and bring it over to dry with its friends. 

I used to think that art had to be great to be worthwhile. Now, I only think it has to be to be worthwhile. Hank, thanks for 16 amazing P4As, I'll see you on Friday.