Years ago on a family trip to Italy we found ourselves in the tiny town of Cetona,Tuscany. Cetona is off the tourist circuit: a place where the fishmonger sells fresh catch in the piazza every Tuesday and the glitterati hide out from paparazzi behind ancient stone walls.
We entered a ceramics shop and found a young man bent over his work, surrounded by mountains of handmade vases and cups and pitchers. His pottery was simple and joyful.
My wife and I showered him with accolades. He nodded politely but kept his attention fixed on his work, which clearly interested him more than our praise. He seemed intent on adding more and more pieces to his over-packed shelves, without regard for sales or inventory. He created because he loved to create.
The young man’s mother scurried about the shop stacking and restacking the pottery, happy to accept complements on his behalf. She skillfully negotiated a price for the small espresso set we selected. The potter remained absorbed in his work while the old woman wrapped each tiny cup and sent us on our way.
My little pottery studio in Latrobe, Pa is an unheated garage that previously housed the lawn tractor. It needs painting and proper shelves and a new door. It is not quaint or picturesque. But when I’m bent over the potter’s wheel, surrounded by my humble pots, I become that happy Italian potter. My driveway could just as well be the piazza outside his romantic Tuscan shop. The recycled greenhouse shelves I use to store my pots are ready to collapse, but I keep potting.
Creating for the pure joy of it is transformative. A potter’s wheel and a few thousand pounds of clay has transformed my suburban garage into the most romantic place this side of the Mediterranean.