David Needell ’15 has always been interested in art, and growing up on an 800-acre ranch in tiny Elbert, Colo. gave him plenty of peace, quiet and inspiration to draw. Later, in high school at the Fountain Valley School in Colorado, he took a ceramics class and became captivated by another art form: pot throwing.
“It’s one of the most ancient arts,” the Bowdoin first-year said recently. “You go to the museum and see pots and vases from Chinese dynasties. It’s always been a form of art and functionality.” History aside, it’s just as much the physical act of making pottery that appeals to him. “I like throwing. It’s like a meditation when you’re doing it. The whole point of throwing is to get [the pot] centered, and it takes concentration. You have to be in the zone,” he said. “If I’m ever stressed about something, I go throw. It’s a good way to calm down.”
This semester Needell was hired to teach a four-week pot-throwing class at Bowdoin’s Craft Center, and is offering a weekly two-hour course to five students. The class size is limited because the center has only so many wheels, and there was a wait list, he said. He’ll offer the class again in the fall.
While Needell has taught pot throwing informally to friends, this has been his first time teaching. “It’s hard because when you’re on the wheel, it’s hard to explain the motions,” he said. “You have to experience how you push against the clay and the clay pushes against you.”
Eventually, he promises his students – if they practice enough – that they’ll get to the point where they can consistently throw well and begin experimenting with shapes.
Although Needell is an accomplished artist – his graceful vases, goblets and pots adorn the shelves of the Craft Center – he says art will probably not be his vocation: he’s planning to double major in math and physics and minor in music or computer science.
The Craft Center, open since 1999 on campus, offers workshops year round for students, faculty and staff, including sewing, quilting, print making, jewelry classes and more.