The email advertised 'carving a sand block' and I imagined creating a sculpture. I was planning on making something that looked like an ancient artifact puzzle box. But instead, what were were actually doing was carving a mold for a cast aluminium relief sculpture. After some thought, I made something that looked like part of a keyboard with the keys labeled, 'Boon', 'Smite', 'Light', 'Dark', and bits of other words. Mainly I wanted a 'Smite' button and the rest were decorations. I did not realize it at the time, but I was probably subconsciously inspired by the Far Side Cartoon.
Of course, the trick with casting is that you have to carve the letters backwards, because the mold is a mirror of the cast, so it took a bit of sketching and planning to make it work right. As I was working, I noticed someone else who was making something with text but had penciled in letters normally, and I told him about the mirroring in time for him to fix it.
After that, the pottery students and teachers held a contest. First, they made bowls blindfolded, which was not really much of a handicap. Then they had to make a bowl in pairs, with each person using only one hand. That was a bigger challenge. The teams had to do a lot of talking and communicating. As the teacher watched this, he commented that this would be an excellent teaching tool, because it forced them to really think and talk about what they were doing.
The final challenge was one of sheer size. Each of the four people started adding large mounds of clay to the wheel, one at a time, in a game of steady brinksmanship, until the wheels were completely covered with clay to a height of at least a foot. Everyone in the crowd knew that this would end up being a contest of strength and endurance in addition to skill. After ten minutes of solid work, each of the contestants ended up with something the size of a toilet bowl.
After the show, I learned how to throw pots. I might have done okay if I did the simple thick things that the other beginners were doing, but I kept pushing the limits, trying to make it tall and thin, and then messing up at some point and ending up collapsing it, ripping it, or letting it become misshapen and wobbly.
After that, we went to watch them melt a crucible of aluminium in their furnace and pour it into our molds. That was interesting to watch. It was kind of like going back in time 100 years and watching an old factory process. Mine came out pretty well, although I am going to have to scrape off some slag when I get home. I also collected a little disk of aluminium formed when a drop of the molten stuff landed on a sand block, ran in a thin puddle, and cooled.
I was surprised that more people did not go to their event. I always like watching demonstrations of technical or artistic skills like that, and getting to try it out was a nice touch. Things like that are one of the great benefits of being at a college.