Matt Cronshaw, owner of Little Torch Ceramics and finalist on The Great Pottery Throw Down 2020, explains how pottery taught him the importance of mindfulness
Matt Cronshaw was a professional cyclist for over 10 years. His cycling career ended suddenly and ceramics quickly became a respite for him. Now he owns his own business Little Torch Ceramics, he is a co-founder of the Manchester Ceramics Collective and makes all of AGNI’s ceramic products.
I start by removing a lump of clay from the bag using a thin wire. A simple task, but one I like to use to set my intentions. A swift pull, draws the loop closed and with it a clean, straight cut through the clay.
At this stage it isn’t ready to work with, small air pockets and firmer parts need working to distribute evenly.
I start to knead the clay in a spiral motion, creating folds of clay that in repetition make a fractal-like pattern. Each movement focused evenly, making the fractal pattern more distinct and uniform. The feel of the clay is unique. Like the opposite of cornflour and water – more fluid under pressure.
I sit down at the wheel, with my ball of clay to start throwing. Simply put, its a series of steps, where each step is just a different way of manipulating the clay into a final form, of which, there are thousands of iterations and orders to the steps.
I hold an image of what I am about make in my mind, until I sit down at the wheel. Then I visualise that form as its constituent steps, rather than the whole. I work backwards from the image in my mind, determining the steps in reverse. Imagining how each step looks and feels until I arrive at my present point, sat at the wheel with just a ball of clay. I start the process, not making a piece of pottery, just doing the next step, as best as I can.
When I first started ceramics I would berate myself mid process if it wasn’t going to plan. I was judging myself in relation to my goal. But working with clay taught me that engaging with each step, without thinking of the goal, can bring about the exact goal I’d been striving for.
Paradoxical to think about, even still, but I’ve learnt to let go of expectation and the quality of my work drastically improved because of it. I never would have thought that forgetting about an end product, in a process primarily about an end product would have helped. Mindfulness eh?!