Using Our Senses/Losing Our Senses

By Bernie Bell

The Harray Potter – Andrew Appleby – sent me a link to something, wanting to know what I think of it……………….

In the film which I watched, Andrew gets a piece of clay, puts it on the wheel, wets it, starts to shape it.  The shape of the body of the teapot starts to build.  He pauses, measures the opening with a set of callipers, and carries on.  When it’s ready, with one swift swipe of a wire, it’s off the wheel and put aside while he makes the lid for the teapot.

He takes a smaller piece of clay, and swiftly, shapes it. 

The thing is, the opening in the top of teapot has to be just right for the lid to fit, and the lid has to be just right to fit the opening. Yet Andrew makes both pot and lid in minutes, only pausing briefly a couple of times to measure with the callipers – and each time, the measurement shows him that he’s got it right.

I was marvelling at this – that a person can make something with such precision, almost instinctively. But it isn’t instinctively – he had to train, to learn, then add to that decades of working with clay – that’s what leads to him being able to do this with such ease, and such – almost unthinking – precision. And all the while chatting away – telling the tale.

It’s something I go on about a bit – how we are losing our senses because we’re not using our senses.  For millennia, we humans needed to use our senses to survive.  We had to ‘read’ what was happening around us, know when to move on to a different area according to the seasons, know when to sow seeds and the best times to procreate and celebrate – there’s a good psychological reason for getting together and celebrating in mid-winter!  Being aware of what we need, as humans, not only to survive, but also to feel good about ourselves.

These days, some folk still need to use their senses to ‘read’ what they are working with – know just when something is hot enough, ripe enough, or wide enough. They do this by using their knowledge and instinct, and using their senses – having their antennae out, and on ‘receive’.

What comes to mind is cooking. My Mother rarely weighed ingredients – it was a ‘pinch‘ of this, a ‘good bit’ or a ‘fist-full‘ of that.  Mix it or knead it until it ‘looks right’ or ‘feels right’. She had been a cook in a big house for part of her working life and, like Andrew with his potting, she will have got so she could produce wonders  while almost  ‘on automatic’. And she was a very good cook.

My Auntie Bridie could knit an Arran jumper, with all the complicated stitches, while sitting chatting away with the neighbours.

All too often now, people don’t need to use their senses – it’s all there, ready for them – made in a factory.

Even food comes packaged. You bung it in a microwave oven, set the timer, wait for the ‘ping’, and there you are – inedible glop!

So, though sitting watching a computer screen with a lot happening on it isn’t my thing, the more I think about it the more I appreciate what Andrew is doing.  I appreciate what he is actively doing – using his senses, with his knowledge, to produce something unique.  And his teapots are unique – though he makes and sells hundreds of them – anywhere you go, if you come across Fursbreck pottery, you can recognize it as being such.

His pieces are the product of a craftsman at work, not a production line. 

The film I watched is just that – a craftsman at work, producing, with ease, objects which work – the pieces of which fit together just right, with no more help from anything outside of Andrew himself, than he gets from a simple pair of callipers.

And they are pleasing to look at and hold, too.

Our Trusty Old Teapot

I think it would be a good thing for schools to show children these films, to show them that there are possibilities in life in which you can choose to use your senses and participate more fully.  You don’t have to be ‘arty’ – a stockman/woman needs to know when their animals are ready to give birth, and keep an eye on them.

Millers still need to use their senses, too…..

And the chatting – the telling the tale.  As young people ‘text’ more and more and are on their gadgets more and more, in Andrew’s films they can see the value of what a person can add to any encounter by simply engaging those around them in a story. It doesn’t have to be a Saga or a Drama, just, as with Andrew’s, a tale of childhood – a childhood different, yet not that different from their own, as children are children,  and brothers and sisters still have their rivalries, as they always have done.

What am I on about?  Have a listen, and see.

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