Ceramics teacher challenges herself by ‘throwing’ a vase blindfolded

March 15, 2010 — by Vivian LeTran and Maggie Lin

Ceramics teacher Leah Aguayo has had over 30 years of experience working with clay. While her students toil away at throwing, taking an average of 10 minutes for advanced students, throwing a bowl is effortless for Aguayo. The Falcon timed Aguayo to get an accurate record of how long it takes for her to throw a bowl.

Although she rarely timed herself, Aguayo did not feel the pressure of time and seemed completely at ease as she easily manipulated the clay. She bested her own previous record of 47 seconds with a new time of 44.995 seconds.

Since she is always up for a challenge, we asked Aguayo to throw blindfolded. Not only did she pass with flying colors, but she actually chose to throw a vase, a creation considerably more difficult to make than a bowl. While spectators giggled as she blindly grasped for the water bowl, she kept her composure feeling around for what she needed. She finished with a beautiful masterpiece in a speedy 2 minutes and 27.25 seconds.

“I was surprised at the shape after I [took off the] blindfold. [The shape] was classic, which was what I was going for,” said Aguayo. “I was going for a classical vase shape, which is narrow at the bottom going out at the top with a little rim. But in my mind I thought it was taller, so I was surprised that it was a little shorter than I had originally thought it was.”

Aguayo finds throwing blindfolded to be a completely different experience that requires the thrower to rely on senses rather than sight.

“It forces you to use all your senses. You have to get the feel of what you’re doing and listen to the sounds of things,” said Aguayo. “I could hear my wheel speed and feel the shape with my hands. You also have to organize your bowl of water and tools to know where they are.”

Aguayo first tried to throw blindfolded a little over 10 years ago. On a television show called “That’s Incredible,” she saw a man with no arms throw a pot with his feet. Inspired by this amazing feat, she tried to imagine how a blind potter would feel by attempting to throw blindfolded.

“[Blindfolding yourself] makes you aware of how a blind person has to feel with everyday life,” said Aguayo. “They probably put their tools in a certain spot like me, but fortunately I could see where put my tools.”

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