I have my rules. No elbowing, no pushing, no saving chairs. I have three chairs next to my portable potter’s wheel; one yellow, one blue and one red, little plastic chairs for preschoolers up to the second grade. Most of these kids I know by first name; most of them run to grab one of the empty seats while their parents or most often their dad wanders around the Blacksburg Farmers Market buying greens, milk, sausage and some homemade bread.
Most of my audience stares. A few continue to ask questions but often I do not respond since they asked the same questions last year. Sometimes I show off; cutting a bit of the rim off a pot off and then twirling it in the air lake a pizza chef before sinking it into my plastic yogurt container of water and clay. (slop)
Eventually a parent will wander over and say the following; “One more minute Amelia, then we have to go …” Whatever the next event is for this Saturday morning. The child says nothing, doesn’t even nod her head. The same parent will return in a minute or two and say the same thing; pretty boring by now for we know the parent is afraid of laying down the law and hauling the child off of the coveted chair and tugging him toward the car.
What I like best besides beside my sideshow at the market is the kids steady concentration. Minutes turn to a quarter hour…mesmerized by the wheel turning, the clay becoming a bowl, soon to be set on the hood of my truck for drying. Some kids return and buy one my five dollar little cups; others like Preston might stand behind me and tell how to trim the pot. This five year old can spot a wobbly pot and tell me what to do about it.
More than one parent has confided in me: “I don’t know what it is about you and that pottery wheel but he/she cannot sit still at school or home for that long of a time.” I nod and agree. My hunch is that this blending of the physical- my hands, this clay; the hefty work it takes to make something and then the surprise they have each week when they wander about my pottery table to see what is new. They save their last look for my little basket, full of new little cups with spritely colors. They still say, “What color are you going to paint them?” Rather than using the more grown up phrase of what glaze will use?
At the end of the day, I pack my newly thrown clay bowls and cups tenderly in Kroger paper bags and then my glazed work into plastic bins while generous farmers bring me surplus greens, carrots, parsley, and sometimes bread or handmade soap. My turn to be surprised and grateful.
Within the hour, the produce will be stored in our coolers at Plenty! ready for an early Monday morning distribution through our Portable Produce volunteer drivers. Over seventy families throughout Floyd County will receive a knock on their door and outside will be waiting a person with a big smile and big bag of produce. Tired, I drive back to Floyd, thinking about the kids, their parents and all the pots I sold today, the proceeds going into the coffers of Plenty! I am so aware of the good fortune which has come my way, me sitting on a Wade’s apple crate; the wheel on a yellow plastic bucket, at the corner of Draper and College.