Kapha. Heavy and slow, the mixture of water and earth.
I bought a new bag of clay this month, having used up the first one. I am returning to the clay I know best, porcelain. The grains are fine, the body smooth, plastic, yielding. On the wheel it turns into eggshells, the rippled whorls of flowers, small bowls for sipping something rare and precious. In the hand it is pliant, waiting placidly to be transformed into tiny faces, mysterious creatures, wild-eyed birds with calm bodies.
Vata. Dry and rough, light and quick, the mixture of space and air.
Dry greenware, the unfired clay, is brittle. Drop it, and it transforms into dust and fragments. Push it too hard, and it crumbles. Porous, it inhales moisture, absorbing the colors of pigmented slip, seizing them and holding them fast. Abraded gently with sandpaper, the surface becomes as soft as sandstone, a rough-smooth matte texture like the skin of a toad. Flaws are erased through the actions of the sand, silicon grains rubbing at other grains of earth and crystal. Dry vulnerability becomes a virtue. Passed through fire, it becomes strength.
Pitta. Sharp, hot, and moist, the mixture of fire and water.
Bisqueware seizes the moist glaze aggressively, holding it tight, demanding swift action with no errors. The element of chance cannot be avoided, only compensated for. Wax buys some room, a moist-dry shell that transforms hungry clay into restrained form capable of resisting the call of color and shine.
Pottery emerges from the final firing hot, shining, and bright with energy. When glaze is applied too thickly, it puddles and forms a glass-sharp edge; too thin, and the clay looks through, resistant to transformation. Cooling pots sing, a celebration of their survival and adaptation to the world beyond. Dull textures have given way to brightness and color, fragility to surprising strength.
There is alchemy in the firing, lessons at every stage; clay and water, pigment and fire, the unpredictability of air -- all of these keep the potter humble, unable to take any of it for granted. In the practice, all comes into balance.