I lightly tap the side of a vase as it spins slowly on the wheel head - once, twice, three times. The pot sufficiently centered on the wheel,
I stop its movement and place wads of fresh clay around the base to keep the pot centered. Life's troubles melt away as I set the wheel head in motion and begin burnishing with a small polished stone.
The point of contact is a tiny area on the surface of the pot down near the bottom. The vase spins steadily. I focus on that small area and lift the stone, ever-so-slowly, up the height of the pot, then down the height of the pot in increments of one or two inches at a time. I am aware of the affect the spinning has on my body as I feel my head following the rhythm of the wheel. I am calm and centered. As I bend over slightly to view this space on the pot, the sun shines through a large window in front of me and I see the results of the burnishing as the pot's surface glows in the sun's rays.
MICHAEL MAHAN has been making pots in the Seagrove area for more than 20 years. A former newspaper reporter, he now lives in Westmoore, nine miles south of Seagrove. He grew up in Miami, Florida, and moved to North Carolina in 1974. While attending N.C. State University, he wrote a couple of stories on potters while working as an intern at the Enquirer-Journal in Monroe, NC.
Mahan took a couple of classes at the university and didn't find a means to pursue his interest in clay until moving to Asheboro in the early 1980s where he worked as a reporter at The Courier-Tribune for several years. He and his first wife, Jane Braswell, opened up Wild Rose Pottery in 1986, after they both took classes at Montgomery Community College in Troy for a few years.
Mahan opened up his current shop in 1998. He has three children: Wil, Chelsea, and Levi. He lives with his wife, Mary Holmes who grew up in Limerick, Ireland.