People have been making pots for as long as they have had things to put in them. In fact, pottery is nearly as old as the hills that provide the clay to make it. You'll struggle to find arrow- making or bearskin couture on the adult education syllabus, but pottery is ever present.
Pottery lasts and that, says Jane Richards, is part of its enduring appeal. Jane threw her first pot at an evening class, gave up her secretarial job, went to art college and then made a living selling her earthenware. Now she teaches others how to turn lumps of clay into smoothly rounded receptacles.
"You are working with earth, air, fire and water," she says. "It's very basic, and I think that's why people like it." Elemental it may be, but elementary it ain't. The potter's wheel has been the scene of many a flop. "It takes years and years of practice to master the wheel," says Jane. A relative novice, Lucinda is already turning out convincingly pot-like objects - even if her husband mocks her "thin and wobbly" style. Her pottery sessions are a well earned break from the demands of two young children. "It's my treat of the week."
Sasha, an administrator, prefers the non-mechanical approach of "coiling". She builds up the sides of her coffee mug with rings of rolled clay before adding a satisfyingly chunky handle. "I like to take out the frustrations of the day on the clay," she admits.
With its vocabulary of "slip", "crank" and "grog", soft and tactile materials and slow and steady processes (it takes two days to fire a pot) there's something reassuringly down-to-earth about this most hands-on of hobbies.
Kate, who has a job in marketing, certainly finds it therapeutic. "It's lovely to have two-and-a-half hours to do something creative where you can just switch off. I have dreams of giving up my job and becoming a mad potter in Dorset," she sighs.
Harvey McGavin This class took place at the Henry Thornton Centre, part of the Lambeth Adult Education Service, Clapham, London SW4. Tel: 0171 926 0730