He signed up for a beginning class, with instruction in hand-building and wheel-work. Today, Dr. Sokal is one of the instructors at Baltimore Clayworks, teaching beginning wheel-work.
He wasn't a prodigy. His aptitude for pottery was "high average," he says, and, although he has sold a few pieces, he still considers himself an amateur. Teaching forces him to find words for technical aspects that are almost instinctual for him.
"Wheel-work is analogous to learning how to walk," he says. "There are 1,001 parts to it."
He remembers the first piece he made that pleased him, a cylindrical form with sections opening like petals. "I would not by any stretch say it was uniquely beautiful, but it showed me the fundamental possibilities."
Now he helps to show others those possibilities, even as he carries a 100-patient caseload as a staff psychiatrist at the Fayette Street Clinic, and performs emergency-room duty at Psychiatric Urgent Care and consultation work at Bon Secours Hospital.
"My work, while in some ways very rewarding, has a lot of grief, tragedy and horror, as well as certain kinds of difficult joys," he says. "In pottery, I find something soothing in beautiful forms, and aesthetic satisfaction. It gives me a respite from the real sadness I see people struggling with."
Pub Date: 5/16/96