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The basics of throwing on a Pottery Wheel

Throwing on a wheel is not as hard as you might think.
All it took was a few weeks of practice and watching a couple of videos.
Every potter will have his own technique, it will be up to you to develop yours.

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Clay has to be wedged or kneaded to get the air pockets out of it.
If the air is not kneaded out of the clay there is a possibility your piece will explode when it is fired because moisture and gasses will form in the air pockets which causes the pocket to expand and explode.

Most of the clay you buy today has been run through a pug mill which takes the air out of it, but if you recycle clay or dig your own you will have to wedge it.
This is done by folding the clay over on itself and pushing down, kinda like kneading bread.
Do this several times until you feel you have gotten all the air out.

Centering the clay is one of the most important steps in throwing pottery.
If your clay is not centered, when you begin to pull up the piece, it will be off balance, and you will fight the clay the whole time.
When centering clay it is important to use your whole body.
Get yourself seated in a comfortable position, so that your forearm can press against your thighs.
Throw the clay down close to the center of the wheel. You want the clay to stick well, so give it a good toss onto the wheel.

Wet the clay and with the wheel spinning a moderate to fast speed, force the clay to the center of the wheel by positioning your hands so that right hand is on top of the clay pointing at 11:00 and the left is on the side. Using the ball of the left hand axert pressure toward center and with the side of the top hand pressing down.
Use your whole body to force the clay into the center and elbow against your thigh. Use both hands and your body to keep your arms from moving with the clay. Press the clay down from the top and releasing slowly, while pressing in from the side, this motion will eventually center your clay.
It doesn't take long to get the hang of the proceedure. Practice makes perfect so they say.

Centering the clay on a potter's wheel.

To View a video of this process click here

When opening up the piece, slow the wheel down.
Opening up the center of the clay can be a tricky task.
If you do not manage to keep you hands totally still, the hole in the center will wobble around, even though the outside of the clay appears to still be centered.
While pressing down with your fingers use your other hand to help steady them.
Also, press your arms into your side to help hold your arms still.
Be careful to leave enough clay for the bottom of the piece.
I check this with my needle tool.

Measuring the pottery bottom with the needle tool.

To View a video of this process click here

Useing both hands to widen the opening. Place one hand on the bottom inside of the piece.
Placing pressure only on the bottom slowly pull the piece toward your belly button.
When you have reached desired width ease off the piece slowly.
If water pools on the inside use a sponge to remove the water.

Opening the center of the pottery project.

To View a video of this process click here

Pulling up the walls usually will take two or three pulls.
Don't try to pull it up in one pull.
Notice the hand placement.

Pulling up the walls of your pottery project.

To View a video of this process click here

Pull the walls up by placing a hand on the inside and one on the outside even with each other.
Starting at the bottom, start by squeezing the clay and working it upwards at the same time.
The speed at which you pull up will be affected by the speed of your wheel.
The faster the wheel is spinning the faster you can pull up.
In the beginning it is better to start slowly then when you feel more comfortable move onto a faster speed.

Repeat the pulling until you get the walls to the desired thickness.
Usually about 1/4 inch thick.

Trim the base of the piece with a wood tool that has been cut on a diagonal.

Wooden Pottery trimming tool.

Shaping the piece, narrowing.

By applying pressure to the outside you can narrow the opening of the piece.

Shaping a bowl on the potter's wheel.

Placing your fingers on the inside and gently pressing out will widen your piece.

Be careful.

Remember your piece is spinning and if you pull too far it may fall.

Use a wire or fish line to cut the bottom before you set this aside to firm up.
When the water evaporates the piece will shrink.
The cut will allow the bottom to shrink and keep the bottom from cracking.
After the piece is shaped and cut let the piece set till it is leather hard.

Cutting the pottery loose from the potter's wheel.

Trimming is a term for shaving clay at the base of a piece.
Trimming works best when the clay is leather hard.
Trimming finishes the shape of the piece as well as finishes the base to the correct thickness.
Turn the piece to be trimming over.
Be careful not to set it down to hard and dent the top.

Spin the wheel and hold your finger close to your piece and check to see if the piece is centered.
Adjust the piece as necessary to center it.

Holding the pottery in the center for trimming.

Use a sponge and your finger to smooth the area that was trimmed.

If the piece has a handle or something that obstructs your ability to flip the pot over, use a post placed on the inside to elevate the piece.

Let the greenware dry thoroughly at room temperature three to six days depending air humidity.

Bisque fire the dry greenware to Cone 06 or Cone 04

Under glaze and or glaze.

Fire to the glaze or clay mature temperature.

Now, how does it feel, you have just made a piece of thrown pottery all by your self. The more you practice the braver you will get and the braver you get the more of a chance you have of the clay showing you who is boss!!!
Just like riding a motorcycle, get too brave and it will dump you just so you don't forget who is the boss.

Don't give up, mistakes are just lessons!

Good Luck & Have Fun!!!

It is never cloudy outside if the sun is shining in your heart.

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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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