Hands In Clay

Pottery Gallery and Teaching Studio

Making Pots and Throwing

Now that we've talked about this stuff we call clay, let's talk about what we're going to do with it.  When we make a pot on the potter's wheel we use a term called throwing.  Ceramic scholars tend to agree that this term probably came from the first action of the potter at the wheel, actually throwing the clay ball down onto the wheel head. There is another theory, that "to throw" in Latin is actually "to turn", having to do with the turning of the potter's wheel, a revolutionary idea if there ever was one!

There are two main shapes that wheel thrown pots are made from  - the cylinder and the bowl.  In the first six-week session at Hands In Clay, our main emphasis will be on the centering of the clay and forming of the cylinder.  With the cylinder we focus on the seemingly Herculean task of getting the clay "up" and our goal will be that wonderful pot of our morning ritual - the coffee mug.

There are very few operations that look so simple yet which in fact are so difficult to master as throwing.  Once learned, however it in not easily forgotten and soon it becomes a skill which is completely absorbing, fascinating, and satisfying.



Opening up

Common Problems in Throwing

Clay that is too stiff, too soft, or poorly wedged.

Opening up the clay before it is properly centered.

Greater pressure with one thumb than the other when opening the ball, making the walls uneven.

Applying too much water so that the clay becomes to soft.

Unsteady pressure from inside the pot, making the pot wobble.

Pressure from both the inside and the outside fingers, causing the thin or weak spot in the wall.

Throwing too slowly and overworking the clay, causing the pot to sag.

Allowing throwing water to collect in the bottom of the pot, making the clay soft and unable to hold its shape when removing.  This also creates a tendency for the dreaded S-crack.

The S-crack can be avoided by removing throwing water with a sponge, by compressing the bottom of the pot to make a smooth even bottom, by drying slowly, and also by trimming with a firm downward pressure.