Improve

A couple of weeks ago I spent a strangely enjoyable morning with a hammer, smashing all the pieces I have finished so far. For one reason or another I didn’t feel they were good enough to keep. One thing that became clear to me, as I was looking at the broken pieces, was that there was too much clay at the base of the walls of each pot. I feel strongly about not selling anything until I feel my pots are technically correct. So today’s task was to try and work out how to rectify this problem.

I repeatedly threw a similar form trying different approaches. After finishing I sliced each one in half vertically to check the wall thickness. Every time I could see a tiny improvement, but then I had a eureka moment… It was how I was opening the clay that was causing my problem. I had been starting with a low, disc-shaped piece of clay after centring. I always found opening this out and retaining it’s integrity to be difficult. So I tried a different tack – by having a slightly taller, more cone-like shape as a starting point (still with the same base circumference) I began to find it easier to open a flatter base and create an inside profile that better mirrored the outside.

throw1  throw5
First pot (l), twenty pots later (r)

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10 thoughts on “Improve

  1. Wow. That is a big improvement. I did something similar over the weekend – just throwing bowls. Trying to perfect the inside curve and eliminate the occasional divot in the bottom. We all have room for improvement – even professionals who have been throwing for 20+ years will tell you so. It’s great that you are so pragmatic about it.

  2. Hey Juliet,

    Just found your blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences and ideas here!

    One bit of advice I heard when in school was that if you think you are done thinning the walls do three more pulls. The idea being that we shouldn’t trust what we think we know at this stage but push ourselves further. It is always hardest to perceive the thickness the further down from the rim one goes, so giving the bottom area of the wall a few extra ‘pulls’ is often a good counter measure. One thing you can also try to notice is the comparison between the inside diameter and the outside diameter of the cylinder. The shapes should fit together in the same way. Usually what you will find is that a cylinder will have straight vertical walls on its exterior but that on the interior the walls taper to a narrower shape at the bottom. Until you learn to judge the thickness with your fingers you sometimes need to trust your eyes.

    One other way of assessing the difference in thickness is to stop the wheel and put your hands on both the inside and outside of the wall of the pot. By moving your hands down the wall and looking at what is happening to them you will often notice that they are separating more the further down they go. This is one more way to tell visually whether you have done a good enough job on that bottom area. In you are working on modest sized pieces of clay, another exercize might be to actually push the clay so far that it starts to weaken and becomes too thin. Sometimes its important to find where the limits are and even to exceed them so you can dial it back to where you need to be. Eventually your hands become smart enough and can do the right things naturally and without needing to second guess ourselves.

    One of the other difficulties in not being able to get the clay out of the bottom corners is sometimes that the curve of our finger tips on the inside of the wall actually promotes a curved shape on the bottom of the wall on the inside. One way I have of counteracting that when I’m throwing is to stick my fingernail into the corner to dig out that extra clay. You can do this either by pointing the fingernail down into the corner or by bending your hand so the knuckle is pressing downward on the floor of the pot and the nail is extended out toward the wall. By getting a hard corner down at the bottom I feel I am better able to get a thin and consistent wall all the way up.

    Those are just some thoughts I can pass along. Good luck!

    Carter

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