a reply to: ladyinwaiting
It DOES require a lot of patience and persistence.
I threw with a lot of bad habits for 9-12 years. Have done a lot better the last 10. LOL.
Centering is a VERY critical skill to learn early. As is RE-CENTERING.
I and even some of the best potters FREQUENTLY get the clay off center when opening the hole in the middle. Taking the clay as a doughnut in both
hands--both hands held close together wrapped around 3 sides of the doughnut and FORCING the clay doughnut to RE-CENTER by holding the hands rock
steady and slowly to rapidly getting the speed back up to centering speed--is a very worthwhile thing to learn. I don't recall if there's a youtube on
that, or not. There probably is.
There was a San Diego State U master potter professor who would not let his students do anything the first semester BUT CENTER. Relentlessly he'd have
them center, cut it in half, critique it etc. etc. His students ended up very skilled potters.
I don't think THAT'S QUITE necessary but it is a super critical skill.
I encourage beginning students to center it as well as they can--take the bottom of their palm and knock it off center and re-center it again 12-24
times. When they can center it quickly within 30-90 seconds, they are more ready to go to the next stage of opening it.
Then, I encourage them to practice RE-CENTERING similarly.
After that, pulling the clay up--the major error to avoid is getting too thin too quickly--usually starting near the top of the bottom 1/4th of the
piece by being too much in a hurry with insufficient skills to do it that quickly.
And, of course, it's good to have the bottom of the inside level and 1/4" to 5/16th" or so from the bat.
I HATE wiring things off a bat. I virtually never do a good level job of it. Particularly with a thick wire. A super thin fishing lure wire is best.
But I use the WONDER BATS that are made of billboard composite wood sawdust and a water porous resin. When the piece gets dry enough (but still
leather hard) it releases naturally from the bat with a clean flat bottom. I can get bottoms that are functional about 1/8th to 3/16" thick that
require little to no trimming.
One does have to be careful of the rims drying too much, however, with the Wonder bats. I often turn the piece upside down and wrap plastic around it
while the bat it's attached to dries to the point of releasing. And, I may spray the rims a bit in that process.
Also, I often throw with a thin sponge between my fingers and the clay or just above my finger tips. The new blue artificial flat sponges in the rough
shape slightly of a kidney are great for that. It's a way of insuring that the clay is suitably moist without too much water. And, with the gritty
Soldate-60 clay--that can be good toward decreasing too much drag.
And, I use a paint peeling heat gun liberally--particularly when I'm throwing thin mugs and other tall thin pieces. And, with platters and larger thin
bowls. It's much easier to save a risky piece with a heat gun--drying the piece to a bit firmer state while it spins on the wheel at about 1/4th
A really fun piece to throw for me is a bulbous pot from a tall cylinder. Throw a tallish to tall cylinder--about 8-16" tall. The walls should be
5/16" to half an inch thick and very even though maybe a bit thicker in the center of the height. The diameter should be barely enough to get your
hands down in the piece to the bottom. You almost need to use Soldate-60 or a similar very stable and forgiving clay until you get good at it. After
you've got it to height--maybe using the heat gun to help firm it up if it gets too flexible and sloppy--then use the heat gun to dry the outside--not
beyond leather hard--but until it's much drier to the dry fingered touch.
Then, very carefully, with it spinning--maybe slowly at first and never too fast--with a small curved rib held somewhat off the perpendicular--begin
to push out from about 1" or so, up from the bottom. Push out slowly but firmly AS IT SPINS--slowly working your way up to about half an inch from
the top. The goal is to make essentially a ball. It may take 4-8 or so passes depending on how fast you go. When learning, I suggest doing it in small
increments until you are comfortable and reasonably good at the task.
Toward the last few passes, you can go all the way to the top and shape the top as you wish. You can leave it big enough to get your hand in. Or, you
can make it into a tiny vase type top that is a good contrast to the big bulbous pot.
You may need to use the heat gun to keep the piece firm, several times when pushing the sides out to the desired shape. And, it may be necessary to
touch up the shape with targeted passes at various levels of the pot.
SAVE shaping the bottom for the last. That's to avoid the pot falling down around it's ankles. And heat the bottom 1-2" before shaping that region--to
insure it's firm enough to bear the weight of the whole pot at such an angle.
One good potter I know shapes the bottom 1/3 of his bulbous pots with a fairly sharp--about 45* or steeper angle and a very small bottom for such a
large pot--of about 2" in diameter--or so. The bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the pot looks like an inverted cone except for the small flat bottom.
I gave one about 12-14" in diameter to a net acquaintance in Sedona. He was holding it about 18" or so off the carpeted floor. I think the carpet was
over cement but might have been OSB or some such. Anyway--he dropped it--AND, it BOUNCED and he caught it--the piece none the worse for wear. We were
all a bit chagrined. I don't recommend dropping it. I think that piece was about 3/16" to 1/4" . . . maybe 5/16" thick as finished with a glaze.
Oh, in making a bulbous pot . . . it may be tempting to let the top opening droop down in a reverse slant or curve. DON'T. Such a pot is the dickens
to clean. It is a bit different and may be worth doing because of that--but they really are the dickens to clean. I don't plan to ever make another
When the cylinder is finished and you are ready to push out--you can take sodium silicate and brush it on 2-5 times--drying it fairly dry to a
dry-fingered touch between each coat. THEN push it out. The surface will crackle in an attractive pattern. It can look almost like a reptilian's skin.
You can also mix colorant and even dried, powdered glazes in the sodium silicate before using it. Mix it fairly thick--about half silicate and half
Anyway--so much for my pottery pontifications this morning.