We were lucky enough to be scheduled a extra workshop induction on a Friday, which we usually have as self directed study, to have a throwing workshop induction. Throwing was something I had never really done before and I love learning new skills so I was really keen to give it a go.
We began with learning the techniques for wedging a piece of clay in preparation for centring it on the wheel, with the intention to get rid of air bubbles that can cause pieces to explode in the kiln. I found it was quite tricky to get the technique right for this and at first I didn’t really have clue how to rock the piece of clay back and forth in the right way so you get a spiralling effect in the clay and a nice cone shape. But after a bit of practice it started to click; I found it was very much about subtle movements in the hands and wrists and using you body to really push into the piece of clay. Once we had finished doing that, it was time for the tricky process of centring a piece of clay on the wheel. This process is all about applying vertical and horizontal pressure to the piece of clay to get it to become one with the wheel; the clay should become a perfect circle with its centre at the same point as the centre of the wheel. The pressure applied to the side of the clay needs to be equal to the pressure applied to the top otherwise the clay will just either become flat or will spin off the wheel. At first it seemed impossible, but as I practiced I found that pressure, and body position is key, locking your elbows underneath the weight of your upper body, you start to get a feel for the clay and you hands start coordinating applying equal pressure. I still haven’t quite got the hang of it but I have successfully centred a few pieces, so if I keep on practicing it should come to me.
After I had successfully centred the piece, I needed to open it up. You do this by holding your left wrist with your right hand to stop it flexing, then let your thumb find the centre of the piece and push into the piece of clay to open up a hole. Then you pull the hole out to make it bigger so you can begin making the walls to you pot. I found that I tended to forget to slow down the wheel speed at this point and I found my thumb wouldn’t point into the centre correctly, and I wouldn’t open up the pot properly.
The next stage is also tricky; making the walls. The hardest thing about this is keeping the walls an even thickness all the way up. You had to have one finger tucked into your thumb using the stump of your finger, where it is very hard, on the outer wall and then your forefinger on the inside and slowly bring them up together trying to keep equal pressure. Once you have made your wall to your satisfactory thickness you can play with the shape of the pot. I tended to make my walls to thin and the pot would break. Another difficultly that I came up against was the pot actually spinning off the wheel during centring. I found it was all about body position and pressure at every stage, getting the right amount of pressure is vital. After I had got a grasp on the basics, I began to experiment with how to bring the walls back in on themselves to create a curved profile. I also experimented with using tools to create different finishers on the pot. I really like the smooth effect created by using a wood tool with flat edge, it gives really clean and neat lines which I really like. I really enjoyed the throwing experience, it is quite similar to woodturning which i have done a lot of in the past. I especially like the hands on nature of throwing, you can really connect with the object you are creating, smoothing it and shaping it with your hands alone. From her I want to learn different techniques for getting shapes in pots, and learn how to run a pot after it has dried a bit after throwing. Turning the pot involved using a tool to smooth the walls and create a really neat and clean finish.