Making pottery takes plenty of patience and perseverance. It might get a little bit frustrating from time to time, but just stick with it! I have had days where I can't even center the clay, let alone make a vase or a bowl. For the vast majority of you, you will be following along on your own at a studio, and almost all of the equipment listed will be included with your payment to the art studio that you choose.
The purpose of this guide is to help you along your way without the need for a personal instructor since using studio space tends to be much cheaper than taking classes that are offered in those studios.
That being said, lets jump right in with the setup and required materials so we can get started on making beautiful art!
You'll need the following materials:
Let's make sure everything is ready to go.
1. Take a little over 1 pound of clay from the bag. Since we are making a cup to start off - one of the simplest forms to make - we will not need too much clay to begin with. Nobody likes a big clunky cup to drink out of! You can grab some fishing line or a wire tool to cut the clay, and a small scale to weigh it.
2. Wedge (or knead) the clay. If we put that piece of clay that we took from our bag straight on to the wheel we would quickly find flaws in its structure. There are lots of air bubbles in the clay and if we don't wedge it, your cup will explode in the kiln which wouldn't be ideal. Click here for a thorough explanation on wedging clay.
3. Set up your wheel. At your wheel, you should have all of the tools shown in the "Tools" graphic above, plus a wire tool or fishing line so that we can cut your cup off the wheel head at the end. Make sure to have plenty of water in your bucket (3/4 full). Once you have everything, throw your clay onto the center of the wheel and let's get going!
Throwing your cup
1. Center the clay. This may seem like a perfectly simple task, but it is actually an incredibly difficult skill that develops over time. In fact, this is one of the most frustrating parts of throwing on the wheel. Some days you just won't have it. A wobbly wheel, hard clay, and even getting in your own head makes it so that centering can be one of the most challenging things a potter has to learn. Once you get it, though, it never leaves. So how do we center clay?
> With the wheel spinning quickly counterclockwise, one elbow locked at your hip, your hands steady, and the clay very wet, push down with your top hand and lean in with your body into the clay. The arm that is locked into your hip should be applying force laterally (inward) as you lean in, and your top hand should be applying force vertically (downward). Click on the infographic or link to view a video on how to properly center your clay!
2. "Drop the middle" and open up your form. This part is not too hard, but you still have to be careful. If you drop the middle down in an off-centered way, your cup will be pretty deformed and the walls will be uneven, making your cup structurally compromised. Note: the wheel should not be spinning at full speed for this part. Roughly 3/4 speed onthe pedal should be good
A. Using your preferred thumb and a hand to guide said thumb, drill into the clay until you reach where you want the bottom of your cup to be. The recommended depth is around 3/4" to 1/2"
B. Using 2-3 fingers on your preferred hand, draw your fingers toward yourself in a straight line, keeping the floor of the cup as level as possible until the diameter of your cup is, well, cup-sized!
C. Compress the floor with your sponge and remove any excess water from the ground or you will get the dreaded "S-crack" on the bottom of your cup. Click the infographic or link for a vid on how to properly drop the middle if you get stuck!
3. Pull the walls of your cup
One of the most delicate parts of throwing your piece will be when we take this semi- functional (but probably not very pretty) piece of clay and make it look like a cup. For this, we have to pull the large amount of the clay from the bottom up toward the top while also thinning it out so that the drinker has a pleasant experience. Last step, so let's get into it!
Note: For this step, we should be applying pressure from the 3 o'clock position so that we have more control. 1/2 speed or lower is the recommended wheel speed.
A. Starting from the bottom near the floor, with a sponge in one hand ready to apply water to lubricate, squeeze the clay with both hands on either side of the clay wall and slowly move your hands upward until you cannot pull further.
B. Compress the rim.
C. Complete steps 1 and 2 until the walls are thinned out to your liking, and then smooth out the rim.
D. Admire- you're done!
Click the infographic or link for a vid on how to properly pull the walls of your pot if you get stuck!
CONGRATS! YOU DID IT!
You officially threw a cup and it doesn't look half bad! Nice. There are several other things we have to do in order to finish up your pot, like trimming, firing, glazing and then re-firing, but that would take another 20 pages and nobody wants that right now. Keep an eye out for more tutorials and HowTo Guides coming up on my website including tutorials on how to trim, how to fire and glaze, and blog posts about all of the above. Keep going, and happy pottery-ing!