How to use a pottery wheel

You’ve admired all the beautiful pottery in stores and at arts & crafts fairs, but the prices are so high. You seem to remember making Mom a flowerpot one year at summer camp. It can’t be that hard, right? Here are a few things you’ll need to know as you get started on the art of pottery making.

First, you should visit a pottery studio to get an idea of all the different things you can make and become familiar with the tools and materials of the art. A pottery wheel and kiln are pretty expensive items, so you’ll probably want to try out someone else’s before making such a large investment. Note: You can make your own kick wheel for less than $60 if you’re a skilled do-it-yourselfer. You’ll learn about clay and glazing some of the main ingredients in pottery making.

You can also make pottery by hand, without a wheel. Using a pottery wheel and throwing clay take lots of practice, but it’s definitely within your capabilities. First things first, you’ll want to decide what type of item you’d like to make: a bowl, vase, lamp base, planter, etc. Now you’re ready to purchase or select the proper clay materials. You’ll want to shape the appropriate size clay ball for your project. Next is using the pottery wheel.

Throwing clay in the center of the wheel is the most fundamental technique you will need to master. Finding the exact center, or centering, will result in a well-shaped and even finished pottery object. The best position for throwing and centering is to sit with your arms resting on your thighs and your feet firmly planted on the frame of the potter’s wheel.

You have to ‘throw’ the clay so that it sticks to the wheel and finds its place in the center. There are many types of wheels. Some have an electric motor that spins the flagstone or cement disc. Others have a pedal that is foot-operated, while more primitive wheels are spun by hand.

While the wheel spins slowly you will want to begin to shape your clay into a cone-shape by running your hands up the sides and applying pressure. Speeding up the wheel, you will want to get your hands and the clay and begin pushing into the center of the clay using the weight of your whole body. You will use one hand to guide the clay while the other pushed down into the center, making a depression.

Next, you will use both hands to put force on the clay, working it upward into a taller shape. Now you are ready to begin making the opening. With your elbows pressed into your sides to keep your arms steady, hold one thumb still with your other hand and use your thumb to open the center of the clay. Be sure to leave plenty of clay for the bottom of your piece of ceramic art.

As the opening widens you can begin to use your whole hand to shape the inside of your piece. Now you’ll begin pulling up’ the wall. The wheel should be at medium speed at this point and you’ll want to squeeze the walls gently and slowly. Continue’pulling’ until your walls are the correct thickness for your project.

Now you’re ready to trim the base. For this, you’ll need a piece of wood cut diagonally. You can use your hands on the outside to narrow or widen the opening of your piece depending on its desired function. Once you’ve got the right shape, you’re ready to cut the piece from the wheel using a piece of wire or fishing line. The clay will need to sit until it is about the firmness of leather and then it’s time for glazing and firing in the kiln.

Now you’re ready to trim the base

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