In Step with Ralph Stuckman

Mastering the throw with the poises

     Throwing clay is an art in itself and centering clay is a most important part of throwing it properly on a wheel head. You will know if the lump of clay is centered when it is free from wobbles. It takes practice and practice to master the art of throwing clay; it becomes a skill of physical and mental poise.

     My clay centering began in 1972 and for me it has been a fascinating venture, however an experienced potter will have times when centering will be difficult.  

     My step method was developed as a simplified way for people to learn and to teach others this type of clay adventure.

     Step One:  Use a wire to cut a chunk of clay. Begin wedging it like you would bread dough. Take the clay lump and place it in the middle of the wheel head.

     Step Two:  Plug in the cord to a wall socket. Sit close to the potter’s wheel as possible and turn on the switch.

     Step Three:  Put you foot on the pedal and get the feel of the spinning wheel. Adjust your speed to what you would consider a moderate speed for centering. Then keep this speed in a constant manner.

     Step Four: Dampen the clay with your hands. Make sure that your hands are wet. Note that your slippery hands will get rather dry. Then wet hands again.

     Step Five: Cup your hands on the clay. Be sure that clay is sticking to the wheel head. Thumbs should almost be touching each other.

     Step Six:  Place your elbows on the thighs of each leg. Then lean into the clay from your waist. Use both hands and push the clay towards the center part of the wheel head. A clay ball should be emerging.

     Step Seven: Keep pushing clay towards center. Now push down. You will get the feel of pushing in and down at the same time. Continue to lean into the clay with both body and hands. This is a crucial skill to learn. You will soon get a flowing sensation from the clay. Now, you are “hooked” to become a potter.

     Step Eight: Use your thumb (the fingernail) and remove excess clay if formed around the base of your emerging pot.

     Step Nine:  Be sure that your hands are wet. Continue to push clay inward. It is centered when there is no wobble.

     Step Ten: Further test your centering ability by placing your index finger on top of the clay. Make a small indent. If there is an equal space around your small indent, you are assured that the clay is centered. Shout for joy on this accomplishment!

     All potters have had to practice these steps to become proficient throwers. They took the time by familiarizing themselves with the wheel as well as becoming an integral part of the creative process.

     Can you do it? Sure, but you must take the attitude, you are a potter who has more skills to learn like Sam, one of my former students when a visitor came to my studio. He was impressed with Sam’s throwing ability. He asked Sam, “How many years have you been a potter?” He replied truthfully, “This is my second lesson.”

     Sam had the poise of a potter.

Dr. Ralph Stuckman/AAPJ/Potter’s Shed Editor Emeritus

Published by on December 2011. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, HowDoIt PS dept, Potter's Shed Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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