These Instructions will show you the step by step process for basic throwing. Most things you make on a pottery wheel start with the same basic instructions no matter what you are trying to make. Once you get the basic steps down you can start experimenting with more complex forms and larger amounts of clay.
Working with clay can be extremely cathartic, unless perhaps for some at the beginning it is just simply frustrating! The key with throwing is fairly straightforward- learning the basic steps by repetition…a lot of repetition.
You Will Need:
- 1.5 to 2 lbs of wedged clay
- bucket of water
- small sponge
- needle tool
- wooden rib
- wire to cut your piece off at the end
Imagine your wheel to be a clock. Instruction will often refer to clock hours, example: hold index finger at 3 o’clock.
Step 1: Prepping the Bat
A bat is a flat disk that can attached to the head of the wheel. It is helpful to use bats when you throw so you can easily remove your piece while it is still wet without disfiguring the shape.
- Scrape any large chunks of clay off your bat with a wooden rib or metal scrapper. It is not idea to wash bats as some are made out of materials that will warp it they are soaked in water.
- Attach the bat to the wheel head matching the holes to fit over the bat pins.
- Spin the wheel and slightly dampen the center of the bat with your sponge.
Step 2: Attach the Clay
At the beginning it is common for your clay to go flying off the wheel as you are working. Take extra care to attach your clay.
- Set rolled side of wedge clay down in the center of the bat where it is slightly damp (not soaking wet).
- Use pinky sides off hands to push the edges of the clay down onto the bat. Manually rotate your wheel a half turn and press down again. Continue until all sides have been pressed down.
- Use your index finger to press a small amount of clay onto the bat all the way around.
- Hold your index finger at 3 o’clock and spin your wheel to further seal the edge down (do not use any water).
Step 3: Centering: Coning up!
In order to get the clay to be perfectly centered, you will repeat the motions of guiding the clay up into a cone shape and guiding it back down into a gumdrop shape until it is in the middle of the bat.
- Moisten the clay and your hands.
- Rest your elbows into your legs.
- Place your hands on the sides of the clay
- Extend your left fingers up and over your right
- Try to keep your wrist in a neutral position
- Use the heels of your hands to squeeze inward from opposing sides to all allow the clay to pop up in between your hands
- As the clay continues to get taller keep your thumbs pointing in an ‘A’ shape.
*Even though the clay is getting taller, your hands stay grounded resting on the bat. Do not follow your hands up the clay.
* You may need to add more water if the clay feels hot or is twisting in your hands.
Step 4: Centering: Coning Down!
Once you have coned up, you cone down. Coning down is where most of the centering is occurring because you get to push the clay exactly where you want it to go.
- Add more water if needed.
- Keep your elbows resting on your legs.
- Follow both hands up to the top of the clay.
- The fat part of your left thumb where it meets the heel of your hand goes directly on the top center of the clay.
- The force you will apply at that spot is away from you or forward (NOT DOWN).
- Your fingers of your left hand will just gently wrap around the front of the clay.
- The heel of your right hand is also at the top off the clay, but on the side.
- It is pushing in towards the center of the clay.
- The fingers of your right hand are gently wrapped around the clay.
- Simultaneously, your hands will push in their proper directions and slowly slide down the clay as one unit almost like they are attached.
- Once the pinky side of your right hand makes it way to the bat, slowly slide the left hand down and around to the left side. Now you have basically ended up in cone up position. Make any adjustments you need with water and positioning and cone up again. Repeat until centered.
How do I know if it’s Centered?
You will probably need to cone up and down about 3-5 times and at the beginning sometimes more before it feels centered.
The best way to gauge if it is centered is by gently resting your hands around the clay and spinning the wheel. If your hands feel still, meaning there is no movement underneath them then you are centered. If your hands are wobbling as you spin you will need to make another pass of coning up and down.
Step 5: Creating a Donut
- Rest your hands on the sides of the clay.
- Cross your center right thumb knuckle over the top of your left thumb knuckle.
- Keep your thumbs parallel to the floor.
- Press down from top center knuckle though bottom to create a small divot in the top of the clay.
This is just a visual guide to know where your will start to drill down from.
Step 6: Drilling
- Place your let thumb in the divot.
- Wait until your left thumb is centered (no longer moving around) in the divot at the top.
- Use your right fingers to guide a vertical left thumb down towards the bat.
- Imagine your left thumb to be the drill bit, and your right fingers to be the drill steadily guiding it down.
When you are done drilling it should be about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick at the bottom.
Step 7: Checking Bottom Depth
- Check the bottom thickness by placing your needle tool through the bottom until it hits the bat. Follow your index finger and thumb down to where the needle tool meets the clay in the inside. Pull up giving yourself a visual measurement.
- A general guide of 1/4 to 3/8 inch thickness should be sufficient.
Step 8: Opening
- Insert middle left hand finger(s) into the hole that was drilled.
- Make sure the tip of your finger(s) are far enough down to be the same depth as the bottom of the hole you drilled.
- Put your right hand over the top of your left hand. Slowly pull the clay straight back towards your belly button.
- Do not open the clay larger than its own diameter.
Step 9: Compressing the Bottom
- Place right finger tips over left finger tips.
- Move very slowly starting from the center of the clay out towards 1 o’clock.
- Once you get to where the base and the wall meet very slowly move back towards the center applying a medium pressure.
- Repeat 5-10 times.
You won’t see too much change in this step, but it is very import in preventing cracking as the clay dries out.
Step 10: Collar In
- Place your hands on both sides of the clay. Thumbs resting on your hands, and not inside the pot.
- Give a gentle squeeze to the clay. This will narrow the hole slightly and make your clay a bit taller.
This step evens out the thickness a bit in preparation for pulling walls.
Step 11: Pulling a Wall
- Make a ‘C’ shape with your left hand.
- Fingers go inside at about 4 or 5 o’clock.
- Your thumb of the left hands rest outside the clay down at the bottom.
- Finger tips of right hand go outside the wall right below the tip of the left thumb.
- Your right palm faces up.
- Elbows are down. Relax your shoulders down.
- Use your finger tips from both hands to gently squeeze in towards each other as they very slowly move up the clay together. Try not to backtrack over the clay. This will create thin spots in the wall. Instead keep the momentum fluid, even, slow as you move vertically.
- Once you get to the rim lighten your pressure and slowly lift hands away.
- You will probably be able to make 3-6 passes creating height in your clay.
You are looking to build just mostly height at this point. More shaping can be done in the next steps.
If your pot is widening out at the rim after your pull and you are still trying to get it taller you can always gently collar in the area to narrow it, and then pull again.
Be mindful of your pulling and the reaction you see from the clay:
-If your inside hand is applying more force then your outside hand your wall is going to move out- widen.
-If your outside hand is applying more force then the inside hand the clay will move up and/or in.
Step 12: Outside Clean Up
- Hold the rib with your right hand at about 3 o’clock on the outside of your piece.
- Spin your wheel and gently apply the straight edge of the rib against the outside to remove excess slip and throwing lines.
Step 13: Shaping a bowl
- Hold the wooden rib with your left hand near the center of the rib.
- Place your right hand near the top of the rib for extra support.
- The rounded side of the rib should be facing out at 3 o’clock.
- Spin the wheel and slowly slide the rib down the inside of the wall and through the bottom center.
- Carefully lift away and clean out any excess water in the bottom to see the shape you have created.
- You can make another pass with the rib to widen out the piece or create a smoother transition from the base to the wall.
Step 14: Cut off the Bat
- Put the wire on the far side of your piece.
- Keep the wire taught.
- Slowly slide the wire through the bottom of your piece as you keep your thumbs on the bat, and pull straight back towards your belly button.
You will need to wait until your piece is leather hard to complete the trimming of the bottom or do any further design work.