Throwing: A Guide to Basic Use and Throwing on a Potter's Wheel ​

Pottery, a craft that has stood the test of time, is a unique blend of creativity, technique, and patience. One of the essential skills in pottery is using a potter’s wheel to create beautiful, functional pieces. Whether you’re a beginner exploring the world of clay or an experienced potter refining your skills, understanding the basic use and throwing techniques on a potter’s wheel is crucial. In this guide, we’ll delve into the fascinating process of throwing clay on a potter’s wheel, step by step. 

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Setting the Stage

 Before you dive into the process of throwing on a potter’s wheel, you need to prepare your workspace and materials. Here’s a checklist to get you started: 


  1. Clay  

Choose a clay that suits your project. Different clays have varying textures, colors, and firing temperatures. Consult your local pottery supply store for recommendations. 


  1. Tools 

Gather essential tools such as a bucket of water, sponge, wire tool, trimming tools, ribs, and a needle tool. These tools aid in shaping and refining your clay creation. 


  1. Work Surface 

Ensure you have a clean, flat work surface to place your wheel. This space should be well-lit and comfortable for extended periods of work. 


  1. Wheel Setup 

Familiarize yourself with your potter’s wheel. Adjust the wheel’s height and speed according to your comfort level and the specific clay you’re using. 

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Throwing on the Potter's Wheel: Step by Step

 1. **Preparing the Clay**: Start by wedging the clay to remove air pockets and ensure even consistency. This prevents cracks and uneven drying during the throwing process. Form the clay into a round ball, slightly larger than your intended piece. 


2. **Centering**: Place the clay on the wheel head and use both hands to gently press it down while the wheel is spinning at medium speed. As the clay begins to take shape, it’s crucial to achieve proper centering. This step is the foundation for successful throwing. A well-centered clay ensures stability and evenness throughout the process. 


3. **Coning**: Once centered, begin coning the clay. This involves lifting the clay and gently pressing it back down in a conical shape. Coning further eliminates air bubbles and refines centering. 


4. **Opening**: With your hands wet, create an opening by gently pressing your thumbs into the center of the coned clay. Slowly widen the opening while maintaining an even thickness, creating a cylinder-like shape. 


5. **Pulling Up**: This step involves creating height by gently pulling the walls of the cylinder upwards using your hands. Keep your fingers moist to avoid friction and to maintain control over the clay’s movement. Repeat this process several times to increase the height and refine the shape. 


6. **Shaping and Collaring**: As the cylinder grows, you can start shaping the piece by using your hands or various tools. Collaring, a technique where you gently press down on the clay’s rim to narrow it, can create elegant curves in your piece. This step requires precision and practice to achieve the desired form. 


7. **Smoothing and Refining**: Use your sponge, fingers, and ribs to smooth the surface of your piece. This not only enhances the aesthetics but also removes any imperfections or unwanted lines. 


8. **Trimming and Finishing**: After allowing your piece to set for a while, you can trim the bottom to create a stable base. This step involves turning your piece upside down on the wheel and carefully trimming away excess clay using trimming tools. Pay attention to the thickness of the bottom to ensure uniform drying and firing. 


9. **Drying and Finishing Touches**: Allow your piece to dry slowly and evenly to prevent cracking. Once completely dry, you can add decorative elements, such as handles or textures, before firing it in a kiln. 

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Throwing on a potter’s wheel is a journey that combines technical skill, creativity, and patience. As you practice and refine your techniques, you’ll witness your creations evolve from simple forms to intricate pieces of art. Remember, mastering the art of pottery takes time, so be patient with yourself as you learn and grow. Whether you’re crafting functional pottery or intricate sculptures, the potter’s wheel remains a versatile tool that allows your imagination to take shape in clay. So, roll up your sleeves, prepare your clay, and let the wheel spin you into the captivating world of pottery.