First pots

February 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

There was an excellent article in the Guardian recently about Edmund de Waal. He was once told that the first 30,000 pots are the worst. I have just started to learn how to throw. The sum of my experience so far is a weekend throwing course at the Swarthmore Centre in Leeds and two afternoons on the wheel at Kirkgate Studios. I have kept nothing; just throwing and then wedging up the results at the end of the day. I can see that it might take 30,000 pots to master this art.

On each occasion I have used a different clay and it alters completely the throwing experience. I can’t remember what it was at Swarthmore but at Kirkgate I used Croxton and terracotta. The Croxton I found to be slippery and, therefore, difficult to control and the terracotta didn’t seem to hold the water for long and I often felt friction between the clay and my hands. I kept wanting to wet my hands all the time. The terracotta is a much rougher, coarser clay.

My main issue is the most basic: centering. If I center the clay on the wheel then I struggle to center the initial hole and I can feel the dreaded wobble. Yesterday, I tried to use Simon Leach’s method of centering the hole with a ‘v’-shaped movement, which he reckoned was much easier, but I couldn’t get that to work, so went back to using the middle two fingers of my left hand. I think I had a dozen or more attempts and little by little I felt the smallest of improvements.

I think that in order to master this skill I will need my own wheel.

Below are images of the two pots that I made at Kirkgate Studios.


February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

I am new to potting. I took a short course at a local community centre at the end of last year to see what it was all about and enjoyed the whole atmosphere: the tools, the objects all around at various stages of completion, the different processes, the physical nature of making, the fact that a pot is object and surface. The vast majority of pieces made at the community centre are coil-built,  molded or hand-built (much of what is made there is not functional ware); there is very little thrown, although there is one wheel. So, I started with a molded bowl.

At the end of the ten week course I had two pots: a salad-sized bowl painted inside with white slip and outside with green slip, with 9 green slip lines painted in the bottom of the bowl; and a bowl that just fits in the cup of two hands, which I dipped completely in an Anna Lambert black glaze.

I found that using a mold to make the pots to be an incredibly slow process. One of the key attractions of pottery for me is repetition: hand and eye repeating actions, repeating forms; creating muscle memory; endless. And I want to make functional ware, so I have decided to learn how to throw.

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