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Pottery Wheel Throwing Tips & Techniques

Throwing a successful piece of pottery depends on a number of factors and like any skill, the more that you practice, the better you will become. Regardless of your intended finished item, there are several basic processes that will help you to achieve your desired end product.

In this article, we will discuss some pottery wheel throwing tips that are particularly useful when using a pottery wheel. It will help you to think about your existing skills and process and also may provide you with useful tips that have not occurred to you previously.

 

Choosing the right clay

Choosing the right clay for your project is not only important for the completed project but also to assist with technique. It is prudent to spend some time trying out different clays for look as well as feel. Some clays may look great but may be too stiff to work effectively with on a pottery wheel, equally the same can apply if the clay is too soft.

Consistency is the most important aspect when throwing clay on a wheel. If the clay you are working with is too soft it won’t hold its shape for long and the water you add during throwing on the wheel will weaken it, leading to collapse.

If your clay is too hard, you may struggle to centre it on the wheel, you’ll require additional force and you may force it off the wheel head. For the best pottery wheel throwing you’ll probably want to choose a clay without grog or with a fine grog, so that it’s not too sharp when using the wheel.

 

Technique

When throwing pottery on a wheel, it is important to have a solid brace position. If your elbows aren’t tucked and braced against something then it is going to make using the pottery wheel very difficult. It’s important to get your wheel in the right position, just by raising your wheel off the floor by a few inches will mean that you are in a much better position. Getting the right wheel for you is crucial and can make the difference between creating a successful finished piece or not.

 

Practice

Getting good at using a pottery wheel is not a quick process. An important point when first starting out is to not try and create a brand new project every time. The best idea is to perfect one part of the process; i.e. centering the piece, pulling the walls, compressing the base, or achieving a 90 degree angle where the base and the walls meet. One of the fundamentals should be to ensure that you are able to consistently centre the ball of clay on the pottery wheel every time.

 

Body Position

The body position when throwing pottery on a wheel makes a big difference. You do not need to be super strong when throwing but you need to get your body position right so that you are using your weight to work with the wheel. As previously mentioned, if you achieve the right brace position then there is no requirement to use strength.

 

Water

The amount of water you use whilst throwing clay on a wheel is vital. You don’t want your pot to get too sticky as this is a sure fire way of moving the pot off the centre of the wheel. However, if you use too much water your piece is likely to get smaller as most of your clay is likely to end up in your splash pan/water bucket.

If the clay becomes too wet, the walls of your piece will become too flacid and will not support the structure. The main premise is to use just enough water to keep your piece moving on the wheel and this will take some practice. One useful wheel throwing pottery tip is to use warm water, which will ensure that your fingers do not become too cold and are therefore better primed for making a better finished piece.

 

Speed of the wheel

The speed of your wheel for throwing pottery is important, and maintaining control of the wheel will ensure the success of your project. The basic premise is that the wheel needs to start out fast and gradually get slower. 

The initial centering should be done with your wheel at full speed - the faster your wheel goes at this point, the easier it is to centre your clay. Once centred, you need to gradually reduce the speed of your wheel. Reduce the wheel to 3/4 speed when opening out and compress the base, then move to 1/2 speed for pulling up the walls - the taller your project gets the slower your wheel needs to turn. 

It is important that your wheel throwing action is moving slower than the wheel, otherwise you will finish with a lopsided end product. It’s important that all steps are done slowly so as to ensure a smooth finish to your finished piece.

 

Don't rush

When opening up the clay on your wheel, rushing is never a good idea. Some people tend to push their finger down into the centre of the clay too quickly, which will create a deep hole in your piece, making the bottom flimsy and rendering your piece useless!

You must open up the clay slowly and let the wheel’s rotation do the work for you. Slowly opening your piece will allow you to create an even distribution of clay around the walls.

 

Using your own pottery wheel - we have the tools you need

Practicing your pottery wheel throwing techniques and using some of the tips above requires a high quality pottery wheel. It’s important that you invest in a wheel which provides the ability to alter speeds easily and enables you to brace effectively to get an effective pottery wheel throwing position.

Whether you are looking to buy a pottery wheel for a hobby or to use as a longer term business investment, Soul Ceramics have a range of pottery wheels available, from simpler models through to more advanced.

If you are keen to learn how to use your own pottery wheel or even to invest in your own, feel free to check out our guide on the best pottery wheels or contact us and we’ll be happy to help. In the meantime, you can view our range of pottery wheels here.

 

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