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The 6 steps of creating functional and decorative stoneware pottery
ThrowingApplying Surface DecorationTrimmingBisque FiringGlazingFinal Firing

1. Throwing

I'm not really sure where the term "throwing" came from, but it's not what it sounds like. Clay isn't flying around and pots aren't being chucked across the room. Essentially, throwing is simply making a piece of pottery on the potter's wheel. Here's a quick look at the basics:

  1. "Wedging" (or mixing) the clay to ensure that you don't have air pockets or sections that are substantially more dense than others. Wedging essentially consists of slicing the clay into pieces, pushing the pieces back together, kneading the pile on a flat surface, and (finally) cutting off pieces that you'll use on the potter's wheel.
  2. "Centering" is a critical step that consists of placing your piece of clay on the wheel, and manipulating the clay as the wheel spins until it is centered on the wheel. Centering is probably the most important step in the process (and also the skill that takes the longest to truly master) -- a piece that's not centered is extremely difficult to complete because the turning motion of the wheel causes it to get further and further off center as you work on the piece. Very small variances turn into big problems.
  3. "Opening & Pulling" this is the part everyone likes watching - the "walls" of the pot seem to magically appear as you "open" a small indentation in the centered piece and "pull" the clay upward by applying pressure on both the interior and exterior of the wall. The thickness of the walls (and base) of the piece dictate how heavy it will be when it's completed -- it really takes some practice to make the walls thin enough to avoid making a brick, but thick enough for the piece to support itself while the clay is still spinning on the wheel.
  4. "Finishing" the piece consists of shaping and smoothing the piece until you are satisfied with the shape you have created.
  5. "Cutting" the piece off of the wheel is done by running a thin wire and a little bit of water beneath the piece so that you can slide it off of the wheel and place it in a drying area so that it can begin to dry and hold its shape.

'The scene' that plagues potters everywhere. Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze get flirty in Paramount Pictures 1990 release of 'Ghost'

Piece of pottery in process on the potter's wheel

Slowly coaxing the wall of a small pot outward in order to create a short/wide bowl. The object in my hand is called a "metal rib" and is used to create a smooth surface during the finishing stages of making a pot on the wheel.


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