Timing: Pottery, Parties, Life

I do not wear a watch. I used to. In grade school I found myself glancing at my wrist all too often and getting antsy. What is this time thing? How come what can feel like ‘forever’ is only a few minutes sometimes and then what may take ‘forever’ only seems like minutes? I dropped the watch to keep from looking at my wrist so often. Now I look up and around for a clock on the wall or am forced to ask a stranger or worse, take my cell phone out of hiding to check the digital time (I must confess I love traveling to a different time zone and seeing my cell phone reflect the new time).

What does this gibber jammer have to do with pottery? Well, I said in my last post that I would talk about what went into the making of Pincu Pottery’s birthday party and what I can do to make it better next year. All I can say is that timing has a lot to do with whether your clay pot/sculpture is successful and whether your pottery party (or life, for that matter) is successful! Readers, you know how to prepare for a party – and a pottery birthday party is no different.

Not to bore you with details about last week’s birthday party plans and implements, I want to suggest:
IT IS TIME to register for my Southwestern Community College summer clay classes!
(How is that for making the connection between time, parties and pottery?)
I will be teaching a ‘Kids in Clay’ class beginning June 20 for 8 year olds and up. This class may already be full. Also, ‘Beginner/Intermediate Wheel’ begins May 17 and ‘Handbuilding with Clay’ begins May 16. These two are for adults only. They will be really fun!

By the end of a Beginner/Intermediate Wheel class, every student will make a teapot. Take a look at some pictures from my last wheel class:

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It certainly took time and timing to make those pots! And now it is time for you to take a pottery class and find out how time flies when you are having fun in the studio!!!!

Thanks for reading!!!!

Face Jug Workshop

Rob Withrow and Ted Cooley came to visit Southwestern Community College’s Heritage Arts program in Bryson City, North Carolina to show off their face jug style. They did a great job entertaining and teaching us how to make colorful, funny face pots.

Of course, the night started off with a pot luck, which means lots of fabulous food! Then Rob began working on his pots (about 3 feet each). Rob also brought one of his signature piggy bank pigs. When he and Ted were done with their first face, it was time for the students to get to work on their own.

This was a great workshop to share traditional Appalachian style pottery. Perfect for a school located in Western North Carolina! And all of our face pots will end up in our Manabigama kiln! Can’t wait to share those photos!

Enjoy the slideshow of the workshop!

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Throwing Hints and Tips

In my last post I linked to a few good sites for seeing pottery being made on the potter’s wheel.  There are many videos out there and many pages on making pottery – some are great and some not so great.  In thinking about my next post, I was going to add a few tips of my own… until I saw the BEST SITE FOR LEARNING TO THROW ONLINE!!!!!!

Marvin Bartel taught (retired, Professor of Art, emeritus) at Goshen College in Indiana.  He must be an incredible teacher (like me – sorry for the shameless plug)!  He is so generous with his knowledge online, I am quite certain he was just as generous, if not more, in person!  I sure hope he is still teaching a little and potting alot!

In case you just missed it, or were too lazy to click the link, Mr. Bartel took photos from the potter’s perspective and has a pretty comprehensive click-through on everything from wedging to centering to shaping and removing the pot from the wheel!!!  I had fantasized about doing this but don’t really have the set-up or patience for computer-type teaching.  THANK GOODNESS for this Learning to Throw online tutorial!!!! If you haven’t clicked yet and are just starting out in throwing pottery on the wheel, shame on you!!!!

Here are a few tips I linger on when teaching Beginner Pottery Wheel classes:

  • STABILIZE!!!  Brace your arm against your body when centering.  I throw right-handed and my left hand is the major player in centering on the wheel.  My elbow is stuck in my hip so that my body leans into the arm, which leads into my hand cupping the clay on the wheel, which centers the clay.  Essentially, I am using my upper body weight to center through my left hand. (the right hand plays a minor, yet important part in centering)
  • STABILIZE!!!  Never take your arms away from your body.  Holding them in close helps stabilize your arms so they don’t get knocked around by the clay.  Just think about how you take a long distance photo – arms are tight up against your body to help keep your hands from taking a shaky photo.
  • STABILIZE!!! When your hands touch the clay, your hands should also touch each other to help support and keep them from wobbling and getting off center.  This is especially important when pulling up the wall of clay.  If your hands aren’t touching, your outside hand will tend to move with the rotation of the clay which then throws your clay off center (actually it causes the clay to fold between your two fingers).
  • STABILIZE!!!! My arms are close to my body, my hands are touching and now my fingers, those little guys doing the pinching, have helpful neighbors who help give rigidity to weak, sorry digits.  Yes – I have each finger supported by another finger.  Whatever finger is touching the clay, another should be helping it out.  In my beginner’s class, I call the hand position the “crab claw.”  Our hand positions may not be exact, but you can see that my hands are touching, my fingers are touching and, what you don’t see is my arms tight against my body for STABILITY!
Hand position for throwing on the potter's wheel

"Crab Claw" hand position for beginner throwers.

In my next post, I hope to talk about my favorite tools for throwing…..  stay posted!