Morning at the Wheel

Normally, you find me slinging clay late at night, after the kids are asleep.  Since today’s a snow day, our schedule is all askew, and with hubby at hand to snap photos, I can relay my pottery craft.  I call it “craft” because I don’t know enough to consider it my art.  I don’t mix the clay or understand the minerals of it, and I am terribly inefficient.  I took a wheel class, but I haven’t studied or perfected the technique behind it; it’s on my list of things to do.  Right now, I’m helping keep our local pottery shop in business and enjoying the learning process.

We are blessed to have an electric wheel (a Shimpo) and a nice electric kiln (Skutt).  I am blessed to have a husband that doesn’t mind spending our retirement money on hobbies.  If we’re lucky, maybe selling the pottery in our retirement age will get us by.  🙂

So, this morning, I make a mess, and here’s how I do it.  If you’re looking for a detailed how-to, I can suggest a simple book, but I recommend taking a class.  Pottery is very hands-on, and you just have to do it to get it.
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Thumbnail image for cut clay.JPGCut the clay off the block.  Already, I’ve got my tools and bucket of water by the wheel.  Then, “wake” the clay.  Oversimplified, this compacts it.

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Center it on the wheel, using high speed. (This exercise tests your awareness and breathing, actually quite a good morning experience, but that’s for another post.)  I like working “off the mound” since I think it’s easier to center, which for me is the hardest part.  Naturally, it is also the most important part.

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Open it up.

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Pull it up and shape it.

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Cut it off the mound
(even though my mound isn’t very high).

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Set it out to dry a bit before trimming.  (I brought mine indoors to dry quicker so I can trim it tonight.)  I use another bat with newspaper.  If I were leaving it for longer, I would cover it with a plastic bag, which is what we did in our weekly pottery class.

I figure I waste enough clay in the process, so I try to use what is left on the wheel.  Today I actually got another bowl of sorts out of the leftovers.  In class, our very talented instructor worked off a much larger mound and could produce bowl after bowl.  Someday . . . someday.

Next week, I’ll show the trimming.  It will be a couple of weeks before we bisque fire.  We want to use up the clay we have, filling the kiln as much as possible, to be more efficient.  Plus, it uses most of our wattage to fire the kiln — no laundry, dishwasher, microwave, or t.v. while it’s going!  After the bisque, then we’ll glaze, and I can show the final product, hopefully in one piece (another lesson in non-attachment!).

Thanks for reading!!  I would love comments or advice.

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