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Hi guys. Im about to lose my mind. I started pottery about 6 months ago and have been progressing really well. I started with buff stoneware and went on to white stoneware with no problems. I was throwing upto 800 gms till now. Recently I tried throwing a 1500 and then 2000 gms and was so pleased that I was successful. And then one day I couldn't center anymore. And the worst part is I cant figure out why. Not even 600 gms. Not even less. Nothing. I always get a twist right at the bottom on the clay where it touches the wheel and lumps/knots throughout my clay ! I just dont know what it is. After failing on my wheel at home, I tried it in my pottery class in front of my tutor as well. As soon as I touch the clay it gets this nasty twist at the bottom that I cant get out. My pottery teacher and two other students tried to center it as well with no luck. I just dont understand why this is happening. Ive tried different clays, different wheels - nothing. Im getting so frustrated. To explain my centering process - I used to cone up and down to center and then I had more luck recently with pressing with the heel of my left palm on the side and with my right fist on top of the clay to center. It used to get centered under 2 minutes. But none of those methods are working at the moment. Ive struggled for 30-40 minutes at a stretch without any luck. Anyone face a similar problem? How did you solve it? Just to let you know - I have no personal problems or anything that are affecting this - and since my tutor wasnt able to center my clay as well im guessing its not related to anything going on internally with me. Maybe its my wedging? I dont know. Any ideas?
In the past, I have often written that I wedge all of my clay even though I take it right out of the bag. There are several reasons for this, and I wanted to take a few lines to explain them further and throw out some ideas for thought. My reasons for wedging clay for the last 30+ years are as follows: If the clay came out of the pug mill, it usually needed to be blended to an even consistency, remove air bubbles, dry it our some, and line up the particles so that for better strength. If out of the box at home, it had usually frozen over the Winter here in Central PA. Freezing drives water out of the clay to the outside, and leaves all sorts of striations in the clay block. I start wedging this by turning all sides into the center with cut and slam, then cut and slam the entire block about 5 times, finish by spiral cone wedging the clay into weighed out pot sized amounts. Wedging as exercise. I wedge clay for exercise, as crazy as that might seem, but when throwing for hours at a time, the break to wedge up the ball of clay to be used on a pot down the line is a welcome way of stretching the back and shoulders. This also brings me to the final reason I forced myself to not be lazy about wedging clay. Finally, wedging as therapy. Years ago I was in a bad auto wreck that left me with some damaged vertebrae. This caused lots of pain in the lower back for decades. Some days I could hardly get out of bed without levering my body out of bed with the weight of my legs. I found that hanging from an overhead bar would stretch the back and help some. However, my go to exercise became wedging because of the way the process worked. . . . at least for me. The process of wedging lifts the shoulders upward and back as you push against the clay and at the same time the shoulder lift and the body movement stretches the back muscles and the spine itself. With regular rhythm and movement in the wedging process where you are not trying to hurry the job, or wedge too much clay you can do wonders for you core and spine. So, I leave this open to comment, and I am sure many of you will go on about getting a pug mill, which for me would be a big investment, but as I get older I have been looking for a good used one. However, even with a deairing pug mill, I would still probably wedge for the last two reasons above.
I have been told to cone my clay up and down on the wheel to get rid up air bubbles and to create equal density in clay. But isn't this what I am doing when I wedge my clay? Also, it seems like no matter how thoroughly I wedge my clay, I may still have some bubbles residing in it. While I understand that they pose no "blow out" problem, they are still undesirable. It there a way to wedge that absolutely eliminates bubbles?