Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • Jennifer Harnetty

      Moderators needed!   12/08/2017

      Ceramic Arts Network is looking for two new forum moderators for the Clay and Glaze Chemistry and Equipment Use and Repair sections of the Ceramic Arts Network Community Forum. We are looking for somebody who is an active participant (i.e. somebody who participates on a daily basis, or near daily) on the forum. Moderators must be willing to monitor the forum on a daily basis to remove spam, make sure members are adhering to the Forum Terms of Use, and make sure posts are in the appropriate categories. In addition to moderating their primary sections, Moderators must work as a team with other moderators to monitor the areas of the forum that do not have dedicated moderators (Educational Approaches and Resources, Aesthetic Approaches and Philosophy, etc.). Moderators must have a solid understanding of the area of the forum they are going to moderate (i.e. the Clay and Glaze Chemistry moderator must be somebody who mixes, tests, and has a decent understanding of materials). Moderators must be diplomatic communicators, be receptive to others’ ideas, and be able to see things from multiple perspectives. This is a volunteer position that comes with an honorary annual ICAN Gold membership. If you are interested, please send an email outlining your experience and qualifications to jharnetty@ceramics.org.
nancylee

Help! I Can't Center Anymore!

Recommended Posts

For the last 3 or 4 months, I haven't been able to center clay after figuring it out finally a few years ago with no problems since then. The way I was taught didn't work for me, so Two years ago, I found a video on YouTube that helped: 2 hands on either side to push up; one hand on top, one on the side holding to push down. This worked for me the past few years.

 

Then one night at the studio I couldn't center. My teacher has helped me, I've watched videos, and tried to do it hundreds of times. I can "bully" any clay under a couple of pounds into center, but over 3 pounds, no. What happens is as soon as I start to center a piece of clay, it gets a "twist" in the middle and even when I bring just that twisted piece all the way up and then all the way down trying to fix it, it's still in there. I bring it up, stabilize it with my left hand as I push down with my right, it seems centered, but isn't. There's still a twist in the middle.

 

I thought maybe I'd done something different wedging, so I tried my usual Rams head, did the other twirl one, and tried clay right from the bag that I just would drop on the floor to get anything out. Nope. Twist shows ups soon as I touch the clay. My teacher made sure my hands were equal and opposite on the clay, a twist shows up.

 

I've tried my usually, BMix and 60 clay, then tied 55, 65 and 80. Can't center any of them

 

I have a lot of pieces to make and I'm about to start hand building them. I'm desperate. I'll try any suggestions.

Thanks,

Nancy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I use to have a problem like this. It is very frustrating. I think it is a  matter of how soft or hard your clay is when you get it on the wheel. For me, I like my clay moist, soft. I have had more success this way. But you need to find what works for you. Try wedging your clay with more water, making it soft. Remember how it feels when you wedge it and then throw it. Try different levels of moist. When clay is moist it can be structurally harder to throw large, but it get easier with practice. But it is easier to center and work with. Works for me. Hope it will work for you. I use Bee Mix 5.

vinks, nancylee and Marcia Selsor like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

if the clays have gotten a little hard, slide the pugs like bread, dip each slice in bread, rebag and let them sit overnight. That will soften them for wedging and throwing as Marko suggests above.Marcia

Marcia,

You think I'm having trouble because the clay is stiff?

Nancy

Pres likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Either that or the outside is tougher than the inside. You can solve that by dropping a fresh bag of clay on all sides, maybe even several times. That moves the thixotropic effect of some clays. Have you ever noticed the clay has a harder spot in places. Try this and see if that doesn't help solve the problem. I just came in from throwing some older Cassius Clay. I dropped it on the floor and it softened up. easy to wedge and throw.

Marcia

nancylee and Pres like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopefully this doesn't seem too simplistic, Nancy. I occasionally get this too. Usually it is either; not enough slip/water to let the clay slid over my hands and it 'catches', or when pushing up (coning, I think is the term?) moving my hands too fast or unevenly. 

 

Sounds like you have covered just about everything though.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopefully this doesn't seem too simplistic, Nancy. I occasionally get this too. Usually it is either; not enough slip/water to let the clay slid over my hands and it 'catches', or when pushing up (coning, I think is the term?) moving my hands too fast or unevenly. 

 

Sounds like you have covered just about everything though.....

 

Hopefully this doesn't seem too simplistic, Nancy. I occasionally get this too. Usually it is either; not enough slip/water to let the clay slid over my hands and it 'catches', or when pushing up (coning, I think is the term?) moving my hands too fast or unevenly. 

 

Sounds like you have covered just about everything though.....

 

Thanks all. I'll try to video my hands centering tomorrow.
GiselleNo5 likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nancy, from my own experience (six solid months of nothing before I learned to center ... mostly) : the more stressed out I became at being unable to center, the more I was not able to center. 

 

If my back is out, my head is hurting, I'm not feeling well, I can't center. I never forget that I have to be centered in myself before I can center the clay. So if you've had a lot of stress or any illness that could be causing the issue. Also the fact that you were expecting to remember and you're not ... that's a lot of mental pressure. 

 

That being said, I have recently discovered a new way of centering. Previously I would brace my left arm on the splash pan and lock my elbow against my upper thigh. I would use the heel of my left hand at 8 o'clock and the heel of my right hand sometimes on the top and sometimes at 4 o'clock on the wheel to center. 

 

But just a few days ago I discovered that I can lock my two hands together and just sort of shove in and up together at 6-7 o'clock; this cones up the clay really amazingly and then you press it back down with both hands again. LOL My husband thinks I'm insane now because I had to close my eyes and pantomime it on the arm of the couch so I could describe it to you. 

 

If you continue to struggle with it at all please feel free to message me and I will happily take a video for you. 

nancylee and firenflux like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nancy, from my own experience (six solid months of nothing before I learned to center ... mostly) : the more stressed out I became at being unable to center, the more I was not able to center. 

 

If my back is out, my head is hurting, I'm not feeling well, I can't center. I never forget that I have to be centered in myself before I can center the clay. So if you've had a lot of stress or any illness that could be causing the issue. Also the fact that you were expecting to remember and you're not ... that's a lot of mental pressure. 

 

That being said, I have recently discovered a new way of centering. Previously I would brace my left arm on the splash pan and lock my elbow against my upper thigh. I would use the heel of my left hand at 8 o'clock and the heel of my right hand sometimes on the top and sometimes at 4 o'clock on the wheel to center. 

 

But just a few days ago I discovered that I can lock my two hands together and just sort of shove in and up together at 6-7 o'clock; this cones up the clay really amazingly and then you press it back down with both hands again. LOL My husband thinks I'm insane now because I had to close my eyes and pantomime it on the arm of the couch so I could describe it to you. 

 

If you continue to struggle with it at all please feel free to message me and I will happily take a video for you.

 

I do think my anxiety at not being able to center is adding to this. But I'm still trying to figure out why im getting a "twist" in the middle?

 

I used to do the 6 and 7 o'clock positions but that was knocking me out of whack recently, so I stopped. I'm going to Ho make a video in a few.

 

Thanks!

Nancy

GiselleNo5 likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The 6 and 7 o'clock seems too close.

I use more like a 5 and 9 o'clock. I push into an "igloo" shape, then a cone, back to igloo, then a cone, back to igloo. In three or four manuveurs it is centered.

Left hand is on top and right on side for both cone and igloo.

Marcia

GiselleNo5 likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you releasing the tension in your hands before you move them,  I find that if I don't it will throw it off center.  I have also noticed that the really good throwers have a lot of upper body strength.   Denice

GiselleNo5 likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

try looking up "torque twist".

 

think of it this way.  you are NOT supposed to be pushing the clay around.  close your eyes.   you are simply surrounding the clay so it cannot fly off the wheel while allowing it to form a ball stuck to the wheel.  your hand is a steel claw containing the clay within a small space.  a little pressure from the other hand,  but not pushing it around will work with softer clay.  you do not have to be a weight lifter.

 

hard clay is just punishing yourself.

nancylee and Marcia Selsor like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

try looking up "torque twist".

 

think of it this way.  you are NOT supposed to be pushing the clay around.  close your eyes.   you are simply surrounding the clay so it cannot fly off the wheel while allowing it to form a ball stuck to the wheel.  your hand is a steel claw containing the clay within a small space.  a little pressure from the other hand,  but not pushing it around will work with softer clay.  you do not have to be a weight lifter.

 

hard clay is just punishing yourself.

Thank you! I'll try that today. I'm still having trouble. :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some tips that have helped me and others to regain centering skills: In a random stream of consciousness order.

 

1. Pay attention to what you are actually doing with your hands as you perform each step in your centering ritual. focus on what your hands are doing, not on what you intended for you hands to do.  Yes this is not an easy thing to do.

 

2. Watch your hands, not the clay.  Hold the hand still until it is touching the clay all around not in just a few spots.  Move up (or down) to once that section is centered.  If you are watching the clay, you tend to move your hands to follow the surface of the clay.  You want the clay to conform to a circle limited by your hand, so watch your hand and make sure it is not moving. The clay has no choice by to comply.

 

3. go through the sequence one step at a time.  If it is making a cone, make the cone and then stop.  Look at the cone, if it isn't what you wanted, start over and get each step right before moving to the next step.  Don't try to "recover" from a not right situation.

 

4. don't center by pushing the clay around, "trim" the mound of clay to a centered state by cutting the clay with a knife or rib. 

 

5. center by watching and focusing on something other than the clay, your hands, and centering.  Center while singing aloud your favorite song.  let your muscle memory take over on its own.

 

6. deliberately make "wonky" pots without centering.  Plunk down clay, open it and make something outrageous.  Just have fun making a mess. 

 

LT

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You might look on youtube for a video of Michael Cardew centering in his 80s.  As I recall, he makes the classic point that as one ages, one loses some strength, which one must make up for by increased cunning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

5. center by watching and focusing on something other than the clay, your hands, and centering.  Center while singing aloud your favorite song.  let your muscle memory take over on its own.

 

Ditto this. Being confident in centering clay has alot to do with feel rather than focusing on the actual symmetry.

There have been days I sit down and wonder what the heck I'm doing because I am somehow 'off', making no sense at all.

This can happen in the middle of a production run, and if I feel it happening, I often 'just look away' and hink about something else and just feel what I'm doing.

I don't know if this old age or what, but it happens.

Agree with this statement too...

 

Center while singing aloud your favorite song.  let your muscle memory take over on its own.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I may be a little late in the game here but if I can volunteer my 2 cents: I had similar issues at one point.  I thought had it down then, suddenly, it wasn't working for me. Ditto to many of the above comments. I have had hard spots in my clay from under wedging (who actually likes to wedge, anyhow, lol). That definitely can cause torquing as well as uneven walls...and working with hard clay is really difficult as well. Closing your eyes and focusing on what you feel in the clay can sometimes provide answers, too.

 

My advice: Make sure you are not moving your hands too fast (or the wheel too slow) and that you are maintaining steady pressure. That is what I find tends to give me the torque twist. Also, make sure when you take your hands away to release the tension gradually and remove your hands carefully. 

 

Let us know how you make out. If others come to the community looking for answers to similar problems they like to know what helped.

GiselleNo5 likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I took a week of throwing lessons last winter, and probably a couple of more weeks this winter. I own a very old and rickety wheel I bought at an estate sale. I have turned it on a few times, but the foot pedal sticks. Going to buy a small Shimpo Aspire to learn basics on next month; good enough for the learning curve, plus I can move it indoors during the winter. After I learn to throw ( sometime in 2025) I will donate it to the inner city art center for use with children. Then I will actually get a wheel. Not sure I am looking forward to mud spinning around: makes me dizzy.

Nerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.