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On 9/6/2018 at 9:38 AM, Rae Reich said:

When you push down and sideways, aim the tip of the cone toward the center of the base, not just sideways. That should help keep your base from trying to separate from the wheel, which is where you're losing the "centeredness". (Been there) 

I see what you are saying. I will try this whenI get home tomorrow. Thank you!

nancy. 

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Ditch the wheel and hand build. Fifty mugs in one day...yuck! Talk about taking all the fun out of it. Instead of beating your head against the wall with something that hasn't worked for 18 yrs why not try a different approach? You don't need a wheel to make vessels if that's your goal. 

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2 hours ago, yappystudent said:

Ditch the wheel and hand build. Fifty mugs in one day...yuck! Talk about taking all the fun out of it. Instead of beating your head against the wall with something that hasn't worked for 18 yrs why not try a different approach? You don't need a wheel to make vessels if that's your goal. 

I think it is different to be able to do things you want on the wheel and then to choose instead to hand-build (which I think is probably your situation) than not to be able to do what you want on the wheel and hand-build by default.

It is more satisfying really to have a choice.

I have mostly hand-built, but I will find it pretty annoying if I never really get the hang of centering and throwing a shape of satisfying shape and size.

Like you, I would have no interest in throwing several dozen mugs at once. But I would like to be able to make a nice sized urn or jar or teapot of pleasing shape.

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On 9/5/2018 at 8:28 AM, nancylee said:

Thank you! I am going to make a schedule of throwing and throw things that are hard for me. Hopefully, if I can center them, I will learn.

nancy

I've been frustrated more than I care to admit. People have asked me if I throw. I have to admit - oh yes, I've thrown clay.

I'm unable to add much more than is already offered here. I've had to adopt some unorthodox methods that work for me.

The biggest thing that moved me to a place approaching confidence was accepting a small wobble and just geting on with the process. I got out of my own way and 'we' came to a compromise.

The other big thing was wheel speed. I was always taught to center clay as fast as the wheel would go. One winter I had the opportunity to work on an old Estrin. The flywheel encouraged me to work with a rythmic wheel speed. Now I rarely use a wheel a full speed and if I'm struggling chances are my wheel is turning too quickly.

cheers

:)

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11 hours ago, Gabby said:

I think it is different to be able to do things you want on the wheel and then to choose instead to hand-build (which I think is probably your situation) than not to be able to do what you want on the wheel and hand-build by default.

It is more satisfying really to have a choice.

I have mostly hand-built, but I will find it pretty annoying if I never really get the hang of centering and throwing a shape of satisfying shape and size.

Like you, I would have no interest in throwing several dozen mugs at once. But I would like to be able to make a nice sized urn or jar or teapot of pleasing shape.

I just want to say I fully understand your point, but I don't agree with it. Probably no one wants to hear me say this again but I'm going to if I can find the words. Linking pottery to a machine that actually limits what you can do with clay is short-sighted. Forcing yourself to do the same ol' same ol' like everyone else does even if you have no talent for it seems like more of a social acceptance thing than anything to do with expression. 

This reminds me of a point I wanted to make about ceramics vs art, which I will take to that thread.  

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2 hours ago, yappystudent said:

I just want to say I fully understand your point, but I don't agree with it. Probably no one wants to hear me say this again but I'm going to if I can find the words. Linking pottery to a machine that actually limits what you can do with clay is short-sighted. Forcing yourself to do the same ol' same ol' like everyone else does even if you have no talent for it seems like more of a social acceptance thing than anything to do with expression. 

This reminds me of a point I wanted to make about ceramics vs art, which I will take to that thread.  

I like to do both and do a lot of building on the wheel which incorporates both. I do understand Yappy's point about the artistic idea about handbuilding versus wheel but i believe both are using artistic abilities. As someone who loves sculpture both ways of expression can be incorporated in wheel and handbuilding.

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3 hours ago, yappystudent said:

I just want to say I fully understand your point, but I don't agree with it. Probably no one wants to hear me say this again but I'm going to if I can find the words. Linking pottery to a machine that actually limits what you can do with clay is short-sighted. Forcing yourself to do the same ol' same ol' like everyone else does even if you have no talent for it seems like more of a social acceptance thing than anything to do with expression. 

This reminds me of a point I wanted to make about ceramics vs art, which I will take to that thread.  

If a person pursues something in order to conform,  one might make a case it is about social acceptance. But I don't think wheel throwers do it to conform any more than making pots by the coil method is done to conform or using a rolling pin in making a pie shell is about conforming, or using a table saw to cut lumber is about conforming or choosing to use oil paints or acrylics is about conforming.

These are just tools that open up new possibilities and the choices people make.

I don't think a wheel is more limiting than hand building either for the things for which people use the wheel.

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Centering & throwing 50 mugs, 100 cylinders, 75 bowls--even for years--ain't nuthin-- if the goal is to (however long it takes) get really good at it, including finally hitting the break-through "ah-ha" moment that will come eventually.

The best part, for me, was discovering, after I got good at it, that I didn't care for it, didn't "have to" show my skills in that area, and could work with the materail whatever way I wanted to. If I "know nothing" and muck about, I'm probably either a genuine folk artist or just a dillitant. If I am trained in "best practice" and known-to-be-correct methods, investigating and applying sound science, & good craftmenship, then I have a responsibility to learn and follow the rules before I go out of my way to break them--i.e. when Peter Voulkos poked holes in his platters he wasn't being a folk artist! Anything in between may just be bad craft, poor or inadequate training, ignorance, misguided ego, or a stuck point, which, for me,  is important to recognize and work through (or choose to do something else).

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On 9/5/2018 at 6:32 AM, nancylee said:

 I have been looking into those places where I can do a 8 to 12 week workshop.

8 years? I bet you are much better than you are giving yourself credit for.  If you've been throwing for that long you are centering something.

I get the feeling that people are thinking you are talking about a local class, is that what you mean? I read ur post as thinking of going somewhere for a 8-12 workshop and I would absolutely do that if you can afford it, sounds like a blast and I have no doubt you would come back after 2-3 months living and breathing pottery with lots of issues solved and new things learned. 

If you did however just mean a weekly class that meets 8-12 times then sure, can't hurt and might be great. At the very least you will meet some interesting people and explore some of your issues with the potter in charge.

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Hi NancyLee - 

I feel you! I started taking classes at my local community college two years ago, and had a devil of a time learning to center (it sucks that you can't really do anything on the wheel without that skill, and it's the hardest thing to learn!). It was especially fun being around all these college kids saying it took them SO LONG (3 days) to learn to center when I was on 5 months and counting. :) 

I too, had a wheel at home and was super frustrated with making the same mistakes, more time didn't seem to help because i didn't know what to do to make my practice progressively more effective.

I ended up paying for a couple of coaching lessons - I found a local for profit studio, the kind that offers 4-6 week courses and 'sip and throw' nights (a glass of wine and a lesson) and got two 1-1 sessions with someone working directly with me, helping me figure out how to move forward. I ended up learning an alternative way of holding my hands, figured out that I was much more successful with the wheel spinning clockwise (went from 1-2 out of 10 successes to 7-8 out of 10 success), and was able to make significant progress in developing a means of practicing.

In retropsect it makes so much sense, people have coaches for sports or music or acting, of course you need someone to adapt the one-size-fits-all resources available to your specific circumstances and help you find modifications that work for you.

For any experienced potters or teachers out there looking for a way to 'give back' - consider offering coaching lessons! We beginners need you! 

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Nancy how are the walls of your urns and mugs? Pretty even? If so then whatever centering you are doing is enough. 

Have you tried bowls yet? When the wheel was rotating did it not look centered but if you stopped the wheel your pot looked fine?

Personally I feel centering is overrated. I sometimes feel throwing is nothing but a series of battles to keep the clay centered.  The key is knowing what to do when you get uncentered or thick and thin. Thanks to the tricks I was taught by our local 84 year legend I am considered a magician at our local community college (where I do all my clay work) because my goners were brought back to life. Knowing the tricks has been far more helpful to me than centering. 

on instagram I was shocked to discover how many professional potters bowls were uncentered.  The wobble made me cringe. Yet you wouldn’t know from the fired version.  

I follow many on Instagram whose work I like. Most of them have been so kind and generous to answer my questions. Some even changed their posting style. That was so helpful to me to understand for instance the difference in making for wood fire vs gas fire. I love traditional pots. But our local teachers have ‘been there done that’ so they’d rather teach me how to develop my eye than go over the process. The process answer I’ve found on Insta. 

I myself have had a long struggle with centering till I ignored it. It was not worth the worrying.  It was making me anxious which made my body tense up which made me uncenter. What I did were series of shapes. From 1/2 pound to 12 pounds.  Lots and lots of vases.  That taught me more about how to control clay.

I would say definitely seek any kind of educational opportunity you can find. Even if you just watch a series of demos with lectures from visiting artists. You will learn so much from observing and others questions. Have as many teachers you can. They all bring little tidbits that are soooo useful.

the most wonderful thing about clay is it’s community nature. I also volunteer in class. Just helping beginners how to throw has made me better. I’ve learnt so much about glazing from looking at other student works. 

 

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On 9/5/2018 at 7:32 AM, nancylee said:

I am now retired and started my second career, counseling, but I was in an unsafe buidling without enough staff and I quit. I am now with some time on my hands. I would love some advice as how to push further and get better. I have been looking into those places where I can do a 8 to 12 week workshop. I think I need the consistency. I’ve been at this 8 years, I have my own wheel and kiln, and honestly - I still can’t center consistently. I can’t make big bowls or plates. I make urns, lots of them,so I’ve gotten good at cylinders. I love carving and glazing a lot more than throwing!

Is a long term workshop worthwhile to learn? Otherwise, I sit at home on my wheel and make the same mistakes over and over. Making 50 mugs in a day sounds great, but when you make the same mistakes iver and over, it sounds like a waste of my life. I can take classes, but once a week doesnt sink into my bad-habits brain.

I aould appreciate your thoughts.  

Nancylee, when I first took ceramics in college, it was in a Summer course of 12 weeks. We were allowed to post grade for the course by either handbuilding or throwing. The first time I sat on the wheel and tried to wrestle the clay into the center, it was so frustrating, but something about it appealed to me. I decided that I needed to at least master some of the wheel to determine whether I liked it or not. The next 9 weeks were spent in the studio centering, and attempting to make a pot. I din not keep a thing, cutting all in half to check the thickness and evenness of the form. Then the 10th week, I kept everything I made, 9 pieces. They were really pretty poor, but taught me what I needed to know. . . I loved the wheel! After that I another class, and improved enough that I could reasonably demonstrate to others without failing at throwing a cylinder.  Doesn't mean that I was all that good, as when I through a bucket of water and 10# of clay onto a professors feet and legs on my first day of transitioning from a motorized kick wheel to a Brent C at Penn State.!

Several years later, and several grad classes, I was able to tell the students to decide on a form for their throwing project for the semester and I would demonstrate it whether I had ever made one or not.  Never was unable to satisfy their need to stump me.  

I use the wheel as a tool, and know of others that know how to throw very well, and have given up the wheel to handbuild. It really doesn't matter whether in the end you use it or not, but it gives you one more tool in the box. I have seen folks throw cylinders, and then transform them into the most beautiful of human forms, others that do the same from coll construction or even slabs. Creativity is of the mind, not of the tool. We have come up against that problem in the arts over the years with creativity vs the tool as in the photography struggle, or of late computer art and animation. There is always someone who feels that the righteousness is on the side of the old method, or one that does not use a machine. . . does that even include a slab roller!

If you feel you want to take a class, and can afford it. . . take one that immerses you in the wheel totally for 9-12 weeks, and drain the teacher dry!

All in my most humble opinion.

 

best,

Pres

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When I first learned to center, way back in the 70's, the wheel runs counter-clockwise and my R hand was on the side with the L hand on top. Page forward 30 years when I audited the same Ceramics 101, using the same technique. I would struggle mightily to center. Looking at others in the class they had their hands opposite what I had, L on side R on top. I tried this. WOW what a difference. So thankful to have learned the correct way, at least for me. I did not cone at the beginning. Asked the instructor why he coned, he said to align clay particles. I cone 3 times no matter how big the clay ball, even the 5 oz balls used for toothpick holders. I do not care for off the hump.

Analyze your technique. Adjust, overcome, adapt.

 

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"...much more successful with the wheel spinning clockwise…"

Me too, I'm a righty, but much more comfortable and "effective" with right hand inside, left hand out, and for centering, clay coming into heel of right hand. Also, my right eye is closer to the work when raising the wall. I'm guessing there's something else that I'm not aware of...

I'm with you dh, works better for me with clay moving into the fixed/anchored hand (although Tim See and others can make it work the other way...).

Edited by Hulk
agreed

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(Centering & throwing 50 mugs, 100 cylinders, 75 bowls--even for years--ain't nuthin-- if the goal is to (however long it takes) get really good at it, including finally hitting the break-through "ah-ha" moment that will come eventually.)

the only way to improve is lots of practice-you put the time in and it will come.

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On 9/13/2018 at 9:58 AM, Pres said:

Nancylee, when I first took ceramics in college, it was in a Summer course of 12 weeks. We were allowed to post grade for the course by either handbuilding or throwing. The first time I sat on the wheel and tried to wrestle the clay into the center, it was so frustrating, but something about it appealed to me. I decided that I needed to at least master some of the wheel to determine whether I liked it or not. The next 9 weeks were spent in the studio centering, and attempting to make a pot. I din not keep a thing, cutting all in half to check the thickness and evenness of the form. Then the 10th week, I kept everything I made, 9 pieces. They were really pretty poor, but taught me what I needed to know. . . I loved the wheel! After that I another class, and improved enough that I could reasonably demonstrate to others without failing at throwing a cylinder.  Doesn't mean that I was all that good, as when I through a bucket of water and 10# of clay onto a professors feet and legs on my first day of transitioning from a motorized kick wheel to a Brent C at Penn State.!

Several years later, and several grad classes, I was able to tell the students to decide on a form for their throwing project for the semester and I would demonstrate it whether I had ever made one or not.  Never was unable to satisfy their need to stump me.  

I use the wheel as a tool, and know of others that know how to throw very well, and have given up the wheel to handbuild. It really doesn't matter whether in the end you use it or not, but it gives you one more tool in the box. I have seen folks throw cylinders, and then transform them into the most beautiful of human forms, others that do the same from coll construction or even slabs. Creativity is of the mind, not of the tool. We have come up against that problem in the arts over the years with creativity vs the tool as in the photography struggle, or of late computer art and animation. There is always someone who feels that the righteousness is on the side of the old method, or one that does not use a machine. . . does that even include a slab roller!

If you feel you want to take a class, and can afford it. . . take one that immerses you in the wheel totally for 9-12 weeks, and drain the teacher dry!

All in my most humble opinion.

 

best,

Pres

Thank you Pres, for sharing your experience and wisdom. I have been throwing the last few days, and already see improvements!! I'm going to keep doing it for the next few weeks. Will update! 

Nancy

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On 9/9/2018 at 9:25 AM, C.Banks said:

I've been frustrated more than I care to admit. People have asked me if I throw. I have to admit - oh yes, I've thrown clay.

I'm unable to add much more than is already offered here. I've had to adopt some unorthodox methods that work for me.

The biggest thing that moved me to a place approaching confidence was accepting a small wobble and just geting on with the process. I got out of my own way and 'we' came to a compromise.

The other big thing was wheel speed. I was always taught to center clay as fast as the wheel would go. One winter I had the opportunity to work on an old Estrin. The flywheel encouraged me to work with a rythmic wheel speed. Now I rarely use a wheel a full speed and if I'm struggling chances are my wheel is turning too quickly.

cheers

:)

Thanks! I find that too. If I have the wheel too fast, the clay just knocks me around. 

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On 9/11/2018 at 6:05 PM, kristinanoel said:

Hi NancyLee - 

I feel you! I started taking classes at my local community college two years ago, and had a devil of a time learning to center (it sucks that you can't really do anything on the wheel without that skill, and it's the hardest thing to learn!). It was especially fun being around all these college kids saying it took them SO LONG (3 days) to learn to center when I was on 5 months and counting. :) 

I too, had a wheel at home and was super frustrated with making the same mistakes, more time didn't seem to help because i didn't know what to do to make my practice progressively more effective.

I ended up paying for a couple of coaching lessons - I found a local for profit studio, the kind that offers 4-6 week courses and 'sip and throw' nights (a glass of wine and a lesson) and got two 1-1 sessions with someone working directly with me, helping me figure out how to move forward. I ended up learning an alternative way of holding my hands, figured out that I was much more successful with the wheel spinning clockwise (went from 1-2 out of 10 successes to 7-8 out of 10 success), and was able to make significant progress in developing a means of practicing.

In retropsect it makes so much sense, people have coaches for sports or music or acting, of course you need someone to adapt the one-size-fits-all resources available to your specific circumstances and help you find modifications that work for you.

For any experienced potters or teachers out there looking for a way to 'give back' - consider offering coaching lessons! We beginners need you! 

Hi,

Thanks for sharing your struggles! I have paid for coaching. I have paid for group lessons, and private lessons, but at a certain weight of clay, it always falls apart. And sometimes falls apart at a lesser weight of clay. I have been throwing regularly, and that seems to help.

Nanc

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