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Pres

QotW: How long did learning to throw take.

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Hi folks, This is a question that though not asked in the question of the week poll, has been tossed around. As no one has posted a new question for the QotW pool, I will submit this one however it is not as easy as it seems: How long did learning to throw take? 

You see I started throwing during the Summer of 1971 when I  took an elective class in college while pursuing my BS in Art Education. We were required to take so many elective art courses besides the fine art classes. The Summer class ran for 9 weeks, I kept nothing the  first 6, and the last week of construction, kept everything, nine or ten pieces. I had learned to center, pull a nine inch cylinder, pull handles and little else. I was not a beginner any longer, but a novice. I took another class the next year, as I had been bitten. Fast forward to a new teaching job in a HS, where the teacher hired the year before taught ceramics, and I helped out after school, and did some throwing on a two speed Amaco. Still a novice, but able to help kids.  As I needed 30 credits of post grad work for my permanent certification, I headed to Penn State, again in the Summers. I took classes in the Art department, not Education dept. I took several ceramics classes, along with drawing, painting and others. I improved my skills at throwing, handbuilding, and firing gas and electric. I also did some raku. I was now sufficiently able to throw so that I could teach and demonstrate without failure. . .a big thing in a classroom of 25-30 kids! This was truly the beginning of my throwing as now students would challenge me, I would challenge myself. I would often follow the concepts of my teachers, cutting pot in half to show the process inside and out. I would let students try to stump me by picking a form for me to throw, and often I had never thrown one, but seeing a picture or hearing and explanation, I could complete the form. 

Today, I still consider myself a learning thrower, as I have not thrown every form, do not always succeed, and still feel I have room for improvement. It is a work in progress. So all in all it  has taken me over 45 years to learn to throw.

 

best,

Pres

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I did manage to graduate with some decent throwing skills,  I was more interested in hand building.   I throw something once in a while ,  I am still into hand building  I will never be a master thrower or even a good one.     Denice

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Hey pres, sounds like learning to throw has taken you about 47 years so far.  I think that's the name of the game really.  I hope I never feel like I've learned to throw, the mistakes and challenges are what keep me involved just as much as the successes.  Now if only I had someone to come over and dry/wedge all of this reclaim...

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liambesaw, as you noticed, that was the point. There is always something new and /or challenging with the wheel. I am sure as a production potter, I could handle one form for ever, but why. I would get bored doing the same form day in and out. 

 

best,

Pres

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5 hours ago, liambesaw said:

I hope I never feel like I've learned to throw

Well, throwing well is not something I need to worry about...'cuz it sure ain't happenin'.  I used to be quite proficient (after 3 years of high quality formal training specific to ceramics.) I threw lovely bowls, fitted lids, mugs w/great handles. pitchers, platters, etc. That was decades ago--now, the simmering deficits beginning to riddle my brain overide much of the muscle memory & the essential knowledge about how to throw well, consistently.  The memory aspect seems to render my motivation  to press on (practice/practice; fall/get up, fall/get up) fairly diluted.  I will keep at it--I don't give up until/unless that is the only survival move left to make.  I have a great wheel and every once in a while I crank out a nice piece on it. I just won't be making myself miserable by confronting the times that I really "can't" pull it off.  What's important is that I love what I am doing at this time, exploring certain hand building dynamics, and simply enjoying other people's thrown work.   

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I tend to think of throwing proficiency in terms of forms. If we're talking about a 6" cylinder I know my professor was expecting that 2nd or 3rd week for beginning throwing classes. I felt like after a year in high school I could throw a 6" cylinder if at the drop of a hat. I was listening to Ben Carters podcast during one of his New Zealand segments and on of the artists described mastery on the potters wheel as an ability to throw anything you can think of.  Some of the interviews I've listened to have surprised me looking at the work of some of these artists, very accomplished ceramic artists,  in many cases they shrink away from the term "Master" because they recognize this idea of infinite possibilities not yet tapped into. I've been making pots on the wheel since high school. Though I feel proficient in my throwing abilities each year the passes I look at my work from last year and most of the work I look at think what was I thinking. I agree with the previously posted sentiment. We should always be looking for the needed improvements in our aesthetic, technique and craftsmanship.

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Good question! ...ah don't know yet, still learning.  :mellow:

A few weeks in, centering clay started to get easier; some semblance of control started to come (and go) months later.

Along the way commitment to preppin' that clay settled in, and it occurred to me there may be a reason why about half o'th'lumps behave better - 50/50 chance on which way the lump is turned up? For sure a slightly dry side, a bubble, a streak of harder/softer clay - any inconsistency - be causin' problems. Too soft and not soft enough can be frustrating as well. Back to the 50/50, I've been experimenting with fellow students at the JC (the ones really struggling); I'll offer to wedge up some clay, which I turn up left side for counterclockwise throwers (right side for me and the leftists), then ask later on how that worked out. Each and every one had a better experience. Hmmm, wedge? Pay attention to which way the clay swirls? What say you all? When we touch the spinning clay, it drags, causing the clay to swirl/spin, yes?

Any road, still later on, further commitment to prep, in coning up and down at least three times, gettin' that clay centered up such that there's no perceptible runout - none. From there, consistent (if slow) progress...

Still later, finally realize that clay remembers everything! e.g. when coning, particularly up, rushing a bit causes the clay to shear - those shear lines bite back soon enough. From there, a few little light bulbs lit up!

...'bout eight months in now, working on repeat work; not that I particularly want to do production - I do want the develop the skill, and there's some improvement lately, however, long way to go.

All that said, keep at it, don't give up, practice, practice, and there isn't one right way - find what works for you, e.g., I'm right handed, but turn clockwise; I have problems with fine control in my right hand between about bellybutton to forehead, so left hand support/help is needed for trimming and centering, etc.; I've no feeling on outside half of right middle finger, which I keep forgetting, haha

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It all started at a 6 week Learning Exchange class at Alpha Fired Arts, my local ceramics supplier. In the beginning of the class, which met formally for 3 hours each Thursday evening, the instructor said he expected us to produce at least 4 pieces. They could be bowls, mugs, cups... I did the regular classes as well as Saturday mornings when the classroom was available and at the end of the 6 weeks I had 22 glazed pieces, which was the most he had ever seen produced in one of his classes. I was hooked.

Here I am 10 years later, with 3 college classes under my belt, and I feel that I am still learning to throw. My pieces are more consistent and accurate and I still have the occasional failure, but every session at the wheel is a learning experience and I love it! With the short days and long evenings ahead. I'll be spending a lot more time in the studio...learning to throw.

JohnnyK

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I don't know for sure when I learned to throw clay, but it must have been about the time I started first grade at school.   A new house was being built next door and my dad allowed the neighbor to level some of the hill we lived on.   The part next to the house was a hard yellow clay and that was the material I learned to throw with.  Took only a couple of days, with my dad as a teacher, to learn to throw straight.    (I also learned to bat the clay 'balls' thrown at me).  By high school time, I had given up throwing clay and was more interested in chemistry and engineering.   Resumed my clay throwing around '05.  The biggest difference now is that the clay is softer;   back when I first started clay was always thrown dry;   now the throwing clay is always wet, soft, and sticks to the bats.
 

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took 6 months of getting up at 4:30 and throwing a couple of hours before work every day and mostly cutting everything in half before I would say I could throw a decent pot. Couple of years ago tried my hand at doing full time shows for a living and the sudden influx of non-stop daily throwing that had to happen to have twice a month show racks full certainly made a HUGE difference, not just in throwing but every aspect of making.

My take away from the experience is not how long did it take but how many concentrated hours did it take. I think for most, throwing regularly around a full time job and life for 10 or even 20 years will not even remotely compare to someone who throws hours and hours every day for even a few years. 

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