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lorielle

What Does Centering Clay Mean To You? | September 6, 2013

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lorielle    1

When I center clay, I feel as if I am focusing to a point of stillness.  I have never had success trying to force my way into centering. By moving slowly and deliberately, I can physically and mentally feel that "click" as everything falls into place.  As a recent yoga devotee (one year), I recently had an epiphany while performing a balancing pose.  As I went into the asana, I felt that same "click".   I felt calm, in control, and yes, "centered".  How about you?  What does centering clay mean to you?  Is it a battle or is it a "Moment of Zen"?   :) 

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Marcia Selsor    1,301

I agree that centering and yoga have much in common. I also think the "click" can happen when down hill skiing when the focus and action are one. I think this can happen in many ways. It is an achievement on mental and physical unity.

 

Marcia

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Denice    243

When I use to throw a lot the whole throwing experience was zen for me, often I would get sleepy while throwing.  Now that I don't throw much it's more of a battle. Denice

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lorielle    1

Another way that I have experience this "click", albeit an odd way, is as a nurse.  In my other life as an NICU nurse, I would always feel that sensation when starting IVs or when doing other procedures requiring concentration, and body awareness.  It's really fascinating how the mind and body work together.   Our bodies have what are called proprioceptors.  Here's a wiki on them:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proprioception

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Pres    896

I guess I am quite different about centering the clay. I am highly aggressive, working the clay up hard in Mastering 2-3 times, then working it hard centering it quickly. I often use my rt elbow on the wheel head, and my fist cocked at the top of the cone locking it into place firmly forcing the cone to center. For me the most gentle and time consuming of it all is the opening up and the compression of the floor rhythmically back and forth until I am satisfied.

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Biglou13    202

I wrote this in another thread

(Caution metaphors ahead)

 

 

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon(clay). That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Spoon boy: There is no spoon (clay).

Neo: There is no spoon (clay)?

Spoon boy: Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon(clay) that bends(centers), it is only yourself.

 

Like all things art there are intangible things going on.

 

To answer the questions in means my clay is spinning smoothly between my hands.....

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Benzine    610

I guess I am quite different about centering the clay. I am highly aggressive, working the clay up hard in Mastering 2-3 times, then working it hard centering it quickly. I often use my rt elbow on the wheel head, and my fist cocked at the top of the cone locking it into place firmly forcing the cone to center. For me the most gentle and time consuming of it all is the opening up and the compression of the floor rhythmically back and forth until I am satisfied.

I'm with you Pres. I wouldn't say I'm aggressive, but I show that clay who is boss. To me, aggressive would involve tearing chunks of the clay off, from putting way too much pressure and no finesse, AKA, how my students trybto center.

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Wyndham    98

A sage of the south, Brother Dave Garner once said

 

"It not the pendulum as it go to and fro,

But the essence that drives it,

that makes us go"

 

Centering for me is the first step in paying the bills.

Wyndham

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JBaymore    1,432

It is the beginning of a collaboration. Centering is a dance WITH the clay, not a case of imposing dominant will ON the clay. Feel what your partner is doing and working with them. Each partnetr guides the other. No abrupt movements...... pressures build and pressures are released gradually...........a dynamic balancing of forces.

 

The clay finds the center on the wheel and the potter knows this and allows it to do so.

 

For me centering is not a big heavily physical activity most of the time. Slow wheel speed, a relaxed well aligned body, and light guiding forces will do the job. In some ways it is exactly like pulling a handle...... you are "extruding" the clay onto center by guiding the flow characteristics to work with the energy imparted by the rotating wheel.

 

best,

 

.................john

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Pres    896

Yeah John I see what you mean. So maybe highly aggressive is not the right term, but imposing my will on the clay, yes, I do that. Most of the time I really don't worry about whether it is tightly centered, just a generalization, since I know that as I open up, and recenter, and compress the base that it will become more to my needs. I might be even a little impatient at times to get past the centering thing.

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Idaho Potter    62

I'm with John on this one.  When my life is in turmoil, I find it hard to center clay, and if I use force, it only makes it worse.  My artist's statement ends with these words:

 

Clay is worked by centering, opening and drawing it up into a basic form, ready for experimentation.  Life is much the same.  It is at its best when you are centered, balanced and open to new ideas and willing to experiment.  I intend to do all of that for as long as possible and as often as I can.

 

Shirley

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TJR    359

For me it begins with wedging the clay. I use the cut and slap method to cut the mass of clay, rotate the top half and kind of slap them together-not really slamming. After the clay is consistent, I spiral wedge it in quarter sections. Then I weigh smaller amounts and ball them up.After I have a good quantity of lumps-say one pound lumps for mugs, then I start to throw. I am already in the zone when I begin to centre. I have a ware board on my right side which I begin to fill. I only lose concentration when I move the ware board. I force myself to get up from the wheel to walk over and place the board on the table. I am usually listening to music.

Ain't life grand!

TJR.

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Benzine    610

While I agree with John, that centering is indeed a dance, sometimes my partner is an uncoordinated idiot, and needs to be yanked around the dance floor........I'm sure sometimes, the clay also feels the same.

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oldlady    1,323

very early on someone told me to let the wheel do the work.  my job is to guide the clay to the place where the wheel can do it easily.  i used to center huge mounds of gritty clay with my forearm inside a "sleeve" of leather from a ladies boot.  a thick leather belt worked well, too.

 

today i use a non gritty clay and life is so much easier.

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Joy pots    20

I love the feel of clay slipping through my fingers. It puts me into a relaxed mood that just lets the clay move into center as I work with it.

Joy

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Bob Coyle    113

Every time I watch a new potter trying to center the clay I remember how frustrating it was for me. Now I can do it without thinking. What changed? I do not know... it just happened.

 

Maybe the clay centerd me?

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When I center, I find there is a quality of listening about it... listening to my hands, listening for that small, still spot in the center of that waiting disc of clay to sing, 'Here I am!" and in my fingers plunge, down to the future floor, feeling the weight of future walls. Centering is like that big, steadying breath one takes before the plunge... listen to the wobbles, correct, convince, collaborate with that wodge of clay until it is ready to become whatever my imagination deems fit.

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MudBug    5

In the book Zen Flesh Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, complied by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, there is a section called Centering. This section is a translation from an original work called Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, which some say is at least 5000 years old!

 

In line with the 112 methods of centering mentioned in this work, including centering clay, somehow, all centering activities - physical or mental - aim to take us to the center about which we build the perceptions of who we are. I observe.

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ChenowethArts    461

One of my favorite instructors would do a demo for first-time wheel-throwing classes that included several, numbered steps.  Ultimately, with a ball of perfectly centered clay spinning on the wheel with his hand just resting on the clay, he would say, "When you get to this point, either you are going to move the clay or the clay is going to move you".  I remind myself of these words every time I center clay, then start the conversation with the clay..."What's is going to be? Me (moving you)? or You (moving me)?

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JLowes    28

Centering means now I can get to the pulling, shaping, and that form I have in my mind. How well I centered directs how well these next steps go.  For quite a while my centering was loosely centered; just enough to start working, and rarely centered well, and then only by grace of unknown forces. 

 

When it finally clicked in for me was maybe three years after starting and opened a world of possibilities with no more thick-thin, no more too wet clay to pull, and less slumping from overworked clay.  Boy howdy, that was a day to remember! Robin Hopper gave me what I had been missing in a Ceramic Arts Daily video and I was off to the races.

 

John

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Like JLowes, being eager to 'get on with it' I used to fight to centre the clay and would start when I thought 'near enough is good enough', would then fight to correct wobbles, slumping and uneveness accepting it as part of the unpredictable nature of clay!!

 

.....took nearly 4 years to 'get it!'....that if I took the time to centre well then everything that followed would flow easily from the centre of the lump itself, effortlessly and exactly as I envisioned it. I basically had to stop, backtrack and re-train myself again until I got used to the feel of well centred clay before going onto the forming stages

 

I can't centre well when I am agitated or distracted, those pots invariably end up in recycle but when I'm in the 'zone' the clay follows suit and we get on well from there.

 

Irene

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It means busted wrists and lots of swearing...but man, when it FINALLY decides to behave, that is such a "EUREKA" moment that I forget all the rage! :D

 

(This thread got bumped, lmao... I DINNINT DO IT)

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LeeU    330

I tried to take the easy way out to get a clue by reading Mary Richards' book on Centering, but it was too dense and curly-cued for my fractured attention span, so I decided to figure it out for myself.

 

Wheel goes round & round, spinning clay by the pound. 

Lee goes "Let me join in, let me join in."

Clay sez "Sure, what can you bring to the party?" 

Lee sez "Uh, I can center you."

Clay sez, "Yeah, OK, just go ahead then." (I think Richards called it stress-on-stress and at some point talked about "yielding up the soul" or some such, and "the dance of perception".)

 

I tried for a Haiku but that was a bust.

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