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Stellaria

Low Hand Strength?

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Stellaria    35

For those of you who have impaired hand strength due to arthritis, bone breakage, or just being a tiny person in general (I have all three, go me!) - what challenges do you face when throwing, and how do you compensate for it?

 

I only ask because I'm having difficulty centering anything over 2 lbs and it's making me feel like an idiot. 3 lbs is NOT a large piece of clay, darn it! I've been working to establish better-leveraged movements, but it's difficult because my hands aren't able to brace one another like with tiny lumps of clay, and the clay is muscling me around :P Are there established ways to compensate, or am I just inept?

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Stellaria    35

I do brace my elbows on my knees, or into my body, depending on what I'm trying.

 

This is why I'm asking people with impaired hand strength specifically. I get the impression that most potters don't quite fathom just how much hand strength they actually rely on....until it diminishes.

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Bob Coyle    113

One thing you might try, if you haven't already, is to add more water into the clay to soften it up a bit before you throw. If you also have problems wedging then this probably won't be an option.

 

I have seen many centering devices people have made that use lever arms attached to the frame of the wheel. do a google search under "clay centering arm"

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Min    781

How much arm strength do you have? I don't think of hand strength so much as arm strength insofar as centering goes. I don't know how long you have been throwing for but it's easier when arm strength is good.  

 

Until you have built up your Popeye arms and pecs a method to center more than a couple pounds is to center what you can, without injuring yourself, then flatten the top of that amount of clay and add another ball of clay on top of the centered one and center that.  

 

Don't fight with the clay, use it soft. I am not a very big person but haven't found it difficult to center and throw because of having small hands. 

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Pres    896

As we get older, muscles have a tendency to become less so than they were in our youth. Partly because we use them less than when we were younger, partly because of natural declines in hormones. So not much to be done about the hormones, but the use of hands can be improved with exercise. Best exercise for potters, wedging/kneading the clay, however there are other things that help. Playing an instrument like guitar or piano strengthens fingers and wrists. Devices to strengthen specific parts of the body like a weight on a string hooked to a bar will allow you to hold in both hands and turn the bar to lift the weight will help. Finger exercisers are out there for all kinds of sports. In the long run, the more you use them the more you will get built up to use them.

 

One last thing that I wonder about with your, small pieces of clay to center give me trouble-always have, but a larger piece say 2-2.5 is easier because of the size. Are you working too small? If so, and you want small items, then work with a larger piece 3-4 and throw your smaller items off the hump.

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Joy pots    20

Hi, I have rheumatoid arthritis & use neoprene wristbands while throwing & wedging actually I use them for all the fun in the pottery. I use very soft clay as well. I have wrist/hand braces with a rigid part on the palm that rests my hands at night & keep the inflammation down. This really helps as at one time I thought my life as a potter was over but joy I'm still going strong. There are days when I need to take time off & I can tell when I've over done it.

Hope this helps you.

Joy

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Stellaria    35

Small pieces, say 1-2 lbs, is very very easy for me to center. But when I was working with 3 lbs, when I was attempting to throw plates, I found I was having a lot of difficulty with the initial center. Something about how my hands work together. Small balls of clay are SO easy. But once my hands are held further apart on the clay because of there being more there, it's like all of a sudden I can't get anything to go where it should. Shoulda seen the piles and piles of slip coming off of those potential plates that day!!

Not only do I have tiny hands - I also have a very tiny plate in one of them, plus arthritis.

 

I've looked into getting myself a centering arm. But before I considered one seriously, I first wanted to determine if I was actually doing everything I'm supposed to, or if I'm just a super wimp, and if the answers to those were no, THEN consider a centering arm :) Or just throw mugs for the rest of my life.....which wouldn't really make me sad.

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If you prepare your clay well prior to throwing, you can avoid moving it around so much and just pack the clay into the center of the wheel (somewhere near the middle), and do all the centering work with the wheel powered off. Also, look towards better contact with the clay if your hands are splitting on a slightly larger piece of clay...

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Tyler Miller    331

It might be your technique.  I find that it's best to think of centering more like pulling a handle than wrestling the clay into submission.  If I'm using brute force, I can't manage more than 5-6 pounds at the absolute most.  But you don't need much force to "pull" the clay up and then bring back down.  A bit of compression with the meaty part of your palms on the pinky sides of your hand and a slow, upward draw will serve you well and minimize groaning.  There's also no shame in coil and throw methods for bigger stuff.

 

Using hot water to throw can also soothe angry arthritic joints if you've got a lot of throwing to do.

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Stellaria    35

That's about how I do it, Tyler. Plus using my fingertips to apply the pressure for coning up, because it seems to take way less strength than using the side of my hand. (Something I picked up from a Hsin-Chuen Lin video on centering.) And yup, hot/warm water is indeed nice :D

 

Sounds like I am indeed just being a big wimp ;) Back to trying harder!

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Chantay    101

 

Using hot water to throw can also soothe angry arthritic joints if you've got a lot of throwing to do.

The above is excellent advice.  At first I only did it in the winter, now year round.  I also have arthritis, past broken bones and fybromyalgia in my hands.  I didn't think I would ever be able to throw.  First, when I get new clay I add water so that it is VERY soft.  My clay is so soft that if throwing something large and tall (4 - 5 lbs.) I may have to stop after the first pull and let the wheel spin slowly for a few minutes for the clay to firm up.  Also try to center 2 lbs with a flattened top, then add 2 lbs on top of that and center it.  Good Luck.

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JLowes    28

For a very long time I was not able to center clay well; just didn't seem to get it.  I got it "good enough", but never well centered. Then, I saw a Robin Hopper video on centering and his method and explanation worked wonders for me.  Robin pointed out that the spinning clay is coming toward your left right hand and if you oppose the spin with the unmoving left right hand, the clay has to either push you out of the way, or yield and go up.  Up is controlled with the right hand on top.  It is basic, good sense, advice, but sometimes changing your approach to a problem is what is needed.  It may not help you, but it is worth review to see if it may.  You may have developed methods over years of potting that are not working for you with your issues, and a slight adjustment may be just what you need.

 

http://ceramicartsdaily.org/bookstore/beginning-to-throw-on-the-potters-wheel-with-robin-hopper/

 

If you throw with the wheel turning clockwise, the clay will come toward the right hand and the left will control height.

 

Best of luck,

 

John

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clay lover    133

oppose the spin with the unmoving right  (or left ?) hand?   I throw clockwise and it is my right hand that does not move, so  would it depend on which way the wheel spins?

 

As to the Axner throwing arm, a friend made one, it's pretty simple and it worked great.  also for opening and setting a bottom.  I would look into it, anything that helps your body is fair game, to my way of thinking.

But... the Brent centering tool did not get such good reviews, The same friend bought that also, and then never used it.

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I'm really unsure as to how the centering tools are of any use whatsoever. If you're going to skip coning up and down to prepare your clay (sometimes referred to as power wedging), you might as well not center using the wheel at all. Just pack the clay on properly and there's no need to traditionally center, other than fulfilling OCD tendencies....

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Stellaria    35

Yeah, the Brent centering system looked completely worthless! No point in such a cumbersome thing, for sure. But I've been ogling the Strong Arm centering arm, and that doesn't look like such a "cheat" as you do use one hand to hold the centering arm and the other hand to manipulate as needed.

 

Colby, I'm not sure what you mean by packing the clay on properly and traditional centering being an OCD thing. I can understand how one could get clay *mostly* centered by pushing and packing, but I can't see how you could get anything workable without the traditional centering step.

 

As for trying different centering techniques, I have indeed been doing that. I'm not having to work against years of habits, either, since I just started in September. I do have a preferred method, though, as it seems to work better for me, after trying the advice from several videos on the subject. I think I'll just have to play around with them again, using bigger pieces of clay.

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bciskepottery    925

Two options to think about . . .

 

throwing off the hump -- it may be easier to center a large amount, then throw off the hump

 

or dry throwing ala Ayumi Horie

 

 

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Babs    386

Initially I centred, small person, by bracing my left elbow into my iliac crest, top of pelvis at front, then the heel of my left hand was infact fixed with very little strength required of it. After the mass of work was done I moved onto using my hands in a more normal fashion for finishing off and coning. This could help you .

Stronger now and more informed, wiser poss., I use softer clay, do as Min suggests with larger weights, and cone the clay prior to seeking the truly centred piece. 

Also a lot of slapping goes into the clay prior to coning.

Only on some days though!

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Stellaria, When centering clay for one of Gustin's larger platters (~60 lbs) we would pack clay onto the wheel, lightly hitting it while slowly rotating the wheel (by hand) for the next hit. Chris would then come by with a rib to "affirm" the "centeredness..." The better we got at packing the clay on center, the less work was eventually required, and the happier Chris was. At a certain point, you get really good at packing the clay on center, to the point you can just open and pull. A lot of compression is taking place while opening anyway, and it's the perfect time to tidy up the walls without removing material. Thus, traditional centering methods become a bit extraneous for this particular process, as it applies to larger amounts of clay.

 

I saw this same type of approach while working with a one-handed potter up in Maine. The other trick he would use was "affirming the centeredness" by manipulating just a single ring of the clay at a time. It was as if he was pulling just the outside of the lump of clay prior to opening it. I poked around a bit on youtube to find examples of each of these "moves" without much success...

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Stellaria    35

I gravitate toward left hand fixed as well. I tried right hand fixed, but had terrible results. I keep trying every so often, because people seem to have such logical-sounding arguments for doing it that way....but I keep going back to left hand fixed. It might be that that is the weaker hand, so giving that one the "just sit there and STAY there" job is best use of my resources. Right hand just seems to do the better job with the centering down.

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Biglou13    202

Ok here is my 2 cents

 

I uses to have issues cetering

 

Like above, and many japanese,and other Asian artists I "clap" center first.

 

I center ball to rings on wheel. (70%) centered

 

Then I clap clap center first, with wheel turning slowly clap clay downwards and in triangle shape. (93%centerd)

 

After a period of clapping I mush clay down at base "Pin the clay to the bat"

 

Now with both hands and some water on clay start with same clap angle and push clay downward. From here hands on side of clay and coax it upward. At this point it's usually centered.(100%) But I cone up a and down a few times. Prior to coning the clay is centered. I uses to muscle it now with my young padwan learner skills (aka budding Jedi skills). I will the clay to center.

 

Another thing is stiff clay is harder to center.

 

You have to watch ryoji koie videos he has arthritic deformity and still centers and pulls like the master that he is. I'm no knocking anyone's disability but centering isn't as tough as wedging on the body.

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