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Where To Start With Wheel Newbies?

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#21 TwinRocks


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Posted 20 July 2014 - 11:12 AM

I had recently taught a small group without putting much thought or preparation in it. The group had a few people who had done high school ceramics but was otherwise total novices. I demonstrated by throwing a bowl and just kind of let them go! A few needed help bringing the clay to center, pots wobbled and fell. Most ended up with a piece they where happy with and one enthusiastic individual made several. I encouraged people to stop if their piece began to get off center and to embrace the asymmetry. Beginners need positive experience, not perfect pots. Aiming for perfection from the first throw leads down a path of disappointment. Wonky pottery feels more creative anyway!

It should be a bit easier than starting from scratch since he knows how to work with clay. I'd encourage him to give it more of a fair shake than just a week, throwing and hand building in combination leads to some of the most interesting pieces. I love the look of altered forms but my hand building skills are weak at this point.

Go with your gut, you know his personality, plan an experience that compliments his working style, relax and be flexible.

#22 Stellaria


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Posted 21 July 2014 - 07:06 PM

"Wonky pottery feels more creative anyway!"

I would not ever encourage this attitude in a classroom, especially for wheel-throwing.
It shows a need for more practice and skill development, not creativity. I think we do creative people a load of disservice in labeling lazy accidents as "creative" when in reality, they are just poorly executed pieces.
I see the same attitude in sewing, and it drives me batty. No, being too lazy to change the color of thread in your machine does NOT come across as intentional "decorative contrast stitching" - it makes you look lazy and amateur, and I end up offended that you look to me for praise and validation of your "creativity" that is actually just half-assedness.


#23 clay lover

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 09:29 PM

Every word she ^ said.  I teach my students to make it cleanly , then alter it with a plan.  To call inability to throw a clean pot 'artistic' is an insult to the efforts it takes to learn to throw well.

 unevenly thrown, walls thick and thin, twisted ,bottoms drilled out, are failures to throw a piece, not creative or artistic work.

To me, "embrace the asymmetry"  means congratulate yourself for your lack of skill.  That is a disservice to my students, it demeans their ability to learn the skill and panders to their egos. Well placed critique is fundamental to teaching and learning.

As a student, I would much rather have an instructor teach me how to recover my errors in a pieces than to be told, "It's artistic, leave it like that"

#24 Stephen



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Posted 22 July 2014 - 10:49 AM

I think TwinRocks has been misunderstood. He/she, I think was talking about a one off class of people that had experience ranging from mild to none and she did a demonstration and then let them have some fun on the wheels for a while as an intro to wheel throwing.


I don't think in that situation it would make sense to get too intense as the point sounds as if it was to just introduce what throwing is and let folks see what its like to try and make a form.  Sounds like a fun first class to me, plenty of time to start getting serious if anyone is interested in continuing.

#25 Pots by Char

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 11:23 AM

I can highly recommend the Speedball Clay boss..for a moderate price it is a great wheel. I bought mine while at the University and used it constantly there and for the past 2 years after graduating and I am more than pleased with it. There are more expensive wheels out there, but for the money I think the Clay Boss beats them all.

#26 Rebekah Krieger

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 04:29 PM

After a 5 week wheel throwing class at the local museum I went on craigslist and got a wheel. I got a kick wheel because that was all I could afford at the time. It was a great way to learn, especially having to control the speed of the wheel with the kicking etc. The kiln came later. But I just needed the sensation of making pots...

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#27 Joseph F

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Posted 27 July 2014 - 12:13 AM

I took 4 classes 3 hours each and then self taught myself from there. I personally think you spend about 1 hour practicing centered until they are almost frustrated, then have them open their best centered piece and make something. Then center something for them and have them open it. They will notice the difference and be like AHHHHHH. That motivated me at least.

#28 Foxden


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Posted 08 November 2014 - 09:39 PM

When I learned to throw, we started with cylinders since they required more control to counteract the centrifugal force that sort of creates the bowl form. Cylinders soon would become other shapes as we progressed.

We were told that for the first few class sessions everything would be recycled and were "graded" on how many mug bodies we could throw. Trying to throw one after another and not being able to keep any meant we spent our time centering, opening and pulling - over and over again those first few classes. We would slice through pots to look at wall thickness and not feel bad since the pots were heading to the slop bin anyway.

By the third class session we were off and had worked through our stumbling blocks and began making things to fire and glaze.

#29 Cavy Fire Studios

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Posted 08 November 2014 - 10:27 PM

One thing I wish my dumb rodent butt would have done when I started throwing was STRETCH MY WRISTS. My wrists are hamburger from centering and wedging, and I know I'd be in better shape if I had stretched beforehand--back when I first started. Annoying, yes, but if I can help someone prevent hamburger wrists, I'll keep sayin' it!
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#30 Denice


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Posted 10 November 2014 - 09:54 AM

I got a kiln first when we bought a house and bought a used kick wheel from the University years later when I learned how to throw.  It  needed some work the seat was stuck at the height for someone 5'8", I was the only person who threw on it.  They needed some clay so we swapped.  My first class we were told that we would need three finish pieces at the end of the class but everything else would be cut in half.  Denice

#31 Stephen



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Posted 10 November 2014 - 11:41 AM

ditto on cutting in half. it will keep you from thinking you got when you don't.

#32 Crusty


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Posted 10 November 2014 - 02:53 PM

I have been throwing for 1 month, yep I am new... Forget the weight idea, 1, 1.5 2 lbs of clay, toss it out the window... tell him to touch the tips of his thumbs together then his index and middle fingers, then make a circle.. that is a natural size to him so fill that void with a clay ball..you can then weigh it..



Teach him to throw "dry"...

Another thing that really messed us up was watching so many youtube potters use a 5 gallon bucket of water while throwing.. we really struggled our first week and made only 4 iffy pots.. we got lucky and was reading Pres.' profile or blog and seen where he liked to throw "dry" and it helped him get more height and still remain thin.. then we started using the slippy slime off our hands to lubricate the pots, WOW it was like a 100% turn around for us our pots almost doubled in height and the clay was so much more forgiving ...

I like to throw red clay, it balls nicely and hurts like hell when it hits you...

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