Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
claydog

Need Help Learning To Throw While Standing

Recommended Posts

I had back surgery six weeks ago to remove portions of a ruptured disk in my lumber (lower back) region.  Surgeon says I have two adjacent disks that are degenerating and may rupture if I don't change my ways!  Problem is throwing in a sitting position, bent over the wheel.  I need to re-learn how to throw while standing.  I have access to classes at my local community center, but they have neither a table-top wheel nor an instructor who feels confident in that position.  Any videos or books you recommend that deal with this topic?  Or artists that use this throwing position?  Any tips on converting/raising my Brent Model B to table height are also appreciated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Claydog,

 

Research the ceramist John Glick and Studio Potter magazine (the definitive article) for the REAL info on throwing standing up. The piece goes back MANY years now.

 

To just setup a wheel at a different height often just moves the 'zone of injury' from the lower back to the wrists, the knees, ankles, or feet (or multiples).

 

There ways to still sit and throw without being totally awful for your lower back too.

 

Get someone who knows not only throwing but ergonomics and physiology to coach you no matter what route you go.

 

Too many people do not have good use of their bodies when sitting and throwing... and too many teachers don't pick\k up on this issue and fix it before it becomes an ingrained habit. Repetitive stress injuries are usually at least partially caused by improper techniques when it comes to using the body.

 

best,

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, John, for your feedback and advice.  I agree that ergonomics are not usually addressed at all.  I have had formal throwing instruction from a handful of qualified individuals, and only one of those said anything about repetitive injury potential.  My "real job" as an engineering/computing specialist led to many hours at the keyboard and resultant wrist injuries, so I am all too familiar with that.  I hope to find a balance, perhaps even shifting from a standing to a sitting position on alternate days or whatever I can easily rig up.  At this point I am only a hobby potter so production pressures don't exist for me and I can rest when I need to.  I will look into John Glick and Studio Potter magazine.  Thanks again, ClayDog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Claydog,

 

If you haven't found it yet I believe the article John is referring to is this one, http://www.studiopotter.org/articles/?art=art0008

 

I changed over to throwing while standing about 5 years ago and much prefer it. I also changed over to a front loading kiln as I always seemed to have a worse back after loading a top loading one. A couple summers ago I bought Corelite shelves, couldn't afford Advancers, and the lighter weight of the shelves seems to help also. I'm short (5') so maybe the top loaders are not so bad if you are taller? Don't know as I've always been short :P

 

Good luck with your recovery.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Min,

 

Thank you for the link to John Glick's article; saved me the trouble of searching for it.  I read it completely.  Sounds like my life history, except now there are MRIs for imaging disc problems instead of CAT scans.  My laminectomy/discectomy was at L4/L5, which Glick says is the usual problem for potters.  I know I weakened mine through constant abuse, in all of the ways Glick describes.  L5/Sacrum is not looking good, nor is L3/L4, so I'm hoping to keep those intact.  (I'm 58 and rode horses and motorcycles, too!)   I have two top-loading kilns: one small ancient Skutt 180 I use for glaze testing, and a Skutt KM-1027 for larger loads.  I'd love to get a front load but not in the budget right now, especially after paying the surgery bills!  Lighter shelves for the 1027 will probably be my next step.

 

Regarding the standing position, did you have much trouble getting over having your elbows on your thighs?  That's how I learned, and switching seems like it would be difficult.  What was your experience?  Did you teach yourself or have coaching?

 

I've been doing a lot of hand building since surgery.  My husband lifts the clay for me.  I can stand and walk all I want, just no twisting or bending.  I really have to watch the urge to twist sideways to look as I'm working.  With the pain gone it's easy to forget.  In a couple more weeks I'll have fewer restrictions.

 

Thanks again for your reply.

ClayDog

 

PS - Nice crackle glaze in your photo.  Your own recipe or commercially available?  I love crackles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding the standing position, did you have much trouble getting over having your elbows on your thighs? That's how I learned, and switching seems like it would be difficult. What was your experience? Did you teach yourself or have coaching?

 

 

PS - Nice crackle glaze in your photo. Your own recipe or commercially available? I love crackles.

Nope, no problems switching over to the standing position. I just tuck my left elbow into my side when centering. I think I use my arm muscles a bit more now though. I use the foot pedal with a length of redi-rod screwed into the top of it (wheel height), with a knob on the top. (foot pedal is on the floor and I use my hand to control speed. I don't alter the speed as much as when I used it as a foot pedal) Having the wheel head about an inch below my belly button works for me. Good shoes and mat to stand on help too when you are on your feet all day.

 

I definitely would follow John's advice about getting proper medical advice re positioning when working.

 

(my avatar is actually dried mud flats)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

(my avatar is actually dried mud flats)

 

 

Beautiful!  I've always loved finding places like that.  It's fun to peel up the chunks and cup them in my hand, if they're small.  Thanks again for the information!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was at the North Carolina Potters conference in 2012 in Asheville. John Glick demonstrated there, throwing standing and on occasion sitting. I have always been a fan of his.

 

This year, 2014, John Shapiro at demonstrated.  He is also an older potter that has had to deal with the studio health problems. He threw both standing and sitting, often got up to move around,, wedged his clay, even after the helpers had, and was quite active in his approach explaining that this was the way he tried to keep from having problems with his health. I like the very proactive approach he takes with his studio activity.

 

It used to be that I would wedge up all of my clay for the day, then sit at the wheel until done, then trim what I could, until night. Now I wedge up a few balls, throw them, take a walk, wedge a little more, throw some more, and have a tendency to get up off the wheel every 5-10 items, even when throwing off the hump. Some may call it relaxed or even lazy, I like to consider it healthy.

 

In older posts, I have mentioned that I had a lap belt injury from a auto wreck in the early 70's. This shaped a lot of my life in the early 20's all the way into the 40's as I would always get up with some sort of lower back pain. Throwing for long periods was not very fun back then, but wedging seemed to alleviate much of the pain. For me the development of more core muscle helped to get rid of the problems with the lower back pain, so that today there are rare days that I even have it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Claydog;

I have a titanium hip. [My right hip,which is the one that controls the foot pedal].

I blew all the cartilege in my hip, probably from 27 years of standing while teaching high school, plus being a potter eves. and weekends.

I could not throw for one year, so did a lot of slab work. sadly, all my customers want pots.

I tried throwing while standing, but couldn't get used to it. I have raised my Brent wheel up by one 2 and a half in brick. I quite like the difference, after I got used to it.

So I am back making pots. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to vacuum. Too hard on my hip.

TJR.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 Unfortunately, I am not allowed to vacuum. Too hard on my hip.

TJR.

 

How much did you have to pay the doctor, to issue that restriction?

 

I have a note from the nurse. I actually have two copies. My wife wasn't very happy about it-but doctor's orders,what can you do.

Tom.

Chilly likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have several bulging and one ruptured disk.  I also have foot/ankle problems that would keep me from throwing standing up.  I have my wheel one brick high (2.5 in.) and use an old office chair that is adjusted very low.  Like Pres I get up from the wheel frequently when throwing. Usually after every two pots.  I will never be a big production potter, but with small changes I have no trouble filling my kiln and running out of clay.  The bad hip may take me out though.  Looking at replacement surgery next summer.  The idle/down time may kill me.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the down time is a good time to make tiny pinch pots or beads.  after 6 weeks i never wanted to see a bead again. the worst part was finding tiny bits of dried clay in the sheets!

 

pinch pot animal sculptures were one of the most popular items offered in a shared studio i once worked in.  the lady who made them was in her seventies and they all had character and attitude.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had bad posture sitting at a computer, so ended up with back and neck pain.  My physio told me to stand up every 20 minutes and (if nothing else) walk around my chair.  He also told me to increase my fluid intake - more water = more visits to the bathroom = more exercise/less sitting still !

 

Seriously tho', if you need to carry on throwing and can't do it sitting down, you WILL find a way to do it standing up.  I do most of my clay work - hand-building - standing up.  I wish I had access to a standing-up wheel, I might just master it.  What I'd like to try is a standing kick wheel that can be used by either foot, and that rotates both ways.  Also try a left-handed wheel, then you'd be leaning the other way, it might help to even out the twists in your body.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for the great feedback!  I guess misery loves company; hearing from others who have the same problem makes me feel better, though I wouldn't wish it on anyone.  I haven't thrown in months due to the back pain, so I'm out of practice anyway.  I'm going to try setting my wheel up for a standing position and see how that goes.  Might as well try to "relearn" in that position!

 

Oh, and I want one of those "can't vacuum" notes, too!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for the great feedback!  I guess misery loves company; hearing from others who have the same problem makes me feel better, though I wouldn't wish it on anyone.  I haven't thrown in months due to the back pain, so I'm out of practice anyway.  I'm going to try setting my wheel up for a standing position and see how that goes.  Might as well try to "relearn" in that position!

 

Oh, and I want one of those "can't vacuum" notes, too!!

I'll send you a copy, if my wife didn't destroy it.

Tom.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Look up John Britt on you tube.  In his throwing videos you can see his set up.  He has his wheel raised and positioned near the wall so that he can stand but lean against it.  I doubt I could do it, but it might work for you.

 

For people who work at the computer a lot, try raising your monitor.  I have mine on a stand, and that is on a telephone book (remember those things).

I was having terrible neck pain, disc related, from sitting at the computer.  Also, it is easier to see through the bifocals with monitor raised.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can stand and walk all I want, just no twisting or bending.  I really have to watch the urge to twist sideways to look as I'm working.

claydog, Try putting a mirror opposite you across the wheel, slightly to one side... you can adjust it so that you can see the pot in perfect profile while sitting upright. I throw right-handed, so I find the mirror works best on the left side.

 

Simon Leach does this in some of his videos, a fairly small (5x7" maybe) mirror he sticks to the splash pan with a wad of clay.

 

My mirror is a cheap 12"-square acrylic mirror I got at a big box store... it leans against the wall and up against my tool tray. Acrylic, so it's light-weight and there's no danger of breaking glass in my work area, and the 12" size means I can see everything easily.

 

Some potters seem think it's a crutch... I think it's just another tool. But when it comes down to it... if you need a crutch to get around without pain or injury, you use a crutch. All that matters is that you get where you're going.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chantay, I'll check out John Britt.  Can't believe I hadn't already thought to check out YouTube!  Maybe I'll find some other "standers" out there.

 

CarlCravens, thanks for the information about the mirror.  Sounds like a great idea!  I agree--it's a tool, not a crutch.  I don't understand the attitude of some potters; it's a sore spot for me.  If a mirror is a crutch, then a potter's wheel is total cheating!  It's not a crutch to use every available technology.  Likewise, there's nothing wrong with going back to pinch pots and wood firing.  Let's all respect each other's choices!

 

Thanks everyone,

ClayDog 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×