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michelek

Newb All Over Again...

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I need encouragement.

 

I used to be good on the wheel. I could make (good quality) bowls and mugs and lidded vessels, etc. That was 7 years ago.

 

I bought my wheel three years ago (almost to the day, it was May 29th!). My first mistake was not using it even though I didn't have a kiln yet. I realize that now.

 

Now that I'm ready for the kiln I finally bought some clay and today I am trying oh so desperately to make SOMETHING.

 

My first two attempts caved in on themselves and are now in the scrap bucket. I finally was able to make a bowl on the third attempt but its walls are uneven. I'm keeping it anyways. Need to start somewhere. It will be good to see progress right? Right?!

 

I seriously feel like I have no idea what I'm doing now. My dream is to make pottery and sell it. I'm afraid this is going to be a mistake.

 

Anyways here's my uneven-walled bowl. I think cats won't mind to drink water out of it.

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Oh I hadn't even thought of YouTube!

 

There is a place that gives classes down the street from me and it's $45 for a one hour lesson and $100 for 6 hours spread out over time. I should stop in and see what their space is like. I'm not entirely impressed with what they have on the website. But if they can help it may be worth it.

 

You all are so helpful! I don't know what I would do if I hadn't found this forum. I have learned so much just from lurking. And the practical advice and encouragement now are just what I needed!

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If you used to be able to throw evenly, you may need only need a little bit of practice to get back to it, and You-tube is great, but it may also help to check to see if your wheel is level. If it is not, you may find it more difficult to keep things centered and even when you throw.

 

Have fun and good luck with it!

 

Susan

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Try talking yourself through the steps, I find it helps to teach yourself and say out loud what you should be doing. 'OK now slowly move up the clay, easing of the pressure' things like this. If it is your first day back after 7 years and the third attempt resulted in some kind of vessel I wouldn't worry too much, keep going and it will come back.

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I recently restarted back into clay work after a 30 year complete absence.  The first few weeks/months, were fairly miserable--collapsed bowls, oh I don't want to make 50 dang cylinders, paucity of ideas in spite of a notebook full of ideas, poor me, poor me, and so forth and so on. It gets better, easier, more uplifting, muscle and mind memory start to return. Once I could crank out the "perfect" pot it did not matter if the next 3 went back downhill. Time, practice, patience...and repeat!   

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Thank you!! My next bowl had even wall thickness. Apparently all I can make right now are bowls. I'm okay with that. As long as I continue to improve then I will accept the failures. It seems it takes three tries to get one "success" (I use that term loosely). I'm going to have to get something bigger than a plastic coffee can to keep my scrap clay in though at this rate (didn't think that far ahead).

 

It's good to know that it's possible after a 30 year absence! I'll try making some cylinders next time I get to play.

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welcome back!  there are lots of people here who know everything.  some know one thing extremely well and others know the other things extremely well.  with all of us together, you might find exactly what you need.  you will learn that i am a "go to the library and get a book" person, not only because of my age but i can put a book near the wheel and look at it while i work out the problem.  the computer is in the front of the house and i do not trust trying to undo all the cords to move it.  that is the absolutely worst thing i can think of doing.  watching youtube is entertainment.

 

some folks know all about the chemistry, others the firing.  there was recently a long discussion of our studio setups so there is advice on what to use to hold that clay you will recycle.  have fun and don't worry about making something yet.

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I was out of it for a couple of years too. It took a little bit to get the hang of it, but it does come. Hang in there.

 

Do you remember any of your beginner exercises that you used to learn the first time? Give yourself an assignment to do a few of them over the next couple of weeks. This triggers buried muscle memory, and it's a good idea to do over the years to improve your skills anyways. If you're having trouble with the boredom of making a whole bunch of cylinders, put a handle on them and make mugs.

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I am returning to clay after an absence of 22 years. My skills are coming back. When you lie in bed at night, visualise. I realised that I was not moving my finger upwards as I pulled, so that I was trying to squeeze clay from which the slip had already been wiped in its previous rotation.

Saying that, I still have not returned to the level of finesse that I had achieved when I was younger. I look at my old bowls and teapots and wonder how I got them so thin and even.

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At this rate I'd love to make cylinders that were good enough to turn into mugs!  I'm looking forward to trying again tomorrow. 

 

Visualizing is also a good idea.  I've been planning things that I'll make when I am any good again - I should be planning on what to make for practice!  I'm hoping to get a kiln load and then by the time I have my kiln I can ask how to use it (so far I have 3 small things). 

 

Oh how spoiled I was in college - I wish I would have appreciated then what I had available to me. 

 

Thanks again! You all have such great advice!

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So I am basically a self taught potter. I took like 4 classes then bought a wheel(without a kiln). I quit going to classes and just spent all my time throwing and crushing it, drying it out in arches, wedging and throwing again.

 

My advice to you is find a form you like to make, and focus on making it. Start everyday with that same form. Keep your first one from that day on a bat on a table around you so you can see it. Proceed to make more of that shape or throw other things. At the end of the session when your about ready to take a break, throw another of that same shape while looking at the one you made. Try to figure out what would make it better and go from there. I do this every day still, and I have been throwing pretty much every day for about a year and a few months now. I picked a bowl as my shape. I love bowls and I love throwing them, something amazing about making a beautiful bowl, and they are just so useful to have around the house.

 

Next keep your best piece of that week and dry it, bisque it, and glaze fire it. Each week do this with your best piece and glaze it in the same glazes trying to improve its looks. At the end of the month you will have 4 pots of that same shape that you can look at your progress. You can hold it in your hands and feel the walls for evenness, you can look at your feet, your rims, your shapes, your bottoms. All of those small things each week will add up to you advancing. This will allow you to improve when you sit down on the wheel each day, because you will know what you need to improve on.

 

Next find a potter who makes that shape your making that you like, but more advanced. Try to make that shape. Spend a month or two making that shape. Once you get it down pick another one again and keep doing it. (for example, lately I have been making something similar to *moon bowls*, like mushimeganebooks makes, for fun).

 

I have been doing this for about a year now and I can say my throwing has advanced where I can look at something and pretty much throw something pretty close to it the first few tries within reason. If I can't, I throw it again at the end of my session, and I repeat this everyday until I can.

 

Don't worry if your pots are wonky or bad, in fact every time you finish a pot, if it looks bad, scrap it, ball it up, dry it in an arch and throw it again a few hours later. This saves money and resources for practicing. If you were firing everything you made then you would be spending a fortune to fire pots that are not that great.

 

I have glaze fired my kiln about 25 times in a year and a few months and I have about 10 pots to show for it. 95% of the stuff I make goes on my desk to look at for a few weeks to feel, hold, and examine. Then promptly goes in the garbage can. 

 

Keep up the hard work, and don't settle in your throwing.

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25 yr break here, and I, too, was pretty good back in the day.  I was only slightly better than your average beginner when I came back to it, a big disappointment at the time,  but it has been a really great journey to slowly get my skills back and go beyond where I was in college.

One thing that was helpful to me, was to realize that I was trying to throw with whatever clay was available.  It worked better if I used clay that was slightly on the soft side, not those hard lumps.  And, as others have said, don't concentrate on producing a product.  Right now, you just need to work on building those skills back up.  So you shouldn't be trying to save everything.

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