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Throwing Thickness


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Had a friend over to pick up some mugs I'd made her. I always have other stuff setting out to entice the buyer and a friend that came with her.. One of the items was a yunomi type cup. It was white stone ware and made very thinly. I am very proud of them. I went to another room to get packing material, I could hear the friend of the buyer commenting that the cups were of pour quality because they were so thin. She stated that if I new anything about real wares that people used I would know they needed to be thick to be durable. I was really shocked. If she had said my work was ugly or just poorly made it wouldn't of bothered me. So I question myself and my knowledge. After a couple of hours of pouting I thought, I know what I know. I have worked hard to learn everything I can about properly made wares. In hindsight I wish I had spoke up and compared my cup to one of the nicest in my own collection. So is this a widely held belief among buyers? That wall thickness is relative to quality?

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This is my story-When I was in Art school I tried to make potato chip pots-ones that where real thin. That was a goal .It was the esthetic to strive for at the time.

Later in business I found they broke if you looked at them wrong from my customers. I gave that up when folks would bring back broken wares to order more. Since the 80's I have made wares that are thick enough for daily use. This may mean different things for different folks. This is not a one answer fits all deal.But as to your question does wall thickness equate to quality -well no it does not.

What I have found is a pot should feel as thick as it looks. So if you expect it weigh nothing it should look that way and vice versa. I make my pots for the rigors of daily use now. Yes I can throw potato chips but have found out the hard way not to. I want my customers to enjoy the wares for many years and super thin pots are not going to do that.

As to widely held beliefs from buys well thats a pie in the sky deal-most buyers are just not that aware I have found.sorry if this is so blunt but its my truth.

Now if you like thin pots make thin pots as its what you like to do. Thats really the best thing.

I decided to make thicker durable wares about 35 years ago but I have no issues with that as I'm making pits that I feel will hold up over time and like that spot just fine. I always trend to thin and have to correct myself during production runs but I think about this every week as to how long they will last.

Mark

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I can't believe it is - in my experience, people usually comment on how 'fine' /'delicate' pieces are, in a positive way. My only thought is - is there something particular about yunomis? I only say this, as those images I've seen are generally of a more robust kind of cup. Just a thought - no doubt some of our experts will know.

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Aha - I see we've got two threads going here, my first response was to the other one! Having read Mark's reply I've another thought which was promoted by 'a pot should feel as thick as it looks'. I try to throw reasonably thinly - but this is quite thick compared to more experienced potters than me......for me the test is when I come to turn them - I will pick them up and go on 'feel'. I just know when a piece feels too heavy - and I enjoy turning, so I'll turn away until it feels 'right'. Very subjective!

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Syracuse china's restaurant line was thick and heavy for abuse. Their fine china was thin and delicate. That is a commercial example.

 

I think throwing this is fine and a more efficient use of clay. Too bad she doesn't know more about hand made pottery. I have some large cantaros in the 5 gallon range, hand thrown on turntable wheels. They are for gathering water. If they were thick and heavy, you couldn't haul much water in them.

 

Marcia

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A thin walled drinking vessel will dissipate the heat of the beverage faster . . . for a yunomi, that could make for hot hands.  A thicker walled vessel will retain heat.  I also like my bowls/rims a bit thick so they do no chip easily . . . especially mixing and serving bowls where serving utensils make constant contact with the vessel.  It becomes a matter of functionality and aesthetics and how you balance the two. 

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well don't let a self appointed know-it-all upset you. you are right that you know what you are doing even if she doesn't.   once in awhile someone comes in our gallery and seems to think they have to show off how much they think they know.  she probably gets all her art from Pier One.    rakuku

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I  think the answer is to make the pot as thick as it needs to be for the intended purpose.  Extra weight is bad, but a handle-less coffe mug that is very thin is uncomfortable. to use.

 

I often make relatively thin chawan-style tea bowls, which should be thicker to be technically true to tradition (and comfortable for hot tea), but in real American life no one ever uses them for tea.  They make great ice cream bowls, or as Malcom Davis suggested, bourbon bowls, and for those purposes my thin-pottery conceit is tolerable.

 

As far as your visitor is concerned, let not your heart be troubled.  You can't please everybody; the next person through the door will likey ooh and aah over the lightness of the same bowl. 

 

Or you could just throw thick and tell 'em you're giving them their money's worth!

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Some days you want a thicker pot handy...just to picture throwing it at the head of miserable people like your "expert" there.

Once your throwing skills are at a certain point (ie weight evenly distributed, and put where you wanted it to go), thickness is very much a personal preference. Some people like the lofty feeling of delicate wares, some find thicker wares more satisfying. Keep your work true to your voice, and the people that think in a similar vein will find you.

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Syracuse china's restaurant line was thick and heavy for abuse. Their fine china was thin and delicate. That is a commercial example.

 

I think throwing this is fine and a more efficient use of clay. Too bad she doesn't know more about hand made pottery. I have some large cantaros in the 5 gallon range, hand thrown on turntable wheels. They are for gathering water. If they were thidk and heavy, you couldn't haul much water in them.

 

Marcia

These attached pots were made on turntable wheels. The hour glass one is made with mica clay and is the lighter of the two.Both were fired in rock kilns.

 

Marcia

post-1954-0-42705500-1438280438_thumb.jpg

post-1954-0-02782000-1438280448_thumb.jpg

post-1954-0-87246600-1438280464_thumb.jpg

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I would think to joe bloggs that thicker items will feel more durable and resistant to damage. They probably are to a degree. Start talking about Mullite crystals and their impacts on durability and that might shut her up about thin things breaking easier. Things I have fired 2 cones hotter (from a hot cone 8 to a hot cone 10) are very much stronger because of this (I think).

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I like a thin walled cup and so do my customers. I don't think that it is possible to throw a cup on a wheel and have it come out too thin, except on the rim. It is easy to make the rim too thin.

Slip casting allows thinness, but cups that are too thin let the liquid cool down too quickly. Hand made cups act as a bit of a heat sink, but only if they are warmed with boiling water before filling.

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I was going to make a post about this yesterday. I was making mugs and my wife commented on how thin my walls have gotten over the last year. I was like "that's a good thing love!" She was like "no not really, hot coffee will not stay hot as long". I thought to myself, hmm, time to test with some cheap thermometers how long each cup stays hot with different thickness of walls, so I didn't make a post.

 

But now that we are all talking about it, I have no idea what to do because I haven't tested it yet. But I feel like I make a gigantic mug out of a #1 clay. I thought about lowering the amount of clay I use for a coffee mug to #.75 cause even with a foot on the mug it still feels too big. But I am the type that likes smaller cups and getting refills so I am a bit biased to a smaller cup.

 

So I really don't know how to comment. I dislike thick pottery, but I have read so many times about successful potters who make pretty thick stuff, but visa versa for thin stuff as well, so I dont think it matters.

 

I think Mark's advice is best, find a thickness you like, make it, and find customers to buy it. The key point being the pot's weight should relate to the look and thickness of the walls. If you make a beautiful slender form, that is bottom heavy, its gonna feel so odd to pick up in the mind. Same thing if you make a form that looks chunky and you pick it up and its really light weight.

 

As far as that random person goes, bleh to them. Chuck a mental pot at their head as someone said above.

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Thanks to all. I had a wonderful time reading all the replies. They really brightened my day.

 

I called my friend, explained I had heard her friends comments. She told me, "nobody listens to what that old bat has to say." I had snorted hot tea up my nose. My pain tears mixed with my laughing tears. So all is good.

 

 

Mark M., Google yunomi, there is a certain shape for them. I drink ice tea (I'm a GRIT, girl raised in the south) from them or other cold drink. I make my mugs thicker for hot tea/coffee.

 

Grape, when you do your test post results. When I make coffee, esp. In the winter, I preheat my cup with hot tap water. The heater is right below the kitchen and it arrives in seconds.

 

Raku, Chris, -insert laughing smiley face here-.

 

Old goober, spell check doesn't like your name. Your right, different thicknesses for different things. I remember learning to make jugs and how hard it was to keep the rim thick for the spout.

 

Marcie, love the new avatar. Great posts. Those pots are really nice.

 

Mark, it amazes me that people will buy stuff they know nothing about. My sister brought me a bowl from Mexico. I hung it on the wall. My sister asked why I wasn't using it. I told her, the list of dangerous chemicals that could be in the glaze are quite extent. I just wasn't comfortable. I am careful when buying at craft shows. I question the potter if they don't seem to have much experience about their techniques.

 

Thanks again to everyone who responded.

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  • 2 months later...

I have read so many times about successful potters who make pretty thick stuff

If anyone here lives in Boston, go to the Pucker gallery and ask to pick up some Shoji Hamada pieces. (Come to think of it, pick up everyone's work there, even the $80,000 brother thomas pieces...oooo ahhhhh. its quite an experience!)

 

If you can't get there, I'll explain. Mr. Hamada's work is heavy. They are doorstoppers. I picked up one of his biggest pieces, a wide shallow bowl/platter that was probably 18" across, and I expected it to be heavy. It was far heavier than I even expected it to be. All his works were hefty.

 

This was eye-opening to me, as I came from a university setting where thinner=better. I throw thicker when I'm mindlessly throwing, so I tend to have heavier pots somewhat naturally. Now, I really love this quality about my work instead of hating it when I was in college. 

 

It's okay to have thin pots, nothing wrong with that. And it's okay to have thick pots too. If you are a functional potter, consider these things a lot. You make work for people to use every day. This means that if you make very thin functional work, make sure you have reasons and promote those reasons to your customers, so they can understand why you do it this way vs. making heavy pots. A heavier pot naturally evokes a sense of strength and durability, so you are fighting instinct and first impressions and natural assumptions. 

 

for example, maybe you want your work to evoke a sense of preciousness when drinking your favorite wine. Or the delicateness is flower-like and reminds you of those early morning walks through wooded trails. 

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When you are considering how heavy a pot can be, you need to take into account the weight of the pot PLUS the weight of the intended contents. Also, whether the user will be happy to use two hands, or will want to have one hand free.  A light pot is more practical, so long as the rim is thicker and smoothly rounded.

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