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Hi, so I'm new to ceramics, like so new I just learned how to center a month ago. So I'm liking things so far, I've just had to learn a lot on my own, my instructor isn't very detailed, but I don't want to say anything for fear of being mean. Are there any tips anyone can give me?? The fact it took me so long to learn how to center was a bit discouraging, I want to keep going with things but feel as though I suck terribly. I've wasted a 30lb block of clay because all my pieces turned out tragically. I'm honesty hoping to get good enough to be able to sell some pieces, but at this rate that could take awhile. All advice is totally welcomed!!

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Be patient!

I'm not that far ahead of you - if at all. My instructor told me last week that when she was learning it took her several weeks to learn how to centre properly. In my experience, this is a great community who are very supportive and friendly, so welcome to the forum and enjoy your clay!

 

Girts

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Hi and welcome to the forums.

 

Takes perseverance to learn to throw, trim and glaze. don’t beat yourself up that you have used 30 lbs of clay and don’t like the results. I used a heck of a lot more than that before I started being happy with the results.

 

I remember Ruthanne Tudball saying she bought her first wheel with her babysitting money but didn’t have any way to fire her pots so she threw pots then recycled them straightaway, she did this over and over again. Lesson to be learned there. 

 

I would suggest throwing cylinders all with the same amount of clay, 1 1/2 or 2 lbs. Line them all up after throwing and compare the last ones with the first, hopefully the ones at the end of the throwing session will be better than the first ones. Now take your wire and cut them all in half vertically and see how even the walls and base are. I know it’s hard to cut open the good ones but the next ones will be better for it. Wedge up all the practice clay and start again. After you have done this a few times then try altering the cylinders, i.e. belly them out or give them a waist etc: give them some shape. Now keep the best ones of those for glazing.

 

Tim See has some good videos on centring and pulling up walls etc.

https://www.youtube.com/user/timseepots

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What Min said is basically the best advice you can get for a new potter. When I started I bought a wheel right away and I didn't get a kiln for a good 3-4 months after owning my wheel. I bought 100#'s of clay and threw pots and collapsed them for months. If you want to be good at pottery you have to accept that everything takes time. It is a slow process that requires a lot of thinking, hard work and patience. It is very rewarding to create beautiful things that you can use every day, I love it.

 

I have been making pots for about 2 years now. I am still very novice and I work at it very hard. I still haven't found glazes that I am 100% happy with and my forms are just now getting to a place where I feel like I am happy to call them mine. I have probably thrown over 2000 #'s of clay by now, and I have about 5 pots in my house. The rest was hammered and thrown away. I am super picky though. I started selling pottery 2 months ago and it seems to be going smoothly. I have been in an odd position where I haven't been able to get as much up for sale as I wanted, but I am happy with my results based on the amount I am trying to sell. If your end goal is to sell pottery, then know you have a long hard road ahead of you that requires a lot of work, endurance and patience. However there is a happy ending in doing something that you love every day.

 

Welcome to the forums, there is a vast amount of knowledge to gain here. Make sure you learn to use the search functionality and remember that quotations around your phrase will bring up much more relevant things quicker.

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Welcome to pottery and the forum. So far, you have been giving the best advice, the most important of which is having patience. It takes a lot of practice and it will take awhile. YouTube is a great source of thousands of videos from many different potters and you can learn a lot of different techniques and be able to adapt them to what you feel is right for you. Good luck.

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you are learning a skill.  do not think about keeping pots, they are like the paper a person learning to type would use back when people used typewriters.  learn the skill, learn the language, get a couple of good basic books from the local library, get as many as you can carry and read them cover to cover plus use the glossary.

 

what did you think when you started learning to throw?  what is your ultimate goal?  read lots of the posts here about starting out, running a business, firing, glazes, etc.  this is not a simple undertaking.

 

be glad you did not decide to be an olympic ice skater, at least your practice won't involve landing on your backside 30 times a session. ;)

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IF you are having trouble try using your clay a little softer for a while.

Concentrate on the basic points and check you are using them. Watch a person who is successful but not the pot, watch what they a re doing with their body, arms and hands.

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Wow, thanks so much all of you guys! I'm so happy you all actually took the time to read and respond, that means a lot to me!! 

Oldlady, my goal was to try something new and pretty much challenge myself to become great at the task. Once I began throwing it became apparent that it was a lot more difficult than it looked! You guys are super encouraging, here I was thinking that wasting 30lbs of clay was an absurd amount.  :D

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IF you are having trouble try using your clay a little softer for a while.

Concentrate on the basic points and check you are using them. Watch a person who is successful but not the pot, watch what they a re doing with their body, arms and hands.

Soft clay makes life easier- even centering 30 lbs is easier with soft clay. Some of the greatest pots around were made with soft terra cotta. You make clay nice & soft by wedging it.

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Alk:

 

I bought a very old wheel last winter at an estate sale. I have turned it on a few times, trying to center clay. After watching a lump of clay wobble around for a few minutes, I turn it off: "hey, that was fun."  At this point, it is on my list of future yard ornaments. So I would say you are excelling very nicely.

 

Nerd

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Thank you all so much for this post ~ I know someone else asked the question but I enjoyed reading the responses. I too am a new potter, and it feels good to read this because it reassures me that I am on the right path. I bought a working studio off of a retiring potter; it came fully equipped and has been such great fun to explore.

 

I don't plan to set up the kiln until 4 to 6 months in. I am thinking, once I have a full load of pieces that I am willing to test fire, I will hook it up.

Until then, it is building, squishing, building, squishing. Occasionally I create a piece I want to keep. I realize that it doesn't make sense to fire everything I make, and recycle it if it doesn't make my heart sing.

 

The advice here is good, thanks again. I like the idea of throwing a series of pots and then comparing them, including cutting them up to check width and whatnot.

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And to the original poster: As a new potter myself, I feel like there is so much value in enjoying the process. Approach it with an attitude of play and inspiration, and see what happens. Laugh when a pot flies off the wheel; squish a piece you don't like with gusto. Relish in the process.... it can be so incredibly satisfying and fulfilling in it's own way to come out of a 3 hour studio session with nothing to show.

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+1 to all the above.  You are learning a skill, you'd spend hours learning to drive, without expecting to travel anywhere, the same for learning to walk or read or write.  

 

Enjoy the journey, don't expect to become a production potter overnight.  Have fun.

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Hi Alykat, love your nickname .

Welcome to a veritable ocean of advice and a wonderful community where no one judges and all comments are helpful. CAD is my go to place for advice and to delve into the daily posts. I've gotten so much out of this one site. I've been potting for 18 months. Got totally hooked and now have my own kiln so I throw, hand build, bisque and glaze. All this in so short a time.

 

Use YouTube. I'd spend about an hour before going out to throw and still find more to watch. Subscribe to CAD's channel, Bill van Gilder, Tim See (although he doesn't post any more), The Clay Teacher (she's funny), Simon Leach and there are more.

 

Do some slab building just to relax and get more familiar with your clay. It's also a quicker way to get platters, plates etc as finished pieces to boast about.

 

Don't stress the more exasperated you get the more tense and the harder it becomes. So breathe and have fun

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You should immediately and totally eradicate the notion that the clay you use for practice is wasted clay.  It is not.  Your goal right now should be to learn the skill, not make pieces, and the clay is your medium to do that.  Also, you can learn to recycle and reuse all your clay.  There are lots of posts on the forum about doing that.  You name it, it's on here.  When you do a forum search for a topic, make sure to do that from the main page, not while you're in a topic.  I was extremely frustrated about searches until I learned that.

 

Welcome, and good luck.  Oh, and I had trouble centering consistently for at least a year.

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Hey, Alykat! Welcome to the forums. I can fully appreciate and empathize with where you're coming from. After nearly two years, I STILL consider myself "new" to this madness we call ceramics/pottery. Especially with the issues of centering and pulling up.

 

There is such an overwhelming wealth of videos on YouTube, here, and elsewhere at your fingertips. As someone else said, watch as many as you can handle. READ as many books on the subject as you can get your hands on. And above ALL else, PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!!!

 

There will be good days and bad days. Accept that and keep moving forward. You are embarking on a journey of incredible discovery, not just of what it takes to become a proficient potter, but what amazing creativity resides within yourself.

 

As to the issue of centering and pulling up, here is a link to one of my favorite YouTube videos, by Adam Field (also one of Ceramic Arts Daily's BEST artists/instructors, IMHO) that I go back to, time and time again. He really breaks it down, step by step and SHOWS you where your hands should be, and perhaps, even more importantly, WHY! Enjoy!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDH_QnNNA3k&ebc=ANyPxKo-hIy37LdP-HcZQWFVFittu5UExDR4S7KebPC1FAn-vVBb8tkhANx9PrBH6zBUXhRQdx7IXfT992ryE3WQQsHpm8PWCA

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amy, thank you for that youtube.  there is one thing i think everyone who is new should notice about that video.  the bat pins are in place on the wheelhead while Adam is pulling up the cylinder.  USE A BAT OR REMOVE THE PINS!  adam is skilled enough to not rip up his hand on the metal pins that are spinning right next to his hand.  YOU ARE NOT THAT SKILLED!   remove the danger in one way or the other.  you need your hands for your entire life.  do not lose one this way.

 

adam also mentioned using a mirror to see what shape the clay is taking as he works.  thank you, adam, for pointing this out.  it is a critical step for anyone who does NOT want back problems.  if you are just learning, use a mirror!  you will learn to glance at it as you throw to see that everything is going correctly or there is a torque twist in the middle of your pot.  start again.

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Alykat006,

 

Im newish and trust me, learning to center is not an easy thing, it's probably the single most

important thing, But it isn't easy. Just keep slinging mud, you'll get it.

 

Look at the bright side, you already found a great group of people to help you.

 

Oh, almost forgot. HEY BABS!! Neil did that using mirrors & magic.

 

Graybeard

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Alykat006,

 

Im newish and trust me, learning to center is not an easy thing, it's probably the single most

important thing, But it isn't easy. Just keep slinging mud, you'll get it.

 

Look at the bright side, you already found a great group of people to help you.

 

Oh, almost forgot. HEY BABS!! Neil did that using mirrors & magic.

 

Graybeard

 

 

 

Yeh and he never did show up close the inches thrown... He is a vertically challenged person so just maybe that cylinder is a mere 2"

Nah, this is where I go for efficiency of movement, how little he moves is a great goal for me.

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welcome to the forum. It took me three months to get down centering and several years before anything was of a quality to sell.As all said before, you are learning a skill. You don't play a musical instrument overnight or sing opera at Carnegie Hall at a whim. Michael Cardew, a famous British Potter from the last century said it takes 7 years to learn the craft. 7 years is what it takes for apprentices to become Journeymen. Be patient and practice as much as you can.

 

Marcia

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Naw, I was over there ---- I think it was Friday, and I saw the ruler.

It's only 12 inches long.

 

(I really don't know why I'm doing Neil this way, he's

a really great guy!)

 

gbeard

Just  a joking session, anyone who knows Neil, I don't, or reads Neil's posts would not fail to realise this guys knowledge and skill and the generous sharing of this.

I appreciate this so much.

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