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Alykat006

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Welcome to the wonderful world of clay!

   As many have mentioned above, throwing is a complicated process that takes years to master. Ive been making pots for 20 years now, and I make tens of thousands of pots per year. Im also a Professor at a local college and I find that even with all my years of experience I still learn new things almost every day. Mastering is that term which some equate to 10,000 hours of doing one thing; for you, mastering the throwing process is when you can consistently sit down at the wheel, and throw a shape exactly as you have it drawn, every single time. The point at when you tell the wheel what you want as an outcome, and not just taking what the wheel gives you is a good indication of your competency in throwing. This took me years to get to.....

    As a young potter the best thing for you to learn is practice. I tell my students that they need at least 6 hours a week in the studio, every week, and that is a bare minimum. Regular practice is needed to build muscle memory. 

    Be prepared to go through a LOT of clay during the learning process (you can always dry out wet clay by shaping into a "arch" and letting it dry to stiffness), and be prepared to make a lot of mistakes.  

    There is no one single way to teach you how to throw; everyone out there has a different method of working and they all work for some, but not all. We had a student during my college career that was born without arms and we taught him how to throw pots so sometimes if you find a method that works but wasnt taught, adopt it! I mention this disabled student to my students as well, because there are going to be times when you want to give up because it just isnt going right, and its at that time that you should think about the guy with no arms who throws pots; if HE can do it, then YOU can too.

    Its great that you have the desire to sell your work, and that is a great goal to work towards, but it may be a goal which is more long term than short term. Maybe a better short term goal (6 mo-year) is to master centering and making cylinders and basic bowls.

   It is unfortunate that your teacher is not the most attentive, but maybe he's trying to teach you through self exploration. There are tons of instructional books, and videos which are free or dirt cheap. Dont get overwhelmed with too much information and forget that the best learning is done on in the studio.

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Welcome to the forum, as you already have discovered this group will chime in whenever needed.

 

I started by throwing for a couple of hours every day before going to work. This meant getting up at 4am so it was a commitment. For months I sliced the vast majority of my pots in half. Maybe 1 out of 20 continued on to be glazed and early on I only did that to get some practice with the rest of the process. I can't begin to tell you how much this helped me really zero in on where I was at and what I needed to work on.

 

I think it also helped me get past getting attached to individual pots. I really don't even think about the single pot. To me it's about process and form. Regular forms are going to be thrown hundreds or thousands of times so a single pot or twenty pots need to be of the same quality time after time and the ones that don't measure up can be tossed without a thought. The trick is for that to be a low percentage.

 

Another thing I have learned is to not fuss over a pot that is not working out. If once opened, and after the first pull, there a wobble or a pull goes badly along the way making the sides uneven just scrape it off the bat an start over. You can spend so much time jerking around trying to make a bad throw good and the fact is even if you manage to finish the pot its flawed and all that jerking around just covered it up. I posted about my long 20 minute mugs a while back and somewhere along the way as this attitude took hold my mugs now take less than 10 minutes and often 5-6. Another reason for a newbie to not #########ng around too much is that you are developing what's called muscle memory and this is what makes the throwing video's you see on youtube seem so effortless. They are likely throwing forms they have thrown a lot. You want to promote good form so you can develop this as well.

 

From all the responses I think ur getting that 30lbs of clay is just a start but it can all be recycled. If you have the dough get a pugmill and you will not even think twice about it. If money's an issue then there are tons of free techniques to reclaiming clay. If you put a flawed piece all the way through to glaze its just a wasted effort.

 

And remember to have fun but be careful it can take over you life.

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Not sure how much I can contribute here, since I'm also a newbie (just started throwing on the wheel in April). But I will say that focusing on the process has been immensely helpful in terms of ENJOYING and GROWING.

 

I just finished a course where the instructor, though skilled and friendly, did not provide much detailed feedback. For weeks, I had trouble centering 1-2 lbs. of clay. Then I started a teapot-making course at a private studio where we were throwing minimum 2.5-3 lbs. of clay. I struggled with centering on the first day BUT received some very helpful, tailored feedback from my teacher. I went back the next day by myself to practice centering, over and over again, using the newly learned tips. Something finally clicked, and I found I could not only center, but pull walls and shape without the form collapsing. It was an amazing feeling. Not to say centering is easy for me now, but I was just surprised that small adjustments can make a big difference.

 

On his second day of beginning wheel-throwing class, my husband managed to throw a vase with a neck and nice round form that was larger and more uniform than anything I am able to do. He jokingly rubbed his success in my face. But he's not very detail-oriented, so I'm curious to see how he is at turning and refinement, haha. :-) --> Seeing how differently my husband and I approach and grow in pottery made me realize that this is like going on a journey as a solo traveler--you learn so much along the way, and can absorb a lot from the wonderful people you meet, but the part that matters most is your own personal journey, and that can only go at your own pace. 

 

Like you, I have dreams of one day being able to sell pieces, but (a) I know that's far, far away, realistically; and (B) it's not my one end goal. Since selling is not my end goal, I can focus on enjoying the present learning process, which is enriching! Also, I am finding the pottery/ceramics community to be so welcoming and generous. :)

 

Good luck!! May many happy days be in your future!

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Hey Alykat! I know this thread is a bit old but I just wanted to chime in as someone that is new to teaching pottery classes and sometimes has trouble efficiently articulating to students how they can improve...as well as someone that likes feedback while taking art classes....don't be afraid to ask your instructor to be more specific with their comments during class. If you are having trouble centering, ask your instructor if they could watch you for even just 30 seconds and ask if there is anything they might change. If you are having an issue with pulling up you might say "Hey, this is what I did...this is what happened, what do you think could have happened?" Sometimes just being a bit more direct/specific with your comments and questions will help the instructor feel more comfortable giving you constructive criticism, or even just get them to talk a bit more freely and you might get something from listening to them talk it through.

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You have gotten some very good advice and encouragement and I concur on all of it. CAD is an amazing resource, your local library, and so are the folks here, as well as YouTube. That said I will still add my two cents.

 

When I first started it was HARD to center. I would look at the clay spinning around and around wobbling this way and that and my eyes would say pull or push the wobbly lump this way or that to no avail.

 

THEN...

 

I closed my eyes to center. You close your eyes center yourself first then place your hands on the clay and IT will tell you what to do to make it centered. Once I did that it got sooooo much easier. Way less visual input to distract me. I have found doing this also gets me into the correct calm frame of mind to throw as well, kind of like meditating.

 

I also used to think of all that as wasted clay BUT then told myself clay is never wasted and can always be reclaimed up until the point you put it in the kiln. So don't let that hold you back, use and reuse that clay it WANTS you to shape it and doesn't care how many times you do so. When you look at it that way you will become much more brutal on what you actually put in the kiln. I'm stingy, cheap, and hate waste so I have learned it's better to reclaim it than fire it and have to toss it out. Even then once fired I break it up and put it in a box to make mosaic stepping stones for my garden. So nothing is truly wasted.

 

It's an amazing journey you have begun, if it's anything like it was for me all it took was one session with clay and I was a goner, you are going to have a great time.

 

T

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If you don't have certain muscles developed, keep working at the wheel. They will develop. My forearms look and felt like Popeye's after my first year in pottery.You'll develop a similar muscle to guitar players when you flex your thumb to your index finger. It doesn't happen overnight.

 

Marcia

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It took me three months before I could make anything that resembled a pot. :wacko:  It helped me relax when I saw many failed pots on the ceiling of the studio...while I was learning, I laughed, I cried, I kept at it.   :lol: One day, sleeveless biker dudes , who were friends of the instructor, came in to the studio and threw 25 pounds of clay all at once...huge, beautiful pieces...awesome.  That was the day I threw a 12" vase...like magic. :rolleyes:  My yucko pots were less and less...but always enough to keep me humble...I kept at it...then eventually I was selling and people paying more than I'd ever thought to get for a piece of pottery... B)  

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