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I have noticed the many students focus their eyes on the edge of the rotating clay and their hands are following focal point of their eyes.  They think that they are holding the hands still because they are following where their eyes are focused.  

My advice has been, focus on their hand! NOT on the clay!  then they can control their hand to be still.  
 

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2 hours ago, KareninOttawa said:

Anyone have tips on teaching new students to throwing how to keep their hands still. I tell them to brace their elbows on their thighs etc. I also say make a fist so they can understand that they need to contract their forearm muscles. Any other ideas?

Some of that is physiologically tough. Your suggestions are excellent but also our eyes are built with some interesting quirks. When you move your focus from a point to the next your eyes actual jump and your brain covers or sort of fakes the blank period which is truly blank up in your brain.

It is a significant component of the reason why people have to successfully repeat things for a new task to slow down for them. Any concept of bracing against something known to not be moving I have found beneficial. Reinforcing this non movement or steadiness in my view is great so when we teach we try and instill the what and why things get out of round and then encourage them to explore their ways to be steady. I usually show various examples of famous potters  doing  things differently with steadiness being a reason for their success. Their steadiness, that is.

hsin churn lin has a very specific precise method that works for him. I just can’t make myself get in his position. Any bracing that fits their body and style is good. Developing or improving their steadiness is the important part.
 

Interesting in that if the piece is not centered and the student is rigid steady then the distortion will magnify as they throw as one side of the clay will stretch more than the other. So after enough touch and feel is developed they can generally throw less centered pieces with greater success..

Edited by Bill Kielb
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I feel like these skills of steadiness and control come with time as students develop muscle that they don't normally use.  As a society, our forearm and grip strength are weak from a lack of actually needing to use them.  I remember when I started throwing again a few years ago that my entire arms all the way to my chest and shoulders would ache, and it was that way for a month or more.  I think it's important that you delineate the difference between control and power, because the shortcut to actually using these muscles is to bear down with your body which may injure your back and convince you that this is the way centering is done.  Once you have the forearm and hand strength built up, you don't need to exert a lot of force on the clay.  At least not to the tune of forcing the clay into place.  It's 2lbs of clay, it shouldn't require using your body and back to center.  I like the method of resting your arms on the splash pan while centering because you're less likely to try and force your body weight into the clay and at the same time your arms are at a static position.  

That's just my thoughts on it though, I have seen a million ways to control clay, and the only thing they have in common is that the person controlling the clay has been doing it for a long time.

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Full disclosure: I haven't taught wheel throwing and I am only two years into learning to throw. I do, however, have a background and have taught  in human movement sciences. 

Our eyes are the sensory system that we usually use dominantly, with our other senses as support.  We have proproiceptors in our muscles, joints and skin that tell us where our body is in space and where the parts of our body are in relation to one another, as well as giving us the feel of things that we are manipulating - hot? cold? soft? hard.  The visual system will predominantly decide whether parts of the body are correct or not.  We rarely, other than in wheel throwing, try to keep our hands still against an object that is spinning. If you really want to be the opposite of a good teacher (not recommended)  - try having your students throw on a batt that has a spiral pattern on it, rather than no marks or circles - very weird, and probably annoying,  if you are still learning.  

I would suggest that you use all the ideas noted above, from everyone else here - good positioning, anchoring the arms. Then, you could tell the students to close their eyes and feel if their hands are moving.  I know this is probably unconventional, but it makes sense - you are removing the dominant sensory system rather than trying to override it. When I was learning, I worked at first centering with open eyes, so I could get the correct  hand positions, then I practiced with my eyes closed. Then I worked to throw an entire cylinder with eyes closed.  

Just a thought. 

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18 minutes ago, Selchie said:

tell the students to close their eyes and feel if their hands are moving.  I know this is probably unconventional, but it makes sense - you are removing the dominant sensory system rather than trying to override it

+1 for this. Even if you center the clay for them then get them to feel what a centered mass of clay feels like then push it off center for them to re-center.

I've shown beginners how to center by pushing against the clay with the heel of the left hand between the 7 and 8:00 o'clock position and pushing towards 1-2:00 o'clock position.  The path of force would be a straight diagonal line for where the heel of their left hand is in contact with the clay to an imaginary spot straight across from it. Right hand doesn't do much work. I think a lot of beginners try and use both hands equally placing them at the 9:00 and 3:00 position so they land up with their hands wobbling around the clay as they don't have the strength to squeeze it into center. 

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Clay responds to pressure; doesn't take a great deal of pressure to move a two to three pound ball of clay - if you're not in a rush. A seventy pound child (even smaller/lighter!) can throw a two or three pound form, easily.

Press on a piece of clay - it doesn't move all at once, keep pressing. Try it.

Once the clay is patted somewhat roundish and sealed to the wheel, wet it and get the base (initially) centered with one hand, there you go. Brace that arm how you wish - against belly, inner thigh, top of thigh, splash pan, something. That's first.

Coning up&down, imo, is critical, not just for homogenizing, "aligning" particles, and achieving a good center, it's also building skill - how to move clay vertically at the wheel. Apply pressure, be patient, voila! the clay moves. As the feel for making and collapsing a solid tower builds, pulling a wall gets easier.

Watch others, and watch video. There are many folk who throw really well using different technique.

Counterclock or clock, whichever works. I'm right handed, sure, however, counterclockwise does not make sense to Me.

Get lots of practice, but also know when to quit for the day.

A round bat with no markings helps, else close eyes, agreed.

One repeat: once the clay is patted somewhat roundish and sealed to the wheel, wet it and get the base (initially) centered with one hand, there you go. Brace that arm how you wish - against belly, inner thigh, top of thigh, splash pan, something.

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10 hours ago, KareninOttawa said:

Anyone have tips on teaching new students to throwing how to keep their hands still. I tell them to brace their elbows on their thighs etc. I also say make a fist so they can understand that they need to contract their forearm muscles. Any other ideas?

Crazy as it sounds, even when centering it is about focus. Try centering with your eyes closed, or blindfolded.  This trick allows the learner to concentrate on what is really important beyond hand position. . . the feel of the clay. 

 

best,

Pres

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