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Hi there!

Hope you're all hanging in there. I am posting regarding the topic of consistency in form. I'm a beginner/intermediate potter (taken 2 semesters of pottery a year or so ago and now just getting back into it with a studio 24/7 membership.) I have the basics down: centering (although, haven't nailed down centering perfectly yet - there is still always a slight twinge in my spinning clay, if you know what I mean), make the whole, pulling the walls up, etc. 

However, I have yet to be able to replicate seemingly similar pieces, either bowls or mugs. I would love to make sets, but my pieces always turn out just a bit different. It feels like when pulling up the walls, I don't really have the skills yet to make it a certain shape; rather, the piece kinda makes its own shape. I'd love to be able to make mugs that are straight up walls. However, my pieces tend to have more shape and body to them (which isn't a bad thing - just a different style.) For reference, I throw about 2.5 - 3 lbs. to make mugs (2.5) or bowls (3). My base is usually pretty wide as I tend to have a wider base when I'm centering. Thus, when I pull up, I tend to try and bring it in a bit. When getting to the top/rim, sometimes that caves in, caves out, etc. I often feel the rim is pretty sensitive so don't put too much pressure on it. 

I've attached my most recent mugs below. Any suggestions would help so that I can get more consistent with my form!

Mugs.jpeg

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Best thing is to keep making more cylinders. Over and over and over again. Get the floor of the cylinder the width you want then when pulling the walls pull up and inwards so the top is a narrower diameter than the base. To get really straight sides then after pulling and compressing the rim take a wood knife or something like this and cut the skirt of clay off the outside bottom edge then use a flat edged wood rib on the outside and with your other hand on the inside work the rib up  the pot while at the same time pushing gently out from the inside to get your straight wall. After you have done about 10 in a row then cut them open to see the wall and base thickness, wedge up your clay and start again. After you've made a lot of one form then you'll find you can use less clay to make the same form, 2 1/2lbs for a mug is a fair bit.

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CholeElizabeth,

As I look at your cylinders, I see a common mistake beginners always make. When beginning a second pull, after the first opening up pull, really push with the right contact point against the inside contact point  hard to start the pull. When you feel the roll rising, rise with it, and let off a bit of the pressure gradually as you do. This will get the clay from the bottom into the wall of your pot. From here on out, make certain to get that beginning squeeze to work into the rest of the form. As far as straightening the walls, a rib as Min says will work wonders. From there on out if you continue to throw the forms, using the same amount of clay, working carefully you will see a major improvement in both form and skill at throwing.

 

 

best,

Pres

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@Min Thank you! When you say cut the skirt, do you mean just cutting off the extra clay that has formed at the base? I hadn't thought to use a wood rib, excited to try! So you suggest making 10, cutting down from the top to bottom to review thickness of walls and base and then rewedging? Is it possible to throw a piece, break it down, rewedge, and practice again? I think that might help with my practice, but don't know if that alters the clay if I throw, break, rewedge, throw, break, rewedge, etc. 

@Pres Thank you! Do you suggest on that second pull to have the inside and outside contact (I use a sponge on the outside and fingers on the inside) directly coming at the clay from the same position and pressure? When I ease off near the top, that's when I think clay collects/gets thick and also forms that opening rim shape (as in my photos). Any thoughts? 

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41 minutes ago, ChloeElizabeth said:

When you say cut the skirt, do you mean just cutting off the extra clay that has formed at the base?

Yes. Either try and reduce how much clay is at the outside edge where wall meets wheelhead when you are throwing, really dig in there like Pres said, then cut the skirt off when you have finished pulling the walls. Where the purple arrow is pointing towards then down to the wheelhead. Black lines showing how it could be trimmed back. Slight undercut for the cutoff wire and also to create a shadow line so the pot appears lifted from the table. Saves a bit of trimming later on.

 

Untitled.png.49eb1c7396c344bfca15153ec372defd.png

41 minutes ago, ChloeElizabeth said:

Is it possible to throw a piece, break it down, rewedge, and practice again? I think that might help with my practice, but don't know if that alters the clay if I throw, break, rewedge, throw, break, rewedge, etc. 

Yes it will alter the clay but think of this clay as "practice clay". Recycled clay isn't as plastic as fresh out the bag new clay as each time you throw it you are removing some of the "fines" that make the clay plastic but for practice it's fine. Keep your throwing water, let it settle then scoop out the water at the top and keep the slip at the bottom and when you do recycle dry clay add the throwing slip back to the clay. One or two boxes of clay to use just practicing really isn't much and you'll see a marked improvement after throwing many of the same shape with the same weight of clay.

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Hi Chloe!

You might pick us some tips by watching accomplished throwers; there's a recent thread here somewhere listing some favourites ...

https://community.ceramicartsdaily.org/topic/21849-free-video-recommendations-for-potters

Here's another, several years old, still good-oh!

https://community.ceramicartsdaily.org/topic/6901-your-favorite-pottery-videos/?tab=comments#comment-65982

I've been throwing some for just over two years now, how and what I see when watching others throw is still evolving!

If you watch the Clinton clips, note how each move is very near the same, hence the pieces are as well. Each move, that's worth consideration, imo, where the centered clay is same height, shape, width; opened, same, first pull, same, and etc. The time it takes to make each move is about the same as well - more time means wetter, after all; wheel speed for each step, also same.

Other stuff

  Can't over emphasize the importance of well prepared clay - thoroughly homogenized, no lumps, soft spots, bubbles - else it won't flow well. Thoroughly mixed, but also directional-ized!! If you're not coning up&down, learn how, it makes a difference, big - at least twice or three times. You'll learn to feel when the clay is really swirled well and ready to open. If you're wedging, pay attention to the direction the clay is going - turn a ram's head up on its left side if you're throwing counter clockwise, then you have a head start. Y'all shout if you find it doesn't make a difference, meaning thorough trial both ways.

  When opening your clay, throw the inside of the base really well. Folks call it compression. Hmmm... Work that base and the transition to the wall. Note how others treat the inside of the base - that's the part least influenced by your coning and centering work, particularly the center of the base, and more generally the clay closest to the wheel head.

  Watch how others manage the skirt area, per Min's suggestion.

  As Mr. Simon says, "keep practicing!"

...be sure to watch ton a day Isaac Button clips!

 

Edited by Hulk
through thorough
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5 hours ago, ChloeElizabeth said:

@Min Thank you! When you say cut the skirt, do you mean just cutting off the extra clay that has formed at the base? I hadn't thought to use a wood rib, excited to try! So you suggest making 10, cutting down from the top to bottom to review thickness of walls and base and then rewedging? Is it possible to throw a piece, break it down, rewedge, and practice again? I think that might help with my practice, but don't know if that alters the clay if I throw, break, rewedge, throw, break, rewedge, etc. 

@Pres Thank you! Do you suggest on that second pull to have the inside and outside contact (I use a sponge on the outside and fingers on the inside) directly coming at the clay from the same position and pressure? When I ease off near the top, that's when I think clay collects/gets thick and also forms that opening rim shape (as in my photos). Any thoughts? 

Chole, Min has shown you a lot here, and re-wedging is really very important. I wedge smaller pieces about a hundred turns, larger pieces 300 turns just as an example. As far as the top. . .imagine the pot is 1-2" taller than it is and follow through with the pull like making a full swing with a bat or tennis racket. As far as that second pull the natural position of the hands is for the outside pressure point to be naturally below the inside pressure point because of the floor of the pot. the pressure on the outside at the bottom helps to remove the extra clay by moving it into the wall of the pot and upward. The wheel motion should be like a clock to you, as your wheel goes around one round your fingers move up slightly, consistently all the way up the pot. You should not vary pressure much on the way up, just at the base of the pot to move the thicker clay down there up. After each pull, recenter the form with hands at the top and thicken up the rim. Then begin your next pull.

There are times when the thicker clay down at the bottom of the pot should be left a bit thicker, as in a bulbous vase form rounded to sphere at the bottom with a narrow necked  top. the thicker area supports the form until finished throwing, often not removed until trimming.

 

best,

Pres

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remember to never take your hands off the spinning clay until they reach the top and complete at least one circuit.    you can lessen the pressure of your fingers but do not remove them until you are totally at the top.

if you start with a hockey puck shape, there is no "skirt" to remove.  

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5 hours ago, jrgpots said:

Does anyone have a copy of John Baymore`s cylinder homework?  That has helped me.

Jed

Don't think it can be passed around without John's permission.

Is he still in contact with forums?

Could p.m. him if he is.

But his set of exercises is certainly beneficial.

 

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Thank you, everyone! All great things to try!

@oldlady I tend to pull halfway, stop to rewet my hands and the piece as it tends to dry up, and then continue the pull where i left off. Not a good idea? Maybe I should practice pulling once all the way to the top. Also, my centered clay is about the size of 2 hockey pucks (side by side) with 2.5 lbs of clay. This has made it a bit challenging to bring it in for a smaller, more narrow mug. Should I start with less clay and get it centered to a hockey puck size?

@jrgpots @Babs Thanks! I'm happy to send him a message. Do you recall his username on this site? Maybe @Pres might know too? 

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when you first put clay on the bat or wheelhead, shape it so it does not look like a slope but a vertical line.   if you learn to press inward at the bottom each time you touch the clay, you should be able to lift the clay instead of sliding your finger up a slope and then starting to lift it.    it is difficult to describe, easy to do once you can imagine lifting, not squeezing.  i find that having a mirror in front of me allows me to see the profile as if work.   i cannot understand why other potters do not use a mirror to see what they are doing.

there is a member here who has very instructive videos.  check out her website. goodelephant.com.

Edited by oldlady
correction
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On 4/26/2020 at 7:36 PM, jrgpots said:

Does anyone have a copy of John Baymore`s cylinder homework?  That has helped me.

I have it saved in a Word doc. It is copyrighted. Not sure how John Baymore feels about sharing this document. 

@LeeU find out if it is OK to share.  Thanks

Edited by dhPotter
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On 4/28/2020 at 10:20 AM, dhPotter said:

I have it saved in a Word doc. It is copyrighted.

Hi--I don't have my copy anymore but you may provide yours to Chloe for educational purposes (re: copyright/Fair Use clause). 

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@ChloeElizabeth I cannot share this document as it is copyrighted and I do not have direct permission to share the document.

About your consistency issue - weigh all balls of clay, pull them up as far as you can. Do 10-12 balls at a sitting, each weighing the same amount. You will improve.

Edited by dhPotter
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Time and repetition.  Man it can be a bummer while you're in it.  The temptation is to keep every success no matter how small.  My shed was full of greenware I'd never fire, and I ended up recycling it all.  

Just keep in mind that something you made today, will never live up to something you make tomorrow.  Nothing is precious in it's raw form.  Something that has been made on the wheel, can be made again, and BETTER the next time.  A box of clay can last you a long time while you're honing your skills.  Throw, cut, wedge, repeat.  

Clay is wonderful in that aspect; it can be reused indefinitely.  Nothing like paint and canvas, or marble, or really any art form.  

Practice all the time, think of great ideas, try to make them.  

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To everyone regarding the requests for sharingJohn Baymore's instructional document for throwing cylinders: 

John had his reasons for putting a copyright on this document and by doing so he is restricting the distribution of educational material that he has written. We should respect the copyright he has on the document; it is his intellectual property. John gave a lot of his time and experience to this forum, to spread the document without his direct permission is both unfair and disrespectful, legal or not. We would expect the same sort of consideration, as would any of us.

Moderator Team

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Not looking to get into an argument with anyone however I do want to note that it is not inherently "disrespectful" or "unfair" to use a copyrighted work, in the legally allowed manner.  (I am not suggesting that John's piece should be shared when the holder of it chooses not to.) Copyright per se does not restrict or prohibit distribution.  You can research the specifics-it is complex-but The Fair Use standard is there to allow for limited use of a work for educational purposes (among other defined limited purposes). Copyrighting offers many protections and none of those protections should be violated.  Fair Use is also a copyright protection! It permits prescribed access to creative material for the benefit of the public, while assuring that the author's rights are protected. When someone applies for a copyright (or even just puts the symbol or the word on something, without paying to register), they are, by law,  agreeing to all sections of the Act, including Fair Use. It is important that people know about and understand the proper applications covered by the Fair Use  section of the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107.    There is much misunderstanding about "intellectual property", and much misinformation regarding  Fair Use. I hope this offers some clarity that there is no moral judgment to be placed or legal offense involved when an educational document (without alteration)  is used in good faith for educational purposes. 

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It may be legally OK.

But there are moral, ethical and honorable issues at play.

Because the law says it is OK does not allow me to forget the author requested I not distribute the document without the author's permission.

I was wrong in mentioning I had the document.

Edited by dhPotter
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Another great resource if you can get your hands on a copy is “A Potter’s Workbook” by Clary Illian. It addresses form more than technical skills, but thinking about form right from the beginning will help you make better pots. 

The amount of practice wheelthrowing requires to develop proficiency is totally maddening. But oh the high when you get it!!! It comes, I promise. 

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