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QotW: Have you ever used alternative techniques in your throwing or handbuilding?


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Hi folks, no new questions in the QotW pool so once again I will pose one for the group.

Over the years I have been interested in the whole throwing process. In the beginning it was just to be able to accomplish a presentable form, whether a bowl, plate or cylinder. Then it was about making that form aesthetically pleasing, then about making that form truly functional in my eye. Along this journey a few things tripped me up. One of these was throwing off the hump and having to mitigate S shaped cracks. The solution for me was a pancake opening up, then drawing the sides up from the flat to the vertical and finish the throwing and shaping. I have used this technique ever since with great success. Another problem I encountered was opening up large 20#+ pieces clay after centering. I had several large pieces that again got cracks in the base, or the opening up was not completely centered before throwing. Solution came from a book somewhere about opening up with a rhythmic pounding fist. The fist is held sideways and pounded onto the centered hump in a light regular motion while the clay is turning slowly. This technique compresses the bottom of the pot, and with practice will give an inside surface of regular small bumps that can be easily smoothed out with the first couple of pulls.  While I was at PSU in the 70's there was a guy there that was using strapped tools on his hand with braces up his arm to throw large pieces as it gave him extra reach and braced strength.  I also adopted a couple of bat boards and a hinge system to make a slab roller for a student with wheel chair handicap. . worked well.

These are considered to alternative techniques, and are not mainstream, but relevant. Out of curiosity:

QotW: Have you ever used alternative techniques in your throwing or handbuilding?

 

best,

Pres

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only moved the foot pedal to the corner of my setup.   well, i guess that is a total adjustment for the kind of work i do at the wheel.   i surrounded my wheel with a framework that holds my tools and many, many colored slips, water bowl, towels and almost anything else i would want.  everything is within reach but i might have to stand up to reach the farthest corner.   

the foot pedal is used by hand and is located at the same level as the wheelhead, about 15 inches to the right.    bad right foot.

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I guess I should mention that many of the techniques I listed are alternative to western throwers, as I learned of them by reading books and other information describing potters working in the Asian part of the world.

 

 

best,

Pres

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when throwing lids off the hump they will S crack I found (like honey pot lids) The 100% cure  is to tap the center when trimmed and stll leather hard with a wood rounded tool handle a few hard taps stopes S cracks. Not sure where I learned this .I pick up tips like a sponge over the last 5 decades .

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Actually, used much the same trick for years, but of late when opening up domed lids I still do the pancake, pull up to form walls and finish the gallery. Honey pot lids I put the dipper on so there is no area showing a crack, only the hole to the hollow handle.

 

best,

Pres

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oh, of course, technique not physical layout.   i do use a tool that is not normally found in a ceramic supply house.  it is a set of custom made wooden discs for making bowls.   a friend saw me open a cylinder and use a thick plastic disc to shape an instant bowl.   he did not say anything but surprised me with a gift of 5 graduated sizes of wooden discs later.    he worked on a lathe at a nearby carpentry shop so they were perfect.   i have used them for many years and still love them.

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I suppose the definition of alternative techniques is what’s holding me up on this one. My ceramic education in both high school and college included a variety of workshops and presenters, so in my mind there has always been more than one way to pull the proverbial cylinder or roll the coil.

Maybe the closest thing I can think of is that I hand throw slabs on the few occasions I need them. It seemed like a fun party trick when I saw someone do it, so I played around until I could do it. I still finish them with shims and a rolling pin for uniformity, because I mostly use them for ornaments or little condiment dishes.

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I did handbuilding in high school in the 70s. So it was high school no wheel work, 20ish year gap, first wheel class, 17ish year gap, 1 class and about 9 months to a year on the wheel, one year gap, one month back on the wheel, 7 or 8 year gap.

When I got here, I hit the local studio first thing and discovered I couldn't even center.  At all.  Sucked it up and signed up for a class.

That guy had me centering again in well under 5 minutes.  Not only that, he had me pulling cylinders one hour into the class.  Now in my first class (now about 30 years ago) I had no problem pulling cylinders and my first keeper item was in fact a jar about 6" or 8" high that I still have packed somewhere.  This was a three day class and I came out of it with that jar and 2 bowls, and they were good-for-a-beginner.  When I took the 2nd class almost 20 years later, I struggled.  I figured I just got old.

Nope.  That guy was a poser.  Turns out he actually taught us very little other than to compress the bottom of whatever so you don't get s-cracks.  Other than that, every time I asked for help pulling cylinders (or anything else), it was either "Just FEEEEL the clay" or "Let the clay decide what it wants to be".  Ask for a demonstration and he would sit down and swiftly throw a lumpy pot, all the while declaiming about the benefits of "just letting the clay BE".  So those bowls I was throwing?  Nobody throws bowls the way I was doing it.  OH it worked for me (eventually, more or less), and toward the end of that stint of my clay journey, it was actually working pretty WELL for me.  But the "techniques" I was using were by-guess-and-by-golly and I left that place unable to pull a cylinder OR a handle to save my life.  For once in my life, I'm actually sort of glad of my melty-brain.  Its easier to forget the little bits that still hang on and relearn much more effective techniques now from a Real Teacher.

But aside from that - I'm more or less ambidextrous and I had inadvertently learned to throw "backwards", not knowing that the markings on the wheels that said FORWARD and REVERSE are the reverse of how most Americans throw.  Right handed Americans throw in REVERSE.  Left handed Americans throw on FORWARD.  I just set my wheel to FORWARD, the instructor assumed I was left handed, and that's how I learned to throw.  When I took it back up this go round, I attempted to switch to the "normal" way, throwing as a right handed potter.  Centering at first was much much easier for me that way but I soon discovered that actually opening out the pot and trying to raise the walls was problematic, so by the 2nd class I had switched back to being a backwards potter.  I write right handed and do lots of detail work other than potting right handed, but all eye-hand coordination stuff such as archery and darts, I use my left hand.  Which might explain my apparent total lack of coordination at tennis and baseball - I probably should have gone lefty for those.

But now I keep getting confused between which hand is supposed to be doing what, between the 8 year gap since I last sat down at a wheel and my brief but ultimately doomed attempt to switch to right handed American style throwing.  I actually do not know which hand is supposed to be holding the rib or the trim tool now (my wheel rotates clockwise in case the whole forward-reverse thing is confusing to anyone reading this LOL!). I have to stop and think about which side I'm supposed to be working on.  I'm hoping that as the week of trying to turn myself into a right handed potter recedes and the memory of it melts away, it'll get easier.  I didn't have these issues before - but maybe that's because I was switch hitting at the wheel, not knowing that I was throwing up roadblocks to my own success by doing things in alternate ways that were actually counter productive.

Basically everything I've ever done in the more recent past was "alternative", largely by accident and because I had a crappy "teacher" whose idea of "teaching" was to show off his non-existent skills. I was left to my own devices, which resulted in lots of bad habits that I somehow got lucky enough to manage to overcome to at least the extent of being able to eventually throw a halfway decent bowl.

I was just starting to throw small bowls off the hump the last go round but I'm sure all those bad habits I had taught myself were limiting me there as well.  I'm nowhere near being able to attempt that again - yet.  Throwing off the hump is definitely an alternative technique that I am anxious to get back to - in new and better ways.

Oh and cylinders and handles - child's play.  Well cylinders are now doable - I'll call them child's play after I've thrown a few dozen decent ones LOL!  Handles are child's play though.  All of my handles were successful out of the gate with decent tutelage.  I never pulled a decent handle before I had access to a Real Teacher.  The first guy was most likely a Real Teacher as well, hence my success there.

My short term goal is to throw 30 cylinders that make me smile and relearning to tap center.  After that, most things I want to do turn out to be "alternative".

Edited by Pyewackette
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Right handed, eyed, an' footed for most things, clockwise potters' wheel hugely better fit for me - if that's alternative, then aye.
Working clockwise, visual focus seems a bit left of center - facing the wheel, where center is closest edge of the wheel - that's much more natural for me, perhaps partly due to condition of my vision, set of my skeleton, condition of my elbows and shoulders, and oooohaaaa, et cetera. I use the thumb on my inside hand on the outside for the initial pull; my left thumb can't do that. The last segment of my right middle finger has nerve damage on the down (little finger) side, which seems a bit more turned away from the clay when working inside.
I have tried throwing counter clock, it's ok; methinks I could do it if I had to, however, holding a tool in my right hand for outside tooling, heh, that ain' working, and trimming counter clock is difficult for me. Clock in.

I'm not seeing much (any) chatter marking 'round here, perhaps that's somewhat alternative as well. I chatter almost everything at least a lil' bit (clockwise).

Chatter notes: I'm filling marks with glaze (or underglaze) before glazing, as sometimes the bottom of the marks isn't fully wetted, hence the glaze pulls away and leaves a dry spot. For opaque glazes, particularly those that level well, some glaze combinations provide more accent that others; for translucent/transparent glazes, chatter marks stand out, even when filled same glaze as used for covering coat.

chatters.JPG.2135bd2c7648f83c2035457d2ef50bff.JPG

Edited by Hulk
chatter on
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