Throwing large

Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in How-to, Teaching | 2 comments

Making large pots seems is a challenge that all potters attempt.  In one sense, throwing a large pot is evidence of accomplished skill because it shows that a potter can maneuver the technical challenges to handling a lot of clay. After I had been throwing for a few years, I got obsessed with making a ‘grapefruit bowl’, i.e. a bowl large enough to contain a week’s worth of grapefruit and worthy enough to occupy the place of honor on my kitchen table.  It took quite a while and resulted in several bad bowls. Now, I am able to make larger pots but they aren’t gigantic like some potters make.  In fact, most of the things I make on a regular basis are less than 5 lbs.  However, I like large platters and big bowls (8-10 lbs) and I do make them occasionally.  As I learned to throw larger pots, I realized there are two main obstacles to making bigger pots: Sufficiency:  This is the easier of the two problems to solve.  Add more clay.  As beginners, we usually start with 1-2 lbs to learn centering and pulling.  But, you can’t make huge bowls with 2 lbs of clay so we need to start with a larger amount.  This can be scary because it challenges the kinesthetic muscle memory that we have been developing.  And, it can be frustrating because it makes us feel like beginners as we re-face challenges of centering and pulling a larger amount of clay.  The best advice I was given was increase the amount of clay incrementally by 1/4 – 1/2 lb.  Keep practicing and increasing the clay until you make the size that you are satisfied with. Efficiency:  This is the more difficult challenge.  When I started throwing 3lb bowls, they weren’t much larger than my 2lb bowls.  This was because I didn’t use the clay efficiently   I lost a lot trying to center; too much clay was left in the bottom of the pot; and, I threw the pot off center which prevented me from get any more out of the clay.  The truth is, there is really no victory in throwing a 2 lb bowl with 3 lbs of clay.  The resolution to the efficiency challenge is practice (and more practice).  Don’t add clay until you throw a lesser amount well; after-all, the challenges that you face making a small bowl become harder to manage with increased clay. Here are some great exercises that helped me increase the size of my pots. Triple Pots:  Weigh three balls of equal amounts of clay within your throwing range (ex. three 2 lb. balls).  Pull each to maximum height within three pulls.  It is likely that your third pot will be your largest.  You should be moving a lot of clay into the body of your pot in the initial pulls. Incremental Pots:  Weigh three balls of clay adding a 1/2 lb to each ball (ex. 1 lb, 1.5 lb, and 2 lb).  Pull each to maximum height within three pulls.  If you don’t see a variation in size, practice again and pay attention to where you are leaving the clay. Salvage Pots:  After you have gained mastery over a volume of clay and you increase the amount, it is likely that your first attempt will result in a wonkey pot.  If you are reluctant to collapse the pot and re-wedge the clay, use this to cultivate a creative solution – carve it, alter the rim, make a chip and dip, oval/square the bowl, add embellishments,  etc.  By attempting to salvage the wonkey pot, you may stumble on an idea that will...

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Production Pottery – Storage

Posted by on Feb 7, 2012 in Class, Dinnerware, How-to, Multiples | 0 comments

When making functional pottery it is vital that the pots perform their role well; but, when making dinnerware sets, it is also necessary to consider how those pots function when they are NOT in use.  So once you have acquired the skills to make similar pots the same size (challenge no. 1) and once you have developed a conceptual resolution to make dissimilar pots relate (challenge no. 2), you must also consider the pot’s non-function (i.e. storage).  Because many pots comprise a dinnerware set, storage becomes an issue for the owners. Consider how the pots will stack in the cupboard or dishwasher.  You may prefer a cereal bowl to be low and wide; and, you may prefer soup bowls to curve inward so the soup will stay warm longer.  The result is the cereal bowls stack more compactly than the soup bowls.   Either way, functional choices should be made with full recognition of the consequences on how well a pot performs when it is not in...

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Production Pottery – Challenge #2

Posted by on Feb 3, 2012 in Class, Dinnerware, How-to, Multiples | 0 comments

“Technical ability grows naturally with experience, but conceptual rigor needs constant attention and exploration.”  Sean O’Connell Although not all potters aspire to be production potters, all potters will benefit from the skills required to make dinnerware.  Potters who can make multiple pots similar in form and size are efficient throwers and have the technical skills to accomplish any sort of pot.  And, potters who can develop a unified dinnerware set are effective in creatively relating one pot to another. Essentially, there are two basic to making dinnerware sets: Similar pieces must be similar Dissimilar pieces must relate to one another No. 2:  Dissimilar pieces must relate to one another – the dinner plate and the chili bowl must look like they belong to the same series.  Although there are some technical considerations, this challenge is mainly conceptual.  How do you go about creating a family of pots? Here are some tips that can help achieve this: Use the same clay for the entire family of pots Glaze the family of pots in the same glaze(s) – this is the easiest way to make diverse pots relate; color unifies and mutes differences Glaze the family of pots at the same time Fire glazed pots in the same kiln firing Make structural marks when throwing Add texture – carving or slip on all pots Use wax resist to make similar patterns on the pots Use the same rim treatment on all pots – cut/wavy/split/squared Keep shapes similar – organic/geometric/chunky/elegant Making a dinnerware set requires getting plates and bowls and tumblers to associate with one another.  Ask yourself how you can make the pieces relate to one another.  Give your pots something to make them look like they are a family.  This is a huge challenge and one that you may enjoy resolving over and over...

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Production Pottery – Challenge #1

Posted by on Jan 31, 2012 in Class, Dinnerware, How-to, Multiples | 0 comments

Although not all potters aspire to be production potters, all potters will benefit from the skills required to make dinnerware.  Potters who can make multiple pots similar in form and size are efficient throwers and have the technical skills to accomplish any sort of pot.  Their only  limitations are desire, creativity, and time. Essentially, there are two basic challenges to making dinnerware sets: Similar pieces must be similar Dissimilar pieces must relate to one another Challenge No. 1:  Similar pieces must be similar – essentially, this means that each salad plate you make should be like every other salad plate in size and shape. Here are some tips that can help to accomplish this: Measure, Measure, Measure Weigh the clay and record it Note the starting diameter of the clay disc before opening and record it Measure the inner diameter and record it Measure the outer diameter and record it Measure the height and record it Measure anything that is helpful to you to replicate the shape and record it Make adjustments to define the pot shape and establish your ‘recipe’ Use the same tools to throw and shape the pot – changing tools will result in a different outcome If trimming a foot, trim to a specific diameter (this is the easiest challenge to overcome) Throw all the pieces in one sitting (ex. make all the salad plates in one session) Trim all the pieces in one sitting Make an extra piece – if you want a place setting for 4, make 5 When making multiples, don’t overlook a good pot simply because it doesn’t match the set.  A bowl might be a good bowl in its own right – keep it and use it individually or as a glaze test....

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Production Pottery – Tools

Posted by on Jan 28, 2012 in Class, Dinnerware, How-to, Multiples, Review, Scale, Tools | 0 comments

There are two fundamental challenges to making dinnerware.  The first challenge is to make similar pieces look similar (i.e. one salad plate should look like all the other salad plates).  This is accomplished by making pots that are the same size and shape.  Making pots that are the same size will help them look like they belong together; and, it is easier to replicate size (height and width) than it is to replicate shape – the key is to measure.  Fortunately, there are a few tools that can help potters in their quest to make place settings. A good scale is indispensable when making sets.  Starting with the same amount of clay will help a potter make subsequent pots in a set.  I have two Escali scales and recommend them highly (they also come in a variety of fun colors).  For more elaboration on what to consider in a scale, refer to the blog entry “Potter’s Tool Kit – Scale“. A ruler is very basic but essential tool.  Measuring height and width will help potters make sets and will help develop a ‘recipe’ of important statistics. Calipers will make measuring diameters more accurate and with less distortion of the pot. Pointer or chopsticks can expedite pot production because after you set the height and diameter, you can throw each pot to those dimensions without stopping several times to measure.  Although these help, it is still a good idea to measure the height and width in case the pointer or chopstick gets bumped during throwing. I recommend keeping a studio notebook where you can record measurements and notes.  This is a good reference in case you need to make a replacement plate or bowl in the...

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Dragon Wisdom

Posted by on Jan 13, 2012 in About Me, Books, Teaching | 1 comment

      “Anyone with the time and inclination can acquire the technical proficiency.  To achieve greatness though, that requires artistry, imagination, and thoughtfulness.”                                        – Christopher Paolini I was listening to the audio book of Inheritance when I heard this reality explained.  Although it was said by a dragon and in the context of becoming a great warrior, this is exactly where I am in my pottery life. For some reason, there is a prevalent belief that anyone can sit at a potter’s wheel and immediately make large bowls (although no one expects to take two piano lessons and play Rhapsody in Blue).  Therefore, I spend a great deal of time in pottery classes assuring the potters that their throwing skills (and subsequently their pots) will improve with practice (and more practice). For some, it can be discouraging to find out how much effort it requires to acquire technical skills.  But it wasn’t discouraging to me – it offered me hope that I could become a potter with time and practice.  Previously, I thought creative endeavors were limited to artistic people.  But after working in the pottery studio, meeting a lot of accomplished potters, and reading several books, I realize that there is no mysterious gene in artistic people.  They are focused and work hard. Since setting up my own pottery studio, my technical proficiency has increased.  But now, I want to do something more with my pots – the trouble is, I am not sure what that something is.  I want to make them more interesting – maybe more complex.  I want the pots to compel people to touch them and bring pleasure for having used them.  I’m just not sure how to get there.  But I expect it will take even more work than obtaining technical skills – a lifetime of...

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