“Throwing has a language all of its own; a pot can be read like a book and the story that it tells should be about the materials from which it is made and the character of the potter that made it.” – Phil Rogers
I love pottery books – they offer instruction, inspiration, and information. I often consult them for shape ideas, glazing options, alternative throwing techniques, and vocabulary for class demonstrations. I found a copy of Throwing Pots in a used bookstore; and, I have since read it several times. It would certainly be a great read for a potter’s book club.
The author, Phil Rogers, is a Welsh potter who has had no formal pottery training. He values simple, traditional pots; and, he believes that in order to understand and answer the questions of form and function, a potter must look at and handle handmade pots.
Throwing Pots is a practical handbook that provides concise instruction on technical topics (centering, opening, pulling, trimming, etc.) and ceramic forms (bowls, cylinders, plates, teapots, pitchers, etc.). Crisp black and white photos accompany the step-by-step directions. At the end of each topic is an “In Summary” section where Rogers offers hints and warnings that can help improve the quality of pots a potter makes. He believes that “the only difference between a good and bad pot is nothing more than a professional attitude in the making”.
Some of the instruction is very basic (such as working with clean hands/ware boards and throwing with linked hands) and would help a beginner overcome some of the initial throwing challenges and establish good work habits. But, Rogers also offers instruction on more advanced issues like collaring in, pulling handles, and faceting that intermediate potters would find valuable. When we began making the dinnerware sets, I consulted Throwing Pots for advice about challenges specific to plates. There is an excellent diagram for throwing plate rims that I followed and it seemed to reduce rim rebound.
Not only does Throwing Pots offer practical considerations, it also provides aesthetic guidelines. Rogers believes that “the ability to throw a piece of clay into a tall cylinder is only half the battle, knowing what to make and the ‘right’ shape is the other half”. Therefore, he offers tangible aesthetic instruction on topics such as handle placement (closer to tall pot bodies) and proportions for a pitcher (2/3 pot is belly and 1/3 for neck – avoid too small top). There are several colored photographs of pots made by Rogers and other potters with commentary and critiques that help the reader understand strengths of the pot design.
I found so many beneficial things in this book. It is quite easy to read; it would be a good reference resource for any potter. And, Rogers’ philosophical approach to pottery and pottery making encourages introspective and expansive consideration from even an advanced potter.
In the next Potter’s Book Club, I will be reviewing The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp.