Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Throwing a bowl

by Sue of Sue Pariseau Pottery

I always wonder how things are made and bet I'm not alone. Here's a photo series showing how I make a thrown pottery bowl. Everybody has their own throwing style, mine is influenced greatly by thumb injuries in my past which have caused my thumbs to be weaker than other parts of my hand. I therefore rely more heavily on my other fingers for things requiring strength.

Step 1 - Centering

This bowl starts with 1.5 lbs of clay shaped into a ball and thrown on a wooden batt which is attached to the wheel. Because the shape of the ball is irregular, at a high speed the clay is pressed down with one hand and toward the center with the other to smooth out all irregularities in the shape. This action is called centering.

Step 2 - Opening

Once centered, still at the high wheel speed, an indent is made in the center of the clay to a point leaving approximately 1/4" of clay between the bottom of the indent and the wooden batt.

Then using one hand to pull the clay outward from the inside of the indent and one to support the clay on the outside, the indent is made larger and opened up.

Step 3 - Pulling the walls

The sides of a bowl are created by pressing the clay upward between my fingers on the inside and outside. At a medium speed, I start at the bottom, moving my hands upward while gently putting pressure on the clay to move the clay upward and outward. After doing this three times, the walls of the bowl should be near the appropriate thickness and height. Notice in the photos below how the walls get taller and thinner with each pull.

Pull 1

Pull 2

Pull 3

Step 4 - Refining

After pulling walls to their desired height and thickness, the shape of the bowl can be refined using a tool called a rib. This will smooth the inside of the bowl and help create a more pleasing curve to the bowl. When the bowl has the desired shape, it is good to compress and shape the rim. This will help keep the rim from cracking during drying and firing and give the rim a smoother more desirable finish. I use a small piece of chamois to refine the rim.

Step 5 - Trimming

Once a bowl has reached it's desired shape through refining, it is left to dry to a point called leather hard. At this stage, pottery can be touched and handled without causing it to be misshapen. At the leather hard stage, the bottom or foot of the bowl is trimmed to make it smoother and a more desirable shape. To do this, I place the bowl upside down on the wheel and use a sharp tool to trim away any excess clay on the bottom and shape it to a nice smooth foot ring.

A trimmed bowl is then left to dry completely before it is fired for the first time. After the first firing the bowl is glazed, allowed to dry again and then fired a second time.


Rayna said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing...I'm one of those people you mentioned...I LOVE the show "How It's Made" or whatever it's called...It doesn't matter if it's pottery or airplanes or popcans...I LOVE knowing what went into it. I watched a candycane one...that was really neat. Thanks so much for sharing! I've always wanted to work with clay like this, though I'm sure it'll be a few years before I can do it considering all the other projects I'm dying to do...lol

pickleberries said...

Very cool! Thank you for sharing.

wynzia said...

great tutorial. throwing pots and such is rather physical work, and much trickier than it looks. i've much respect and admiration for your work, sue...beautiful.

Wilma said...

WOW, this is really an awesome article. I would love to learn how to work with clay and toss a bowl. If you are ever open for a "come and try it" please let me know!

MEPottery said...


Nice demo... I think throwing is one of my favorite things to watch... this may inspire me to make a demo of my own :)

JulieMeyer said...

When I see someone who can make it look so easy to throw, I know they're really good at it. Once upon a time I dabbled in throwing pots but could never get the centering down. You're post makes me want to try again. Thanks for showing us your process!

Cheri said...

Nice demo Sue, you make it look so easy!