Author Archives: julielac

Getting better at pulling up clay walls

For the first six months of practicing pottery, all I did was make low bowls. There are only so many ice cream bowls a household needs, y’know?

The thing I needed to improve was pulling up the walls better. This weird half goblet/half ice cream bowl was an early try at going high. I kind of let the clay decide the shape.

What I should have done was collar the clay. This would have given me a taller, straighter cylinder and then I should have used a rib to create one nice line from the center of the piece up to the rim. Then I should have trimmed more off the bottom.

Ah well, live an learn and enjoy your ice cream bowls.


Trimming mistakes and mishaps

I have definitely accidentally splashed clay and slip over the sides while on the pottery wheel, but this bowl was the first time I launched an object.

Because my bowl was not fully secured to the wheel, when I put my tool onto the piece and pressed on the foot pedal, my piece rattled around the wheel before getting wedged between the wheel and the splash pan. (See this step-by-step tutorial from SLO Maker Space on trimming for a good picture of how to secure your piece to the wheel).

At this point, I was very precious about each piece, so wanted to salvage it.

So I matched the notch in the rim with an identical cut on the other side, and I made all the slices on the side into decorations. Then I glazed in white then green, a color combination I knew made nice breaks on carved lines.

It’s ok! I managed to save it and learn a thing or two about getting those pots securely fastened. Also, from this point on, I always hold my left hand on the piece when I slowly turn on the wheel.

Carving a foot on the wheel

This was my first really successful foot on a piece. And it took a good deal of practice to get there.

First, I had to get really good at creating a centered piece. Once I had that, making a good foot became much easier.

Second, I learned when the clay was ready to have a foot carved into it. Not too dry and not too wet. The advice I got was to wait until the clay was the consistency of grocery store blocks of cheddar cheese.

Third, just getting the feel for where the foot went was key. (It should be just under the part of the piece where the sides start to rise). This guide from Lakeside Pottery is very helpful.

Finally, the foot trimming process was tricky to get down. Watching videos helped a lot here. I recommend:

Emily Reason’s Ceramics for Beginners 

Hsin-Chuen Lin’s Learning Basic Trimming

And lots of practice. The thing that finally got me on the road to success was having nice sharp tools and speeding the wheel up.

Final result:

Mugs and matching

I make a lot of “one off” stuff, so I’ve challenged myself to make pairs or sets of things.

I got close with these mugs. The key to sets, obviously, is weighing your clay. These both started as 10oz of Russian Red River clay.

Instead of pulling these handles, I rolled out some clay and cut and smoothed them to the size I wanted. They could have used some more smoothing, I think. BUT THEY MATCH!!!

Animal mugs

To finish this year, I spent a whole month on mugs. Some of my favorite were these black clay mugs. I started with with 12oz of clay and cleaned up the edges and bottom when it was all wet with a handy shaping tool, just to save some time.

I used a stencil to guide me in making wax outlines of animals before dipping in glossy white glaze.

Learning the basics of pottery

Pottery gif! A selection of my first few pottery creations.

When I first started, I visited the pottery studio every day, so in my first two months I spent at least 100 hours practicing or watching videos about throwing pots on the wheel. I was mostly working on centering my clay, trying to pull the sides up, and transferring the bowls off the wheel. Since I was going every day, I was also getting a sense of how long the clay took to dry.

Today I went through my pictures of my first few creations and saw my early progression.

I started with these low thick bowls with wide set feet. Then they got taller and I treated the clay like I was cupping a precious baby chick in my hand, so they curve in at the top (and the bottoms are still pretty heavy). Finally, I got better at pulling up the sides and shaping the bowls. Progress!