Let's get dirty! Throwing is the most time consuming (but also meditative!) part of the ceramic process for me. I love the way the clay moves in a quiet, circular motion as I move with it.
For this shop update, I'm using a lot of different types of clay! Terracotta, dark brown, white, tan with speckles, and black clay. I’ve used the lighter clays before in previous updates, and am excited to move to the dark side! I’m really a dark clay kind of girl - but everyone has their favorites. When I’m at a show, I always ask the people who venture into my booth what their favorites are, and the answers are all over the board…which is so nice to hear as an artist!
Testing out new clays is so fun for me, and I’m especially excited for the black clay and terracotta this time around. They both are so smooth and easy to throw. I also love the dark brown clays; one easy and smooth to throw, and the other much more gritty which yields wonderful texture in the finished pieces. Hard on the hands but so worth it!
To start the throwing process, I "throw" the clay on the wheel (as close to center as I can) and apply some pressure so the clay sticks to the wheel. Water is added by soaking a small sponge in water over and over again so the clay doesn't get too sticky. This helps smooth the clay so my hands can glide over it more easily.
Once I move the clay by using my hands to stabilize and center it on the wheel, I make a hole in a center and open it up by pulling the bottom toward me. After there is a suitable sized hole in the middle (depending on the form I’m making – bowl, mug, etc.) I start something called “pulling” where I use both of my hands to put pressure on the outer and inner walls of the piece and move the pressure upward. Ideally, I pull a form into a cylinder in 3 pulls or less.
Once a tall cylinder is pulled, I shape the piece with my hands or with a shaping tool by pulling outward, downward, and back up again. Plates are a little different to throw, where I center the clay and press down with a long bottle to distribute the weight to flatten the clay out. After flattening, I’ll pull the walls up a bit to create sides for the plate.
After the form is shaped and I’m satisfied with how it looks, I’ll use a sponge and rubber “rib” to make the clay look more smooth and buttery. I’ll then do a preliminary trim to the bottom of the piece, pop the wooden plate off the wheel, and wait until it dries to a “leather hard” stage. At this point, I can pop the form off of the wooden plate and trim it (which will be in the next blog post). If I’m making and adding handles for mugs or carving into the clay to add design and texture, I’d do it at this stage as well.
Drying time to get to the leather hard stage is affected by the environment. Weather, humidity, and more factors affect the timing of the ceramic process – which is why I like it so much. So much can happen, for better or for worse! At the end of the throwing process, I love to stand back and look at all the different forms.
If you’d like to see me in action (this blog post - in video form): Check out my corresponding YouTube video! The next step in the ceramic process is trimming. Stay tuned for that blog post – coming soon.