How to Throw a Lightweight Graceful Pitcher on the Pottery Wheel

A New Approach to Throwing on the Wheel!

glennwoods

One of the biggest challenges when learning to throw is often getting the clay at the base of the pot up into the form. Not overcoming this challenge results in tons of clay to trim off in the trimming stage and/or a clunky heavy pot.

With pitchers, this heaviness can be a real problem because they are meant to carry a large volume of liquid. Glenn Woods came up with a way of avoiding this extra clay at the bottom, which resulted in a more graceful form and a lighter pitcher. He shares this technique in today’s post.- Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.


Several years ago, at an art fair in Florida, I encountered another potter who came into my booth and said, “I really like your pots but they seem to be missing the bottom part of the form.”  At first I was offended—who did he think he was anyway? His forms didn’t seem any more spectacular than mine. After I got over myself, I looked at my pots and found he was right. I love to throw but have always noticed that no matter what pulling method I have used, I always seem to leave a little more clay at the bottom of the wall than I would like. I also noticed that the pots did seem to be lacking a little toward the bottom part of the forms. After thinking about this, I decided that I needed to find an easier way to use the clay left at the bottom of the piece rather than simply carving or trimming it away and discarding that clay into to my reclaim bucket.

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With the next piece, I threw the vase the way I always have but left a little more clay in the floor of the piece (a thicker bottom). I then wrapped the bottom of the piece in plastic to keep it wet and let the top dry to leather hard (figure 1). Since I hadn’t altered the piece, it was easy to turn upside down and center on the wheel just as if I was going to trim the piece (figure 2). I trimmed away the flange from the bottom, leaving the edge beveled toward the center (figure 3).

Step1thru3_500

Rather than trimming any more clay away, I cut a hole in the center of the bottom of the piece and pulled the bottom out toward me, just like opening up a ball of clay before starting to throw a cylinder. Once the bottom was opened, I applied slip only where needed and began pulling and thinning the walls where I would normally be trimming away extra clay (figure 4). Once the wall was a uniform thickness, I collared in the form and continued thinning. This process added an additional 3 to 5 inches to the overall height of the piece and enabled me to create a more pleasing form (figure 5).

Step4thru6_500

To close the bottom, I simply threw a clay pad, compressed it, and then added a throwing ring so that when a person looks insidethe pot, they see a beautiful spiral staring right back at them. I scored the bottom edge of the pot (figure 6) and marked the clay disc (figure 7) with the diameter of the foot, scored just inside this line, then attached them while the clay pad was still on the bat. Next, I compressed the seam (figure 8), cut away the excess clay and beveled the bottom (figure 9), then cut it off the bat.

pitcher

pitcherI set the pot on a plaster dome to make the bottom concave. The plaster also helped to even out the moisture in the bottom quickly so I didn’t end up with stress cracks. Once it dried to soft leather hard, I set the piece on a level table to make sure the bottom edge was even all the way around and the piece was level.

**First published in 2014.
Comments
  • Sandra Greenberg K.

    Potter Ramon Camarillo has been using a similar method for many years. He closes the bottom rather than adding one. His pieces are extremely light and lifted.

  • Re. throwing light pitchers…this seems very labour intensive for regular use. The ‘Staffordshire Pull’ technique (thumb and forefinger pulling up while the other hand supports the clay at the far side) is the way I was taught to pull up the first section of any pot. You will securely pull up an amazing amount of clay in one go like this. If you get the pressure between thumb and forefinger just right in conjunction with the wheel speed (takes practice like anything else) you will get just the right thickness. A cardboard template (negative shape) of the desired profile of your pot will help you to see clearly how well your thrown shape in progress is coming along. Having said this I did love the article for reminding how cool it is to think creatively around problems and towards new ways of creating form.

  • Leslie N.

    Although this is an interesting idea a less cumbersome and time consuming method might be to just go back and pull the last bit of clay up out of the bottom of the wall. A method I use is to throw as normal till you have everything finished, then just before cutting the piece off the wheel go back and make the final pull. This allows the piece to maintain it’s strength, so it won’t twist or collapse while you do all the final fiddling. If you tend to throw with a lot of water you can put your pot aside and let it stiffen up a little bit before doing this. With this method I have been able to throw extremely thin walled pots.

  • Just read this article by Glen Woods! Throwing light pitchers has always been a challenge for me….thanks for this information….will try this one for sure.

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