Work Flow: Throwing & Trimming Off the Hump with Simon Levin

In this video, you’ll get a glimpse into a day in the studio with Simon Levin as he shares his streamlined process of throwing and trimming pots primarily off the hump. (Scroll down for more.)

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Runtime: 2 hours, 35 minutes

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Here’s a sampling of what you’ll learn:

  • Throw and trim pots off the hump, thus creating a streamlined flow throughout a day in the studio
  • Make faceted “tulip bowls,” textured yunomis, rice bowls, small plates, pasta bowls, and a mug!
  • Use a variety of paddles to alter the shape and add texture
  • The secret to preventing S-cracks!

Going with the Flow

Many potters throw off the hump when making small forms or repeating a form, but Simon Levin throws and trims most of his pots off the hump. This creates a rhythm in his studio practice as he works his way through a 25-pound lump of clay. Typically, Simon will throw a wareboard of pots and then switch to trimming off the same hump. When the trimming is done, he throws the next wareboard.

This fluidity in his practice not only results in less starting and stopping, and less getting up and down, it also allows him to play with form and texture, each pot building off the strengths of the previous one. Learning to work this way will help both your productivity and your creativity!

Streamlined, but never hurried

Though Simon’s practice is streamlined, it is never hurried­—every mark is made with intention. Each step of the way, Simon articulately explains the “why to,” as much as the “how to.” An added benefit to throwing off the hump is that because the pots aren’t down on the wheelhead, they can easily be viewed from top to bottom while throwing, and the trimming can be started in the throwing stage. Simon will help you learn to look at each pot you make from top to bottom with a critical eye, which will help you make stronger work.

Practical tips and powerful insights

Throwing off the hump often results in S-cracks. Through testing and experimentation, Simon has learned the secret to preventing these annoying cracks and he shares it, and other helpful tips here. It can also be a challenge to get a flat bottom when cutting pots off the hump. Simon shares a great trick to cut flat bottoms every time.

Finding one’s voice is arguably one of the most challenging parts of becoming a potter. Beyond the practical tricks and tips, he shares insights into how to make your pots your own. A great story teller, Simon shares stories about how his teachers and mentors–some of the best in the field–helped him to consider every detail about his pots and eventually find his voice.

Simon is a wonderful maker and appreciator of pots. His apprentices know that he has a way of recognizing and articulating the strengths and weaknesses in a pot. If you don’t have the opportunity to be one of his apprentices or attend his workshops, this video is the next best thing!

About the artist

Simon Levin has been working in clay since 1990, when an elective ceramics course in college changed the direction of his life, leading to an M.A. and an M.F.A from the University of Iowa. He is a full time studio potter working exclusively with wood firing. His award winning work is exhibited internationally, and appears in several contemporary ceramic books. Simon is a writer for many ceramic journals, and in 2013 he traveled to Taiwan as a Senior Fulbright scholar researching local materials. As a kiln builder Simon has built wood fired kilns for both US colleges and universities as well as schools in Taiwan and China. Between 2005 and 2018 his apprenticeship program started has trained and influenced 17 young potters. A resident of Wisconsin for 18 years, Simon has recently moved to Pawnee, Illinois, where he is currently re-establishing his pottery.

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