Introduction of Pottery--Learning how to throw by simple steps

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

The introduction of pottery

Pottery is one of the oldest human invention. Clay figures discovered in the Crezh Republic dates back to 29,000BC; vessels found in Jiangxi, China dates back to 18,000BC and pre – Neolithic pottery artifacts found in Jomon , Japan, dates back to 10,500BC. These clay objects recorded the time, the people and the place which they were made.

Usually made from local clay that were dugout right under their feet, hand- shaping techniques to create forms. The earliest method for firing was the use of bonfire which known as pit firing, fired up around 900 degree. Because pottery is durable, some of the greatest parts of the history of human race is acknowledged through the studies of ancient pottery artifacts; giving us the insight of the prehistoric, past of the past pre-literate cultures.

After learning a little about the history of pottery, do you know that there are also different types of clay?

There are three main types of pottery clay, let's get to know them briefly!

Earthenware was the earliest clay type used and were fired at low temperatures. Before glazes were invented, the forms were porous and could not contain any forms of liquid.

Stoneware was developed by the Chinese during Hang dynasty (202BC- 220AD), with a much stronger and non- porous quality, fired between 1,100 -1,200 degrees.

Porcelain which was also invented by the Chinese during Shang dynasty (1600-1046BC). Fired between 1,200- 1,400 degrees, the toughness, strength and translucence which was later on famously known across the world with the help along of the silk road trading.

After knowing the types of clay, let's take a look at a brief introduction to the history of throwing!

The history of wheel throwing

The wheel was invented in ancient Mesopotamia, nowadays known as Iraq, around 3,000 B.C. Although, many reliable facts have stated the ancient Sumerians were the brain behind this invention. The south-eastern Europe, China and Egypt have also been claimed to be the first ones to have developed the uses of throwing wheels.

The design was inspired by the action of coiling; a dry mat or large leaf was placed at the bottom of the vessel. Rather than walking around the vessel to add coils of clay, it allows the potter to rotate the vessel to save time and energy during making.

Before the invention of the wheel, pots were hand- shaped by pinching or coiling. The disadvantage of these hand – shaping method is that a single vessel could take up quite a long time to create.

As our societies grew and so did our everyday needs, it increased the demand of pottery making then. Responding to these demands, a number hand- shaping method were improved, such as using different tools to speed up coiling process or using what then called mould, which was made from stones and wood.

The earliest form of the wheel- the slow wheel, was slowly powdered by hand. But within a short time, the fast wheel was developed which operated on the flywheel principle. It stored energy in the rotating mass of the heavy stone wheel itself to speed the process. It was wound up and charge with energy by kicking by foot or pushing it around with a stick, providing a centrifugal force.

The fast wheel enabled a new process of pottery-making to develop, called throwing, in which a lump of clay was placed centrally on the wheel and then squeezed, lifted and shaped as the wheel turned. The process tends to leave rings on the inside of the pot and can be used to create thinner-walled pieces and a wider variety of shapes, including stemmed vessels, so wheel-thrown pottery can be distinguished from handmade. Potters could now produce many more pots per hour, a first step towards mass pottery production industry.

What and how to centring ?

The number one key factor of wheel throwing is centring. The meaning of this term is to shape the clay onto the centre of your wheel using the pressure of your hands. If the clay is not centred, it would be difficult to throw a symmetrical round shape form; even thickness through the piece and affect the turning stage.

For beginners:

  1. Overlap your fingers by 12o’clock on the wheel in front of the clay

  2. Place you left hand onto 9 o’clock and right hand by 3 o’clock.

3.Gently press the two hands towards the middle of the wheel

4. Slowly lift up your hand alongside with the clay, forming a cone shape.

5. Once the cone shape is formed, gently press down the clay with left hand wrap around and right hand holding left hand thumb

6. Slowly push down from the tip of the cone using the side part of your hand.

7. While pushing, make sure the left hand is supporting the clay in shape and right hand is firmly pushing straight down.

8. Repeat this “coning up and down “action until the clay is in the centre.

For intermediate:

For a faster centring, you can follow the same coning up and down routine by only using the two thick parts of the lower palm muscles. Locking your fingers around the cone and pulling up and pushing down with one smooth motion, this action is called kneading through the clay.

For advance:

If you are an experienced potter, you can try centring with one hand. It is the same routine of coning up and down but only with one side of your hand. Placing your strong hand around the clay, squeezing the clay into your palm with your fingers and move upwards. Pushing it down by using the thick muscles of your thumb.

After reading some tips, do you have a better grasp of throwing skills?

The last one is the precautions when you do throwing:

1. Keep your hands stable and move your hand with the clay

2. Do not let go of your hands suddenly to keep the center of the clay stable

3. Keep the clay at a proper humidity, so that the clay will not stick to your hands and cause the center to sway or add too much water to make the clay soft and collapse.

If you also have difficulties encountered during throwing, welcome to leave a comment and share with us!

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