I just took my first pottery class yesterday, from Hinckley Pottery in my neighborhood. The studio was full of dust and clay and hippies. Each shelf was labeled with a multitude of stickers like “please don’t scrape the sides of the barrels to get rid of hardened clay – the clay can clog the sink”, “no Republicans here”, “Hey weirdos, this is where the fired-pottery goes”, “I break for Republicans”, “please recycle the orange clay, and sift through the screen first”, “I am a cat lady and all my cats are liberal”, and other things of the sort.
During our first class, we focused on centering the clay, and making our first lop-sided bowl. Let me tell you a little bit more about centering the clay. Centering the clay is a term used to describe the process of putting your clay on the wheel, and making sure that it’s perfectly centered. If it isn’t, you will get a lop-sided object since your (relatively) stable hand will work on a piece of clay that rotates at varying distances from the edges of your hands.
Step 1 - First knead the clay to get rid of the imperfections and the air bubbles.
Step 2 – Take a comfortable position on your chair and get your legs wrapped around the wheel. Your arms will be locked against your hip-bones when working, so it’s important that you be as close to the wheel as possible
Step 3 – Throw your rounded piece of clay on the wheel, as close to the center as possible. Start the wheel spinning quickly.
Step 4 – With the palm of your left hand, you push the clay up. Your right hand just cups the other side. Make sure that the mount is wet (you can squeeze water from a sponge on it)
Step 5 – With the palm of your right hand, you push the clay back down. Your left hand just cups the clay. Again, the mount should be kept wet.
Step 6 – Repeat the process several times, until your clay is centered.
This seems like a maddeningly easy process, and the video I am posting also makes it look like a piece of cake, but trust me, clay is not easily malleable, and your hands are a lot more clumsy then you give them credit for. Also, your forearms will ache the next day. Here’s a video of the whole process: