A new undertaking: wheel thrown pottery

For the past four months, I’ve been learning how to throw clay on a wheel, and let me just say, it’s been a humbling experience!  I guess it’s easy to forget how difficult learning a new skill is, and how difficult it is to be bad at something – I mean, really suck at it – and struggle to develop even basic proficiency.  It has reminded me how beneficial it is to keep learning new things, even at my advanced in-my-40s age, because I can see how quickly that ability can atrophy.

I started with a once-a-week class at Georgies Ceramics and Clay, but I quickly concluded that i was never going to grasp the basic fundamentals without some extra work.  I took a private lesson early on, and then started coming into Georgies three times a week, to get in additional practice time and to watch and learn from all of the people using open studio time.  My progress has been very slow – in part because there is a lot to learn!  I never thought much beyond the actual throwing of the object on the wheel, but then there is figuring out how to get your piece to dry not too fast, but not too slow; how to trim; how to pull and add handles; how to glaze (very frustrating!), and all of the dozens and dozens of different ways that the finished object can be carved, decorated, colored, added to, or otherwise finished.

After one session of classes, I decided that I wanted to invest long-term in this new hobby, so I retrofitted an old shed on our property into my pottery studio.  I hired a contractor to clean it out, finished the inside with plywood walls and ceiling, and coat the floor and 3′ up the walls with an easy-clean cement finish.  I found a used commercial sink and had it installed, along with a small hot water heater.  I had the shed wired for electricity, and then installed the kiln and a small electric heater, since keeping the room at a constant temperature is very important for ensuring that the clay dries evenly (plus, it gets cold out there in the winter!)  Once I added in the wheel, a table for weighing and wedging the clay, a fan for quick drying, and several metal shelving racks, I was all set!  Oh, I also added in a small portable Bose speaker system, so that I could sync my iPhone and play Pandora :)

Here’s what it looks like now:

pottery studio 1

pottery studio 2

pottery studio 3

pottery studio 4

pottery studio 5

I’m buying just enough clay and supplies to get started, and slowly adding glazes, underglazes, and tools as I need them.  The studio has quickly become a quiet haven – not in small part because it’s separate from the house and the girls have to really work at it if they want to come find me!

In upcoming posts, I’ll include photos of some of my first projects – not that these are fine examples of handiwork, by any means, but I like the idea of chronicling where I’m starting at, so hopefully I can look back some day and feel like I’ve actually progressed :)  I find it’s also important to keep a record of the designs and glazes I’ve used, in case I want to replicate a project later on.

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2 comments on “A new undertaking: wheel thrown pottery

  1. Thanks for sharing. I recently began throwing on a wheel at the advanced age of 54! I am finding it fun and frustrating. Your comment about being really bad at something new struck a chord! I have been taking them once a week but feel as you did, that I need to do more. Your studio looks great and how lucky to have it right at your fingertips!! Your pottery looks great and it is inspiring.

    • Thanks Becky – it’s nice to know there’s someone out there experiencing some of the same things I am! I’d love to see your work as it progresses :)

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