Thursday, June 05, 2008

On Throwing Eight Pounds of Clay

I received a commission for a kitchen utensil holder. When I asked the buyer for the size, she specified 8 inches in diameter by 8 inches tall. That's a HUGE piece -- but I figured I could just throw it in a few minutes and gave her a quote that, in retrospect, was way too low for what I was about to face.

At the studio I cut 8 lbs. off my clay and decided to wedge it on the wheel by coning up and down, rather than accidentally wedging air into it on the table.

Let the fun begin!

I started by trying to cone the lump up and down. It coned up and down, but wouldn't quite center. Da**! I probably trapped air under the clay cuz I forgot to dome it a bit before slapping it down on the wheel. UGH!

Cut the clay off the wheel, dome the bottom and slap it back down. But, by now, the whole thing was out of round again. Begin coning again. Nice! I almost had it and decided to give it a pull from the back, since my body was getting a bit tired and that would use different muscles. Big mistake!

I moved both my hands to the back of the clay and began pulling toward me. Nice -- the clay is doing just what I want. So, I began to move my hands up a bit.

Now, let me paint a picture here. Remember, when centering, our wheel is usually going at a pretty fair clip. Centrifugal force -- can work for us, or against us. In this case, it wasn't on my side. In one single move upward I pull the bat off the wheel head as the centrifugal force sends it like an 8 pound frisbee right into my midsection. I torque backwards, a reflex trying to protect my delicate innards from the wild beast of earth. But there's no avoiding destiny.

I moved to handbuilding for the rest of the day.

The piece came out quite nicely, built around a Danish cookie tin covered with yesterday's newspaper. I textured it and it sits in the drying cabinet, while I nurse my sore arms and midsection.

As for my ego -- I will now present myself as a potter who throws "quality smaller pieces". I won't stop making larger pieces -- I'll just save them for my handbuilding skills.