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Lots of people ask how things are made so I thought I’d put together a little photo series on how I make a bowl. Everybody makes things a little different, but the general steps are similar. Notice through all the steps my hands are always touching each other, this helps provides added stability to fight the action of the moving clay. I also make every attempt to have my elbows close to my body and often on my legs to provide stability and to use my body as leverage when using large balls of clay.
I start with 1.5 pounds of clay which is kind of thrown onto the center of the wheel. Because the clay ball is oddly shaped and uneven, it must be centered which involves pushing down on the ball with my right hand and pushing in with my left hand on the side to smooth out the bumps and lop-sidedness of the clay ball. When you’ve centered the clay, it looks like the photo below.

Clay ball is centered when my hands don’t wobble as the clay spins

Next I press my fingers down at the center of the clay ball to a point about 1/4″ from the bat (wood piece added on the metal wheel head allows me to remove the bowl on the bat while it is still wet without distorting the bowl) I test the thickness by stopping the wheel and poking a needle tool through the bottom of the depression I’ve made until it touches the bat.

Once I have the appropriate thickness at the bottom, I pull out the sides by pressing my fingers outward and steadying the clay with the outside hand

I make the sides of the bowl taller and thinner by pressing the clay upward between my fingers on the outside and inside of the clay. Starting at the bottom and moving my hands upward while putting pressure on the clay moves clay upward and outward.

A second pull is done just like the first one

And a third pull brings it to the sides as tall as I’d like them and the clay is at the appropriate thickness. Many potters subscribe to the “three pull rule” when throwing. I’m not really a stickler for that, but generally after three pulls I’ve gotten my clay to the state I’d like. Occasionally more pulls are necessary, but my clay starts to get too wet and unmanageable after that.

Using a wood rib, I shape the bowl to a more pleasing curved shape and smooth out any lines left from pulling the clay.

A small piece of chamois is used to smooth and shape the rim of the bowl. This is an easy area to have rough spots so I like to make sure it is smooth.

After drying for several hours to the leather hard stage (you can touch it, but your fingers don’t leave marks) I place the bowl on a tool called a Giffon Grip. What you can’t see in this picture because the wheel is spinning is these little pads on the side of the bowl which hold it in place and centered while I trim the excess clay from the bottom and create a pleasing foot ring.

After trimming the foot ring it is important to smooth this area as my clay is a little rough and sharp edges on the bottom of pots could scratch surfaces like table and counters.

Once trimmed the bowl is left to dry, then it will be bisque fired and glazed. I’ll cover those stages in a later post.
Check back again. Be well.