Beginners Tips to Improve Your Throwing
What do you struggle most with when throwing on the potters wheel? I remember when I first started I struggled a lot with centering the clay as well as feeling like I had full control over what I was making - a lot of the time I felt like the clay was deciding what shape it was going to be rather than me!
As with any new skill it's practice, practice, practice. Try not to feel too precious about what you're making (not easy, I know). Every mistake will enable you to make the next pot that little bit better.
Here are my top tips for improving your throwing:
This one is so important. To be able to control the clay you must have your body over the wheel. Although your hands are doing the work, it's your body that's providing the power.
Remember to take breaks - there's a reason that lots of potters have bad backs! Stand up, have a stretch every half an hour or so.
2. Connection with your body
This follows on from my first tip. Your body is there to provide a steady anchor against the spinning clay. Always have your elbows sitting on your legs to connect them to this anchor (or on the wheel pan, whichever is most comfortable). If your arms are floating out away from your body you'll find the clay is going to be moving your hands around, whereas we need it to be the other way around - your hands moving the clay.
3. Direct the power
This applies particularly to centering which is when you need to use the most power to get your clay in the middle of the wheel head. After coning the clay several times, I use the heel of my left hand and imagine I'm pushing an invisible line right through the centre of the ball of the clay, whilst applying a little pressure with my right hand on the top of the clay. Although the whole of my left hand is wrapped around the side of the clay to control it, it's very much the heel that's doing the work. By concentrating the power into one part of your hand, it becomes much easier to control the clay. Put your body power behind it (rather than just the power in your hand alone, which isn't very much), which is easy because your arm is connected to your body... see tip 1!
4. Your hands as one tool
Try to think of your hands as one tool rather than two separate ones - they need to work together to control the clay well. At every stage of throwing a pot, my hands are touching in some way. This is particularly important when pulling up the walls; your hands are either side of the wall of the pot but need to stay opposite each other to bring up the wall evenly. Make sure your hands are touching is some way, even if it's just touching your thumbs together above the rim as your fingers do the work inside the pot. You'll find your hands can 'talk to each other' more easily if they're physically connected. The tricky bit comes when your pots get too tall to be to connect your hands - at this point take it very slowly and get your hands connected as soon as you're able as you get nearer the top of the wall.
Then practice, and practice a little more! Good luck and let me know how you get on!