Chapter III
the Clay
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Table of 


try centering



Centering is more challenging than it looks.
It looks very easy - but it takes focused concentration and practice
If you have trouble, try these suggestions:

1) softer clay (see 1a below)
2) a more determined and carefully placed body position
3) slower and firmer releases (see 3a & 3b below)
4) repeated actions - not long drawn out efforts (see 4a & 4b below)
5) avoid pain or soreness (see 5a below)

1a) Soften clay by mixing in the mush from practice sessions with the new clay to get something easy to move. Mix by stacking alternate slices of hard and soft. Clay can also be softened by cutting thin slices, dipping slices in water, stacking them. Mix until totally uniform.

3a) Centering happens by actually actively moving the clay (a quarter to half inch) while the wheel turns at a medium speed. Keep it wet and slippery. Make it squirm.

3b) The main secret is to release this pressure with a slow and determined force so the clay actually evens out during the release of the pressure.

4a) Do not try to hold the centering position for more than two or three seconds but stay firm and determined until you are totally off of the clay.

4b) Do this repeatedly adding water for each time.
The clay needs to improve a bit each time. If it doesn't get closer to being centered, review the position and firm up the pressure during the slow release phase. Do not hold it longer.

5a) If you have any muscle pain or experience any nerve tingle from stressing the wrists, stop working. Find a less stressed position, or take a 24 hour break to allow tendons and muscles time to recuperate and grow. Review the arm positions. Proper bracing of you arms against your body takes away most of the stress from your wrist muscles. Softer clay also helps.
back to centering suggestions

Are you left-handed?  Ignore it.  In the Orient, wheels traditionally rotate clockwise, while in the West, they rotate counter clockwise.  Right and left-handed potters in Japan do quite well working with positions exactly opposite the positions shown in these photographs.  Throwing is a skill in which it depends on the how you learn it - not whether you are right or left-handed.  Therefore, left-handed pottery students should be assured that they can use their hands in the same positions that right-handed potters do.  Both hands do equally important work. These photos assume the wheel is turning counter clockwise as in the West.   -mb

all rights reserved - all images and content copyright Marvin Bartel -  2000

This page updated December 3, 2004.
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Goshen College Art Department

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