Know what you want to make

Continuing the preface section of the blog that will deal with the “mental game” of pottery. w

Often while I am teaching novice students (ones that have been throwing long enough to know the basics of how to make shapes) I’ll hear the frustration in their voice about how they make the same shape over and over.

What was once novel and exciting has now become stale and redundant.

In response I’ll typically ask them what their process is, and more often than not they don’t have a cognitive one laid out. They understand what they need to do to make something on the wheel, but when they sit down they have no product predetermined in their mind.

This is setting yourself up to fail from the beginning!


So to that end, you have to prepare to make something specifically from the moment you take out your tools. Sitting down and “seeing what will happen” will just lead you to the same shape over and over again.

Here is an example of what I mean: You come into the studio, set your wheel up and then heading to the wedging table with your bag of clay. Without weighing the clay you rip off some pieces and wedge them. Then you sit down, center and open up. Now you’re deciding what to make (if you’re lucky). You think that you’ll make a mug or vase, but realize you have way too much clay on the wheel and you end up making your 100th bowl, to your own disgust/annoyance.

Does this sound familiar? If so here’s where you went wrong: You were fucked from the moment before you opened the bag of clay. In actuality, you were fucked on the drive to the studio when you didn’t know exactly what goals you were going to accomplish and what pieces you were going to make.

If you want to make a mug for example, you need no more than a 1 1/4 lb to 1 3/4lb of clay, depending on how big a mug you want to make. Once you go over that amount, its not going to be an effective mug for anyone under at least 6 feet tall.

Once you’ve weighed out the clay, you need a vision in your head of the shape of the mug. I would recommend having a picture reference or drawing something out. If you don’t have that, stick with just making simple cylinders. Don’t get fancy, you can make it fancy in the trimming/carving stage.

If you set out with a predetermined shape and appropriately weighed clay, I promise you, you will break the cycle of making the same thing over and over again.

Remember what they would say in a professional kitchen: Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.

So come prepared and happy throwing.

Questions on the technique, email me at, like what I’m doing feel free to shop my Etsy store



7 Responses to “Know what you want to make”
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  1. […] made the mistake of not knowing what you want to make. To cure that problem, please look at my previous post from several weeks ago. So what you are doing is fiddling around with the piece to achieve some […]


  2. […] prep – This includes measuring, wedging and setting up your wheel. You can read more about it here and here. This is important cause as they would say in a professional kitchen (and I know […]


  3. […] first thing is that you have to know what you’re making. For the rest of the article, I’ll make the assumption that you do or that you’ve gone […]


  4. […] other posts, if you aren’t already following this blog. The reason being, is that I discuss fundamental strategies and preparation techniques that will set you up for […]


  5. […] probably don’t know what you want to make, to which is I say go back and read my blog about knowing what you want to make. That’ll keep you from fucking around too much and driving yourself […]


  6. […] lets start with the last problem, read an earlier blog of mine about knowing what you want to make. Second decide the shape of the bowl. They break down into two […]


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