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Creating a System and Finding a Rhythm

Part 3 of my preface on the “mental game” of pottery

In my previous post I discussed how to be mentally prepare before you sit down at the wheel and start throwing. You can read it here: Know what you want to make

In full disclosure that’s only step 1 in becoming a better wheel thrower. Once you’ve made a pre-determined decision on what you want to make you then need to make the correct mental preparations to make the piece.

First you need to weigh out and wedge the right amount of clay. I prefer to do all my weighing and wedging up front. Once I start throwing I do not want to break my rhythm to have to get up and wedge something new.

Second, you want to think about your work space. This can be tricky depending on where you are working. If you are in a community studio this will affect you depending on the time of day and level of busyness. If you are working in a semi-private or private work space it will be a lot easier to customize things.

Ultimately you want to set yourself up in such a way that you can do as little thinking and decision making as possible. The more you can mentally automate the more consistent you will be. If you want to know more about the value of automation and decision fatigue I suggest looking into Tim Ferriss his books, twitter and podcast. It’s valuable information that will serve you well in many aspects of your life.

Now everyone’s wheel station will be set up differently to his or her personal taste, but in order to give some model I’ll describe how I like my work station to be.

To my immediate right I will have 2 large home depot buckets. One to catch slurry scraps the other filled with water. The extra water is to clean up my wheel, wipe down my wheel and refill my smaller water bucket. Diagonally to my right on a small shelf system I’ll keep my ruler (so I can make sure the pieces hit the right size) and on a lower level all the bats I’ll need or have.

In front of me and to my right on the wheel itself I have my bucket of warm water, with 2 sponges and a chamois cloth. To the left of that my tools: 2 red rubber ribs, maybe 2 yellow ribs (depending on the piece), 1 wood rib, 1 wood modeling tool/wood knife and a pin tool. I usually keep the tools in a pint container and will rest them on the container while throwing, except for the rubber ribs which are on the wheel.

On my left is Captain America (get it, its a Winter Solider reference…). Seriously, its a rolling cart or some shelving unit. The first two levels are meant for the pieces I throw. The lowest level keeps all the wedged clay I will be throwing.the point

It’s set up like this so I can easily grab a bat with my right, the clay with my left and then immediately dip my hands in the water, grab a sponge and start centering. The tools are elevated so I can clearly see them and grab them as needed and the ribs are always in the same area so I can grab them without being able to see them. When I’m done throwing a piece it is immediately put to my left and I start again.

Once the cart is filled, I’ll then take the pieces off the bats, move them to ware boards and put them on boards. They will be covered depending on how wet they are and if I’ll have time to trim the next day.

So the point of me telling you all this is so you can start thinking about how you set yourself up at the wheel. If you think about it cognitively and analyze how you place things you can stream line your system and that will allow you to develop a rhythm. When you start setting up in a consistent manner you will start throwing more consistently as well. Its the little habits that will make you more successful.

OK now stop reading and go throw something.

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

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  1. […] you sit at the wheel to throw, you have to know what you want to make. Have a system of steps in place that will allow you to make it and then, most importantly, STOP once you’ve made […]

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  2. […] 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 I’ve […]

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