Unf@%king your centering

So we can say this will be the first blog post complimenting an upcoming video series titled, “How to unf@%k your pot.” The series will be dedicated to showing you pragmatic solutions for common wheel throwing/pottery problems. Today I’ll be discussing centering.

Centering is the most challenging part of throwing initially and I’ve seen more students screwed up from bad/antiquated techniques than I care to think about.

Where do these techniques come from and why do they persist?

Its my hypothesis, as there is no way I can think of to prove it as a theory, that these antiquated techniques (predominantly the coning method of centering) go back to when the potter’s wheel was either hand spun or leg spun (meaning a kick wheel). Essentially a pre-industrial time before electric motors. This centering method makes sense for that time period or style of wheel and though I hesitate to share the above link, I think its important you know what I’m talking about.

Below you’ll see examples of the wheels I mean:

Now here in lies the problem, you’re most likely not buying one of these wheels. So why the fuck would you learn to center for them! Most likely you are buying a Brent wheel or something derivative of that design.

So basically its an antiquated method that shouldn’t be taught anymore, but since no one questions anything in pottery and everyone has to do it like how grand master Jiro in Kyoto taught it in the 18th century or Maestro Guisseppe from Florence in 1512, students are stuck being taught this shit.

What I teach my students (and as you can tell am an emphatic proponent of) is a variation of what I believe is called the XY method of centering. Here I am centering in real time:

and here I am from another angle:

If you notice, I can center my clay in about 2 thirds the time as the other video.

So how do you do this?

For a right handed person here’s how its done:

Make sure your hands are wet and your wheel speed is high

Keep your left hand on the piece, elbow tucked into your rib cage and arm resting on your thigh. Lean into the piece with your body weight. If your arm is in the right place you will be pushing forward and into the piece of clay.

With your right hand hold your sponge filled with water and slowly squeeze the water as you push down onto the clay. This will keep the clay wet and not feeling like hot sandpaper.

As the clay get closer to center, use the fingers and muscles of the left hand to compress around the outside, feeling for any bumps or inconsistencies in smoothness.

When the clay is running between your hands smoothly and effortlessly, easily and gently release your hands.

NEVER TAKE YOUR HANDS AWAY FAST, that’s guaranteed to uncenter everything you just did. Also know that no piece of clay is ever 100% perfectly centered. If it feels 95% or better, open it up and start making something. The experience will do you more good than obsessing on perfection.

For left handers, just reverse everything I said and don’t let any teacher force you to learn right handed. That’s laziness on their part.

My videos were shot at and if you’re interested in classes there, click the link and give Linda a call.

I also teach a group class and privates on Saturdays in Williamsburg, Brookyln at if you’d like to learn from me personally.

Finally, make sure to check my Youtube page often as I am always adding new videos and the more in depth lessons will be airing soon.

Now, stop reading and go make something!

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

4 Responses to “Unf@%king your centering”
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Choplet you’ll know that these techniques aren’t as physically demanding as centering, opening or even pulling a […]


  2. […] a U shaped bowl, simply start with a wider base. You can achieve a wider base in two parts, first centering by pushing down a little more with your top hand thus making the clay a little wider and second in […]


  3. […] want to, of course, center the clay and open […]


  4. […] of course start by centering and then opening, however unlike last weeks post on U shaped bows, I’m not going to open […]


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