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How to pull a wall, without f%&king up

So this week I’ll be discussing the part of throwing guaranteed to both seduce, tease and frustrate you, pulling a wall. The thing to remember about pulling a wall is that its a different entity than centering and opening.

This is often the part where students look at my funny when I am giving a demo. Sometimes they tilt there head to the side in perplexity.

The confusion comes from switching hand placements, the reduction of speed and the use of the sponge. However, once you get these techniques and grasp the concept of being slow and steady with your hands, pulling a wall becomes the most relaxing and meditative part of wheel throwing.

Now unlike other areas of the process I’m not as critical or finicky about how others teach to pull walls. Mostly because its a motion that’s not as open to a lot of interpretation. Where as centering and opening can still get you a result despite the quality of technique, pulling a wall won’t happen unless you’re in the general ball park.

That being said…some people still fuck it up royally and then wonder why they aren’t advancing.

It took some doing, because from what I could find on YouTube there were a lot of good instruction videos on how to pull a wall, but here is one (with several techniques) that I would say DON’T DO

So why should you not use this technique: They are over using their finger tips which leads to rigid and uneven walls. Their hands are in a weak position. They are way way over compressing the rim as well as through out the video mostly because they can’t center or keep their clay centered for shit. So yeah, DON’T DO ANY OF THAT.

Pulling a wall should be kept simple, clean and done directly. Here is an example of me throwing a mug (its done in time lapse) but you can see how much more straight forward it is:

OK, so now onto the fun part…Pulling the wall.

You should pull your walls immediately after opening, click the link if you need a refresher on opening. My style of opening already pulls your first wall for you and compresses the rim seamlessly, so you can go right to gaining some height.

When pulling the wall (again this is for right handed people, so if you’re left handed please reverse everything) always start between 4 and 5 o’clock on the wheel. God help me for those who don’t know what I mean by that…Here is a picture of a clock face:

891cd0c721d4a86b9ba5aff2d02ee3e6--blank-clock-large-clock

See where 4 and 5 is, that’s where you want to be on the wheel head.

Before you get started make sure your right arm is resting/anchored onto your right thigh and your left elbow is tucked into your left rib cage. This will keep your hands steady. It will also keep you using small muscle groups (your hands and forearms) which are much easier to control than large groups like your shoulders and back.

You’re going to use your middle finger, ring ringer and thumb of your left hand to pinch the clay. You’ll start your pinch as close to the bat as you can get. Your index and pinky will not be involved but will remain relaxed. Why the middle and ring finger? Simple, they are the strongest fingers in your hand. Your index has the most dexterity but not the most strength and the pinky is meant for sticking up in the air when drinking tea from the lovely tea cups you’ll be making.

With the right hand you’ll hold the sponge firmly with the thumb on top and all four fingers wrapped around the sponger, exposing maybe only 10% of the actual sponge. The sponge is there to keep the clay moist and so your hand doesn’t snag on a microscopic dry spot warping your wall.

Placing your right hand with the sponge under the thumb of the left hand you want to pinch assertively, but not too aggressively (less pressure is better than too much so you don’t rip the clay right off). Your right hand will create the driving and steadying action bringing your hands upward toward your face. As you get to the top of the clay you want to release the pressure slowly till the clay is just sliding between your fingers when you’re at the rim.

Continue the pulling action at least half an inch to a full inch above the rim, then move your hands apart and dunk back into the water bucket. Taking your hands away to soon before finishing the pull is a guaranteed way of fucking your rim up.

If it feels like its taking forever to pull the wall, that’s a good thing. Don’t rush, this should be a meditative moment:

OK, now repeat that process.

You need about 2 to 3 pulls to get something usable. For basic shapes like cylinders and bowls don’t go over 5 to 6 pulls. The more you pull, they more you play the higher chance of loosing what you want to make. If you’re doing that and playing around, you 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 nuts.

OK…now go pull some walls and make something cool.

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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3 Responses to “How to pull a wall, without f%&king up”
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  1. […] Removing something from the wheel is an interesting proposition. Its the simplest techniques, yet if done wrong (and believe me a lot of people do it wrong) the piece you made will be wrecked. That being said, if I’ve taught you personally either at Island Pottery or Choplet you’ll know that these techniques aren’t as physically demanding as centering, opening or even pulling a wall. […]

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  2. […] now we will throw a wall. It could either be straight up, on a diagonal or with a little be of a curve. It doesn’t […]

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  3. […] reading the blog, feel free to go back to my later posts on bowl making, unfucking bowl problems, general wheel throwing techniques and the mental game of […]

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