UnF$%king your trimming

So today, myself and WordPress are not getting along. This is my third attempt to write the blog today, which is why its out later than I usually release it…Nevertheless, I’ve moved locations and changed computers in an attempt to change my luck.

So in the words of JRR Tolkien…On we go!

Today’s topic is about troubleshooting common problems in trimming your bowls and in general I suppose. For a tutorial on bowl trimming please go to last weeks post. There are some common issues that I think everyone has when they begin trimming and some that might still dog you for awhile. In no particular order:

Difficulty centering

Keep the bowl stuck to the wheel

Having too much to trim

Judging thickness

What to do when it’s too dry

Most likely if you’re reading this you’re in the camp of potters that hate trimming. If so, it might be because you were taught by someone like in the following 2 videos:

I won’t say that the techniques are wrong, but I certainly won’t say that they are the best ways to get people introduced to trimming. Also I find the teacher in the top video to be a bit of an asshole.

So let’s go through some of these issues!


I’m not a fan of the either of the methods shown. If you were taught them you might be having issues centering. I prefer a slow, methodical technique of moving the piece incrementally into center when the wheel isn’t moving. You have a lot less chance of the piece flying off the wheel. Also unlike in the first video I wouldn’t trim on a bat, the bat makes no sense. I would encourage you to use the concentric rings on the wheel head. Even though he says it doesn’t work and that he’s not trimming there, when you watch the video, he clearly does trim in that area. Also why not just make life easier for yourself?

Keeping the piece stuck on the wheel

Again, use the wheel head. Its a little more course which will help the clay stick more than a smooth bat. Also, use clay that’s close to the level of dryness your piece has. So don’t use wet clay on a leather hard piece. Use some clay that will give you a bit of resistance. Finally, don’t go fast. I have no ideas why he goes so fast with his wheel in the first video.

Having too much to trim

You see this problem in the second video. Why she took the piece of in such a state I have no idea. You should trim your piece up a bit before taking it off the wheel, for no other reason that it sets you up for more success later in trimming. Think about it too, if you can’t get to your piece when you want to and come back to it a little later than expected to find it dried out, its going to be that much harder to trim and more likely to snag and fly off the wheel. Do yourself a favor, trim it a little before you finish throwing. It will also give you a better idea of what you want it to look like when you trim it.

Judging thickness

Now this is the part that I felt the guy in the first video was a real dick. He called potters who have thick bowls lazy. Well in a perfect world that might be true, but in a practical one there are many reasons to have a thicker bowl. I also enjoyed his demonstration of how to check thickness only to see at the end when he cut it in half that he admitted it was still a little thick.

My advice, trim the bowl till you like how it looks.

If the bowl is trimmed to the shape you want it to be and you’re happy with it, chances are it won’t be thick enough to blow up in the kiln (which is what everyone worries about).

Let me tell you though, thin is an obsession potters need to get away from. As a former tech, I hate thin pieces. They broke way too easily when loading. They are also subject to cracking and are a pain to tumble stack (which I assure you is happening to your piece if you’re at a communal studio). A good tech will be as careful as they can be, but don’t expect them t treat your piece like a priceless Ming vase.

Now if you’re happy with how its trimmed, but its still thicker than you’d like it to be you have options.  You could do some carving and add a unique design element to your work. Also, and I don’t give a fuck what anyone tells you, you can trim the inside of the piece. This is somehow a faux pas in pottery and a dirty little secret. Why, I have no idea.

Its your bowl, make it look how you want it to. Do whatever you have to do and if someone gives you shit for trimming the inside tell them that Grand Master Jiro from Kyoto died 5 centuries ago, join the 21st century and shut the fuck up.

(The taboo surrounding trimming the inside of your bowl is a great example of the bullshit dogma that continues to permeate pottery.)

What to do when its too dry

This is the problem that will affect every potter no matter how long he or she has been practicing. You have options: 1) throw it away – if you weren’t that happy with it anyway, why waist your time trimming. 2) Scrub it down with a green scrub pad – if you followed my advice and trimmed your piece a bit before taking it off than you can get away with scrubbing it. It won’t have a foot, but there is no pottery law that requires every bowl have a foot. 3) You can trim it incrementally by wetting it with a sponge – basically do everything you would to trim but before each pass you wet the piece with a sponge, then trim. Its annoying and time consuming, but it does work.

Well there you have it! I finally got this one finished, huzzah!!! Next week, I’ll be going over decorative options for your bowls.

Until then, get into the studio and make 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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