Friday, August 26, 2011

Ian Lamb's Demonstration at August Meeting

An example of one of Ian's beautiful bottles.
Ian Lamb gave a wonderful demonstration on throwing and provided some useful tips. 

To  warm up before throwing he recommends throwing 65 pots each with 500 gms of clay in one hour.  Not you?  Then just try a few bowls. 

Measuring tool to throw bowls of the same size
Here are Ian’s points to remember – a) weigh each ball of clay and throw to the size and shape you want in order to gain uniformity in the size of the bowls, b) attach a wire or measure to the side of the wheel to ensure the height and width of the bowl is the same.  You could use a kebab stick etc. Consolidate the rim and d) make sure the bottom “corner” of the bowl is rounded to allow the user to get the last bit of food easily.  Use one bowl as a reference when making a large number of bowls.

Sometimes we get caught up in concentrating so hard on what we are trying to achieve that we are tense.  Ian suggests quite often it is useful to continue to breath and relax a little.  It is important to know where your hands are in relation to the pot you are throwing and determine the speed of the wheel at the different stages of production.  Wedge your clay or use a pug mill.  You as the potter must know beforehand what it is you are going to make.  You cannot decide half way through the throwing if you want to be successful.  For inexperienced throwers mastering the cylinder is essential.  Most of our forms come from this shape.
A smallish bottle

Here is a recap when throwing the cylinder to create a bottle shape - weigh your clay and centre it.  Pull it up to the height you want and thin the walls.  Work out where the shoulder of the pot should be, remove the excess water from the inside and then squeeze in the neck. With your fingers on the inside, pull up the clay further and this will give height to the neck of the bottle.  Shape the shoulders to make them rounded and continue to collar in.  Pull up the neck again by pushing in with the fingers of the right hand but control she shape with the thumb and 2nd finger of the left hand.  Adjust the speed of the wheel –take your time and breathe.  Old plastic credit cards are useful to shape the neck and can provide a means of decoration on the pot.  Further decoration can be added once the pot is drier.
Ian’s tips for making bottle forms are a) know where the clay is so that you are able to shape the form to make a bottle, b) make a cylinder and ensure that there is thickness at the base for support, enough clay in the middle to allow you to “belly” out and that the top is not too thick and heavy.  Remember, know what you are making before you begin.
When you are centring clay you may have noticed that men have an advantage with their strength over women.  Don’t despair ladies, all you need to do is to use your arm by pushing into the groin or anchoring it to the wheel and pushing the clay to centre.  With the left hand on the outside after centring, push the fingers of the right hand in and push down.  Swap over the left hand into the centre and use the right hand on the outside to open up and pull the clay away from the wheel.  If you are throwing really big bottles throw the neck as a separate piece and attach on the wheel later.  Of course everyone has their own way of centring and opening up the clay but if you are having trouble you may want to try Ian’s method.

throwing a larger bottle, starting with a cylinder

Shaping the bottle base
Ian demonstrated throwing a large blossom pot.  He used a very large amount of clay but did not centre it all in one piece.  He centred the first piece and then added more clay to this piece and centred then continued until he had the amount of clay he wanted.  He pulled up the clay to form a cylinder as described above.  For his pot, he suggested that 1cm thick walls would support the pot.  He indicated that you must control the top so that it does not get too wide before you begin to collar in.  When the pot is as tall you as had already decided on, you can begin to shape the pot.  This will automatically thin the clay.  Continue to collar in the top but don’t forget to use water and slow down the wheel.  Ian’s pot was up to his elbow before he began to shape the pot and collar in.  A commercial rib or credit card can be used on the outside to shape the pot while the left hand is on the inside pushing out.  Continue until you have the shape you want and then know when to stop.  A mirror in front of the wheel at an angle can be set up to determine the shape.  It saves having to get up and walk away from the pot to look at it.  When you are satisfied with the shape take it off the wheel and allow it to dry enough before you add the neck.
To throw the neck, Ian measured the top opening of the bottle. He took an approximate amount of clay, centred it and opened it down to the wheel before pulling it to form a cylinder.  Keep the neck narrow and in this case the rim of the neck is on the batt.  Form a gallery on the top so that this can be attached to the bottle.  Cut the neck off the batt and this could be allowed to dry a little if it is very soft or very wet.
Shaped bottle base ready to take the neck which is thrown separately

When attaching it to the bottle, moisten the top of the bottle you threw.  Place the neck over the opening and with hands on the inside ,push down and roll the gallery under the rim of the top section of the pot. 
Throwing the neck upside down with a gallery for joining to the base

Joining the neck to the bottle base

When this is attached continue to shape the neck of the bottle.  Ian says that he never has trouble with the neck cracking away from the bottle.  You can at this stage trim excess clay from the lower section of the pot.  All done.  Did you remember to breathe?
Completing the joined neck

Well done Ian, A GREAT DEMONSTRATION WITH SOME USEFUL TIPS.  It is not easy to try to explain the process if you were not at the meeting.  I hope that it makes sense and that Basil’s photos clear up any misunderstandings.

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