The pottery wheel is a specially designed piece of equipment that makes it possible to spin clay into symmetrical pottery shapes. The pottery wheel was designed to make it easier to create pitchers, vases, glasses, mugs, bowls and other round vessels seamlessly and symmetrically by causing the vessel to spin during the shaping process. Getting involved with the pottery wheel is a challenge initially, but with practice it can become simpler to shape clay figures using this equipment.
Centering the Clay
Center the clay to balance the piece for easier throwing on the wheel. The clay should be tossed firmly onto the wheel for a strong hold. Spin the wheel slowly while patting the clay into the shape of a cone in the wheel's center. Increase the speed and wet both the clay and your hands before using both hands to force the clay into the center. Push the clay downward with the left hand as a guide and right hand pressing down to force the clay flat. Finally, use both hands to move the clay again, pressing on both sides so the clay is forced upwards. Continue this process until the clay is centered on the wheel.
Opening Up the Piece
Keep your hands still while opening the piece up. The opening of the piece is created by pressing down into the clay using your thumb, using your other hand to keep your first hand still. Leave enough clay at the bottom for the base of the piece. Use both hands to open up the opening even wider. Use a sponge to remove excess water as you go.
Pulling the Walls Up
Set the wheel to a slow or medium speed. Pull up the walls of the clay piece by lightly squeezing the sides of the clay and pulling upward as the wheel spins, using a single motion. The speed for pulling up is related to the wheel speed. Start slowly when beginning this technique. Repeat the pulling process until you reach the clay's desired thickness, which is generally 1/4 inch thick. Use a wooden tool with a diagonal edge and a pointed needle to cut away and trim the top and base as necessary.
Shaping and Finishing
Apply pressure on the piece's outside to narrow the opening. Place fingers on the inside and gently press out to widen the piece at any point. Both of these techniques are done when the wheel is spinning. Use a fishing line or a wire to cut off the bottom before setting the piece aside to dry. The piece will shrink somewhat as water in the clay evaporates and the clay piece takes a leather-hard finish.
Jennifer Uhl has been writing professionally since 2005. She writes primarily for the web and has been published as a ghostwriter in "Tropical Fish Magazine" and "Entrepreneur." She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in health care from Mira Costa College.