ceramics two day workshop

Designed for experienced potters. Demonstrations look closely at the three basic wheel-thrown forms – cylinder, bowl, and plate – aiming to understand, and see, and master these forms more completely. Lots of examples of finished pieces are provided, both good & bad, by both ‘famous’ & unknown potters – discussion & critique are interspersed. The demos are responsive, never the same twice, changing to reflect issues raised by the group as well as aspects of form or technique that are on my mind at the moment. Usually I am able to provide twenty-five pounds of hand-dug cone ten stoneware to each participant. There is an emphasis on scaling up & throwing larger.

The workshop does not encourage participants to enact specific processes or create specific forms – and no final conclusions are drawn about ‘right’ ways to make pots. Instead, the variety of possible options to solve particular problems is highlighted. The workshop is exploratory and interactive. You should leave with more questions about form and about wheel-throwing than you arrived with. Below is a typical workshop itinerary – this one, written up after the fact, outlines a recent session of the workshop that took place at The Cove Art Center, McKinney, Texas:

Day One

Intro: anyone attend an open studio or art show over the holiday? And did you buy anything – any ceramics? Discussion about why to buy other potters’ work, particularly work that is very different from your own. Take a look at this recently-purchased mug – what do you see – note that a good pot, like any good piece of art, is a conjunction of opposites. Ceramics in particular engages opposite properties of material and form. Wheel throwing – an epitome of balancing opposing forces.

  • workshop goal: encounter your opposite tendencies during the weekend – make something really different, or make a pair of forms that are realized in very opposite ways. Look for contrasts & opposites throughout our work & discussions.

Question: why wedge, and why not wedge?  It’s tiring, it dries out the clay – on the other hand wedging lets you make your clay ‘yours’ and begin to imagine, visualize.

Demonstration: vase – my go-to form. Consider what your go-to form might be

  • pause & discuss: clay is centered & the lump is hollowed-out
  • pause & discuss: cylinder is pulled up, thinned, height achieved
  • using the fan to slow, to see, to throw farther. Volunteers to shape the final form, add slip, surface design

Demonstration: turning a thrown cylindrical form into a slab for later hand-building

Demonstration: bowl – contrast with vase – sharing & joining vs isolated & containing

  • critique: look at these various bowls. Does form really follow function? Do you really just make what you want?

...discussion about this  recently-purchased mug  lead off the workshop...

…discussion about this recently-purchased mug lead off the workshop…

Day Two

...different people came up & tried design ideas. We tried making two very different lids, too - they both fit at least!

…different people came up & tried design ideas. We tried making two very different lids, too – they both fit at least!

Intro: questions, thoughts, observations from yesterday? Review of ‘coning down’ & how to make centering ergonomic & less reliant on strength, more on weight. Review ‘ribbing’ your piece while throwing – dynamic vs static use of the rib

Demonstration: trimming. Why does this signal your identity as a potter more than throwing does?

  • pedestal foot
  • incising leather-hard surface
  • survey & discuss foot approaches on various pieces: articulate, robust, loose, little…here the potter just ran out of room

Discussion: if I add flowers I can sell this easier: surface design & what you want vs what your pot wants. Learning to tell the difference.

Demonstration: making a plate with feet, a box, with slab ‘harvested’ from thrown vase

Demonstration: the plate. Third of the three wheel-thrown forms. The most notorious. Why? Critique of various plate examples. It’s the ultimate in conjunction of opposites – simple & invisible, but also demanding & revealing

  • harnessing the power of the warp: loosened, altered, ovalized plates
  • torn & re-attached rim
  • commercial slip-cast plates have some of the same faults thrown ones do

Wrap-up: you & your studio. How to get there, why we procrastinate, how to make it ‘safe’ & challenging too.