Throwing Pots

clay pieces

I came back from my weekend pottery workshop anxious to practice my pottery skills … because I really need to practice!

But with the next pottery class still a few weeks away, I started wondering whether it would be possible to get a wheel of my own. Without a kiln, of course, it would be pointless, so I figured if I could find a place that rented kiln space, I’d be all set to create at home and glaze and fire elsewhere. To my delight, I found Studio 550 Art Center in Manchester, where they welcome studio visits, sell clay, and rent kiln space. Once that problem was solved, I ordered a sweet little wheel, bought a bag of clay at Studio 550, and waited for my wheel to arrive!

Speedball Artista

I ordered a Speedball Artista wheel from It was on sale for a great price! Once I unpacked it and set it up, I was delighted with the size and ease of moving it around. Weighing just 26 pounds, it’s quite portable. It came with the 2 buckets you see in the photo, plus 2 bats and bat pins. I thought about ordering the metal legs or the folding legs, but decided I would try my own setup first. I’m glad I didn’t order the legs, at least not yet. The table this wheel is sitting on is perfect for me. My only surprise was that, instead of a handle to adjust the wheel speed, you use the dial on the right side. I’m getting used to it, although I still think I’ll modify the setup someday, replacing the dial with a handle. When your fingers are full of clay, you don’t want to put them onto the dial and get clay all over it. I think it’s easier to use one finger to move a handle away or towards you.

spiral wedge
Spiral wedged fresh clay

After setting up my wheel on a small table (and covering everything around it because I wasn’t sure how messy I’d be), I wedged enough for a few one pound clay balls, and started throwing. I’m learning how to use the spiral wedging technique, which creates a spiral pattern in the clay. Wedging is kind of like kneading dough… but not. It helps mix the clay so it is all the same consistency when you make a pot. I used a small wooden table to wedge about 6 pounds of clay. And then I weighed the clay lumps to create 1 pound clay balls.

Spiral wedged recycled clay

Here’s another lump of wedged clay. This time the clay wasn’t fresh from the bag. Instead, it was clay scraps that were leftover from the previous day. I had to let the clay dry out a bit and then wedge it back to similar consistency, as if it just came out of the bag. I used a nice piece of plywood given to me by a friend to wedge this one. The surface is great. It made me dream about making a wedging table next…

first cylinder
First cylinder on this wheel!

After a bit of trial and error, I ended up with a nice cylinder. It wasn’t quite 5 inches tall as I’d intended, but it was close enough for my first success.

Then I kept going and had a few successes and a few failures. No worries. I’m still practicing!

Looks like a mug!