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!
I ordered a Speedball Artista wheel from Clay-King.com. 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.
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.
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…
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!