For anyone who has lost the use of one arm/hand, and still wants to 'pot', or  like me,  hasn't done any ceramic work before and didn't think it was possible,  ........   

I've taken photos of various stages which I've called:  Getting Started,  Making a Cylinder,  Developing a Bowl, & Turning (i.e. finishing to remove 'stray' pieces of clay & refine the shape).  

Getting Started by Centering the Clay

Most wheels turn anti-clockwise, (some Japanese ones will go either way but I've based these hints & instructions to follow the conventional route. Then it doesn't matter which wheel you use in classes). Try the wheel without any clay first. Get comfortable, and get the wheel turning, slowly, then increase the speed to get an idea of things, (even imagining a pot being made if you like!) 

I'm going to use earthenware terracotta clay, for throwing a small bowl.  About 500g is a good size to start off with. (Not too fiddly, and not too heavy to move around).  Weigh it out and make it into a ball.  I wear a plastic apron over my knees and use my hand &  thigh to shape the ball.

Drop it on to the wheel head, as near to the middle as you can, & press it down. You'll need a container of water, and a sponge next. 

 Usually  potters use two hands to 'centre' the clay, one hand cupping the clay with fingertips like a 'claw', & the other hand overlapping. The clay is squeezed up into a cone, & then pushed down - one hand relaxing slightly, whilst the other hand presses down. then the 'press-hand' relaxes &the 'cone-hand' can draw the clay up again. This is repeated several times. 


 

   

   

 

 

 

 

When doing it one-handed I mimic the 'claw' hand wrapping my fingers around the clay.  My thumb acts as my other hand.  It can squash the clay down, and then relax a little so that the clay becomes a flattened dome.

 

I sprinkle water (using a sponge) on to the clay, & set the wheel spinning. I've not put all my fingers in place, so that they don't get in the way of the photo! I've  just got two fingers at the base of the clay loosely keeping the clay from wandering far.  The base of my thumb is at about 45 degrees, & that is where the pressure is being applied. You might be able to see the joint more prominent. The rest of my thumb is relaxed still.  The upper part of the clay looks reasonably 'even', but nearer the wheel-head it has a 'twist' in it still. That part is still needing to be 'centred'.  This is where the repeated 'squashing' & 'coning' comes in.

                 I relax the thumb a bit,  & 'snuggle' closer with my fingers, drawing up the clay, before squashing it down again.  All of the clay now seems even & centred.  The clay needs a bit more water now. (I could feel it 'wanting' to stick to my hand more than I wanted.)  When I'm taking my hand off the clay I don't 'jerk' it off, but gently move my hand away. 

Unless you are content to have a heavy (& difficult to fire) heavy door-stop,  the next stage is to make it into a cylinder. 

Cylinder                                       

Making a cylinder - the basis for any shaped pot - yes, whether bowl, jug or vase, the first thing is to make a cylinder!

 Having got the clay centered & ready    I tidy up the 'debris' on the wheel-head with a sponge.  Then I can see the junction between the clay & the metal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A steady thumb, kept still, will make a hollow in the dome. 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I make the clay more cone-shaped again, still keeping my thumb inside, & angling the palm to 'funnel' the clay upwards - a small volcano-shape.

              

 

 

   

Then, the hole needs widening, so I put 2 fingers inside the pot, & my thumb outside, on the wheel-head, to gauge how far down they are.       I don't want to dig any further down, just move them toward me. 

 

 

 

 By angling the palm of my hand to funnel the clay again, I develop a 'chimney'.

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

I put a groove, using a sponge,  at the bottom, as a starting point for drawing the clay up. 

        

 

 

 

 

 

With 2 fingers inside & thumb on the outside, squeezing the clay upwards, I slowly move up. The upper edge of pot is nestled between my little finger & the outside edge of my hand.  When I get to the top I gently let go of the clay.

Then comes the moment to either keep lengthening the cylinder to make a vase, jug etc., or to make a bowl. 

 

Developing a Bowl 

The first pull-up makes a cylinder, & then, by angling the fingers in subsequent pulls you can vary the style of bowl. 

 

 

 

 

 The second pull, making the cylinder go outwards.  Subsequent pulls can refine the thickness etc.

 

 

Using a potter's rib to refine the outside, & narrow the base  of the bowl . This also dries the excess moisture from the outside of the pot.

 

 A sponge, applied with steady hand inside the bowl, whilst the wheel is turning, will 'strengthen' the base & absorb any excess moisture.  

  Making a tidy rim. Using a strip of plastic from the clay bag, or being 'posh' & using a strip of moist chamois leather I hold my fingers steady, with the wheel slowly rotating.

 

 

          

Then I have to get help!                           I haven't (yet) worked out a way of getting work cut & lifted off the wheel single-handed.

The wheel-head is wetted, & the, using a wire, the bowl is 'sliced off' at  base & lifted on to a tile of wooden board.

 

 

 

 

Then the bowl has to dry off a bit before 'tidying' the foot-rim etc. 

Depending on the weather conditions, & also when you have got access to the wheel again , the next step is storing it until 'turning' takes place. If it's just overnight it can be left out, (not near a radiator though), but if it is in the next week's class it needs storing somewhere damp, or loosely wrapping in plastic. I prefer  the former option - a metal cupboard with doors, with a small amount of water  in shallow tray under the shelves - a Damp-cupboard'.  The pots are not in contact with water, but the humidity is higher than the room itself.  

 Turning

 

 The upturned bowl has to be centered. With a the wheel going very slowly, (depending on the height that I want to start turning & refining) I adjust the position of the bowl, so that the bowl is just in contact with my finger all the time. My finger stays still - the bowl has to be 'nudged' into place.

 

Then the wheel is stopped, so that the bowl can be anchored down with pieces of clay - I have sausage-shaped pieces ready, just proud of the bowl.  Then I can gently arrange them into position, checking the centering is still OK!    

 The wheel is started again, at mid to fast speed. Marking out concentric circles on the top, for guidance marks. I have measured roughly how much waste clay I want to remove.  See sketch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I start 'shaving' the excess clay off. 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting to shape the foot-rim, & then refining it.

 

        

 

 

 

           

 

 

The next task is deciding how to decorate it!   Before firing the surface can be 'painted' with coloured slips - very runny clay that has got pigment in it - or it can be fired & then decorated with coloured glazes.  That is for you to decide............