Ready, Set, Go!

Hi there,

This is just a quick wee post for this week.  With everybody either starting on the wheel or continuing on the wheel I thought it would be good to just run over a check list for throwing and introduce the idea of ‘sets’.

If you are coming to class to throw you will need to bring a solid flat porous board to take your items home on.  You will also need an ice-cream container to put your scrap and slurge in as you are throwing.  This way you minimize how much clay is going into the water bucket and you can recycle it later.  When you sit down to throw use a clean container of water next to your own slurge container.  You will also need a towel and an apron that is going to get really messy.  If you use one of my class aprons you will need to take it home and clean it…do this by hanging it on the line and spraying down with a hose before it goes into a washing machine…clay and washing machines are not friends!  Remember to bring it back!

So what you need to sit down with is…

  • 3-4 well kneaded, round balls of appx 400gm balls of soft clay.
  • Your own slurge container
  • A sponge
  • A cutting wire
  • A scary trimming tool
  • A metal flexible rib of death (optional)
  • Your carrying home board
  • Apron and towel

The ideal steps for throwing to remember are as follows.

  • Centre the clay
  • Open the clay
  • Compress the clay bottom flat 7 times
  • Gather the clay into a beehive shape
  • Compress the top edge
  • Thumb lift x 1
  • Split finger lift x 1
  • Open hand lift x 1

By now you should have a pot…the ‘throwing’ is finished.  Each time you sit down to throw you will learn the technicalities of each move.

Now you need to clean up the pot ready for shaping so…

  • Use scary trimming tool to trim clay away from the outside bottom 2 inches of pot
  • Use flexible metal rib of death to clean up rest of outside pot
  • Use sponge to finish rim and clean out excess water from inside the pot
  • Use fingers or flexible metal rib of death to finish shaping pot from the inside
  • Use wire to under cut pot from front to back and remove with scissor fingers onto your board

Now carefully take your pots home and dry them out until they are leather hard.  When they reach this stage put them carefully in a bag and put them on the rims to transport back to class.  Leather hard means that the clay has hardened to the point where it is no longer flexible and if you dint it on the bottom of the pot with you finger nail it feels like hard Parmesan cheese.  I always say it is the point where the clay no longer feels tacky when you press it firmly but before the pot has changed to any hint of becoming whiter.  Sometimes it helps to leave your pot out and when it is stable enough to hold its own shape, pick it up carefully and place it on the rim so that the base can dry out a bit more…rims always dry faster than the base of a pot.

We want our pots to be leather hard so that we can trim them with out distorting or breaking them.  Look up ‘turning’ or ‘trimming’ a leather hard pot on You Tube as a heads up for this process.

I have taken some images over the past few weeks that have what I call ‘sets’ in them.  A set of pots or work explores some kind of similarity between all the pieces.   When you are on the wheel it is an ideal time to explore these ideas because of its inherent nature of repetition.  So you can produce pots that look similar in size or shape or glaze pots using the same colour combinations to make different shape pots feel part of a set.  Have a look at the picks below and see what you could possibly do too.  Think about what you would like to do with your spoons if you have made some.

Well have a great weekend and remember to pop into the Monster Winter Big Melt Market at the Polytech this weekend, Saturday 10-3pm or if you fancy a drive I have a group show opening at Arts in Oxford on Saturday 3pm.


Tatyanna 🙂

a.k.a The Busy Finch

3D invite


Spoons, spoons and more spoons!

Hi all,

This week we made heaps of fantastic spoons and ladles.  Everybody was amazing!  Like ducks to water you were spoons to handles!  I think that nearly everybody must have made 3 or more of them…wow!  I have to warn you now that when they come out the other side of traveling back to class, making it through the bisque and glaze kiln that I will be confiscating some for the exhibition because I am well impressed!  Remember soft surfaces to come back to class on and if you have to handle them pick them up by supporting as much of the piece as possible.

I have threatened to start throwing with the beginners classes next week so I thought it would be a timely reminder to all how this works.  Please remember to bring your apron, towel and lidded ice-cream container with you.

1. Make sure clay is well kneaded with NO air bubbles
2. Firmly pat ball onto middle of wheel head
3. Water on hands and clay
4. Tuck arms into body and get hands ready at 7 o’clock bottom (left)and 4 o’clock top(right)
5. Full speed. Place hands on clay and push away with the left hand with the right hand push down on the clay. Repeat the action of away and down until clay is centered.
6. Half speed. Hold right wrist with left hand and place right pointer finger on outside top edge of clay. Let it travel slowly into the center and then push down to make a small well.
7. Put a little bit of water in the well and then press down finger to make a curved hole that is bowl shaped.
8. Use you middle right hand fingers to smooth the base of the pot half a dozen times, move from the outside edge at 3 o’clock to the middle.
9. Half speed again. Place both hands either side of the clay and squeeze the top of the clay in to form a beehive shape.
10. Use you left hand at 6 o’clock with the middle fingers resting on the inside of the pot and the thumb at the base, place your right hand pointer fingers on your left thumb and with the speed of the wheel lift your thumb to the top of the pot. Squeeze very gently.
11. Make birdie fingers with your left hand on the inside and outside of the pot and use your pointer finger on your right hand to gently compress the top edge.  Repeat until you have about a 3 inch tall wall.
12. Split your fingers so that the pointer finger and thumb on the left hand are either side of the pot at 3 o’clock. Use your right hand pointer fingers at the outside base of pot and left had pointer and with a little pressure lift the clay at the speed of the wheel. Compress the top again. Repeat until pot is desired height.
13. Clean out all water and sponge the outside of the pot. Use a rib to remove slurry from the outside of the pot. Do this at a 3 o’clock position from top to bottom of the bowl.
14. Cut under the pot with a tight wire wrapped around fingers and stretched between hands, thumbs pressing the wire firmly to the wheel head from back to front.
15. With dry hands lift pot with fingers (bowl)  with a peeling towards you and lifting action. Place on a board to harden.

• Water lubricates the clay to move under your hands…too much will make it soggy and it will collapse
• Don’t touch the pot unless the wheel is running…it will go easily off center
• You start at full speed with the most pressure on the clay and slow down with less pressure as the pot continues…the thinner the pot the slower and gentler you have to be.
• Always compress after a lift…or your pot will have an uneven top
• The left hand should always be higher inside the pot than the outside right hand…this lifts the clay up and stretches it higher.
• Cleaning away water, slurry and extra clay at the end helps your pot to be stronger when lifting off or shaping.
• To make a cylinder open up a flat wide bottom…to make a bowl open up with an angled bowl bottom.
• The centrifugal force will make you pot get wider at the top than bottom counteract this by thinking up and to the left when pulling a wall…be careful with bowls as they widen quickly and will collapse if the top becomes more than twice the width of the base.
• Work with hands between 6 o’clock and 3 o’clock.
• Save slurry for joining.

Making a simple bowl (this should be a song inside your head as you sit down to throw!)
Knead up 1 section and cut into 300gm pieces.
Think economically about your throwing moves.
• Center
• Open
• Compress
• 1st lift
• 2nd lift
• 3rd lift
• Clean away skirt
• Use rib to clean away slurry on outside of pot
• Clean water out of inside of pot
• Use rib to shape pot from inside
• Finish rim
• Cut off

Sounds easy…yeah right!  But like anything, the more you do it the easier it becomes.  I always think the more often you do it  the less you think about the mechanics of throwing which frees up your mind to think about what shapes you would like to achieve.  All my lovely advanced potters out there who have persevered with throwing know that you can sometimes spend an entire session just getting the hang of centering the clay…but once you know it and it clicks you can move onto the next stage the following week with out having to think nearly so hard about the arch nemesis that is centering!

I don’t have a specific video to show you but I do know that the more you watch on somewhere like You Tube the less it will sound like I speaking gobbledy gook next week!  So go to You Tube and type in Throwing Pottery.  But here is an amazing image from Tortus Copenhagen of what I call ‘birdie fingers’ when you are pulling the clay…click on the link and see more of these lovely hands!

Tortus Copenhagen

For all you advanced students, be inspired by Lorna Meaden who uses porcelain to make amazing shapes and sizes, she is a beautiful decorator.  Here is a video of her throwing a large porcelain bowl

Lorna Meaden


So I hope everybody will have a great weekend and stay safe n sound!


Tatyanna a.k.a The Busy Finch 🙂

p.s I leave you with the pics from our spoon making this wee!.

Pottery Samples Galore!

Hello all!

This week was full of sample making so that you all can get the hang of glazing.  Hopefully everybody managed to take theirs home in one piece…the trick is now to bring them back in one piece!  So when they are completely dry either pack them gently in some scrunched up newspaper or at least put a soft towel on your board to rest them on as you travel to class.

Next week I thought it might be a nice idea to make some spoons if you are a beginner…or even if you aren’t!  I have attached a sheet for making these on your hand out.  Basically the principles of making a spoon is to have a dish shape for scooping and a handle for holding.  This can be done in many different ways so have a look on my pinterest page for some ceramic spoons so that you have an idea of what shapes you might like.  The great thing about spoons is that you get to make more than one at a time which is very handy for learning…I always say that repetition is your friend if you really want to get to know how to do something well!  Here is a video of a technique for making handles…give them a go next week.


Sandi Pierantozzi making handles.


Learning how to tame the clay is one thing…but once you figure this out it is sometimes hard to know what direction to take.  In the world of ceramics there is a massive variety of choices from sculptural items and tricky arty things to lovely useful bowls and delicious tea cups.  One of the ways that I like to find direction is too look at all the different ceramic industries out there.   One of these facets comes from the design industry.  How designers interact with clay as a medium can provide inspiration for your own work…or just provide warm fuzzy memories for design icons you remember from your childhood.  I really enjoy Scandinavian design and designers like Lisa Laarson who worked with Gustavsberg and produced beautiful ceramic cats as a mid century modern take on pottery.  Arabia is a Finnish company who specialize in modern shapes and designs that includes a stripped black and white zebra.  They are also the only company who produces designs based on Tove Jansson’s Mommin characters!  The company Iittala works with current textile giants from Marimekko to translate their bright colorful retro and contemporary prints into tableware.



Lisa Larsson Pottery Cat for Gustavsberg

Tove Jansson Mommintroll Cup for Arabia


Iittala plates for Marimekko

I also find contemporary inspiration from new ceramic designers like Tortus Copenhagen in Denmark whose philosophy of making pottery slow and steady with respect for materials really resonates with me.  They have an absolutely gorgeous studio space in Copenhagen, which I must visit!  Swedish AEO designs and makes cutting edge styles and designs which are targeted towards the interior industry.  They use high tech solutions to produce innovative designs.  The contemporary design icon Moooi uses ceramics to challenge how we use it as a medium.    They have an awesome working studio where they amalgamate cutting edge manufacturing methods to produce objects that enhance spatial experiences.  One year they brought out a vase cast from the internal thrown surface of a ming vase, a latex lined vase that was broken and then fired together and a vase that was inspired by the BMW factories ceramic sponge filter process…very cool!  Well that was just a quick wander around the Scandenavian design I hope that you find something inspiring here or go hunting for more!

Tortus Copenhagen studio space…why doesn’t mine look as cool?!

Swedish AEO Studio Ceramics

Moooi Ming Vase

Well, I hope that you are having a great weekend…staying warm and toasty!

See you next week for more spoony muddy adventures!

Tatyanna a.k.a The Busy Finch 🙂

Some Pics of the week…