Throwing a Bowl


A Peek Inside the Studio with Abraham McBride - Throwing

You have held a piece of pottery in your hands many times in your life. Every ceramic dish in your kitchen and even the metal pots and pans you cook with are the descendants of clay dishes made by hand and fired in wood burning kilns. Abraham doesn't use an wood fire kiln, but he does make every piece by hand! 

Starting with a block of wet clay, he uses a wire to cut the pieces to use for throwing a bowl, and weighs them on a scale for standard sizes. Then, he wedges the clay, a process of pushing the clay against a hard surface to create a smooth consistency and remove any air bubbles inside that can compromise the strength of a fired piece of pottery. 

The next step is to center the clay on the wheel. This is very important because if the clay is off center, the piece will be wobbly and not symmetrical, which can make it collapse! 

Once the clay is centered, Abraham can start to shape it however he wants. He presses down in the middle to compress the bottom. This will help the bottom of the bowl be strong, and less likely to crack in the drying and firing processes. 

Next is one of the most exciting parts! Abraham pulls the edge of the bowl up, and it starts to look more like a bowl we might use to hold a yummy soup or a fresh salad. But there's still more to do in order to have a beautiful, finished bowl.

As Abraham gently pulls the sides of the bowl up, the centrifugal force of the spinning wheel pushed the lip outwards, creating a smooth curve from the base of the bowl to the lip. Because Abraham has been throwing pottery for over ten years, he knows how to use the centrifugal force of the spin to help him make the bowl look like the idea he has in his head. 

A sponge is a helpful tool to a potter, it is more forgiving than using fingers directly on the clay, and helps to keep the surface of the clay nicely wet without dripping too much water into the bowl. 

As a finishing touch, Abraham smoothes the inside and the top lip of the bowl. Then he uses a wire again to cut the bottom of the bowl loose from the bat, and lifts the whole thing off of the wheel, to set aside and dry. It takes a few days to be dry enough to trim the bottom of the bowl without collapsing. Abraham needs to pay attention to the weather, because if it's very dry the bowl will be ready for trimming sooner than if it's rainy and humid. Once the bowl is trimmed it can finish drying all the way. It is called greenware at this point. Greenware is brittle and if water is added will turn back into soft clay.