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How to Get Around the Potter's Wheel


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For centuries people used potter's wheels to create unique clay pieces for practical purposes and as decorative artwork. The use of this basic tool dates back to 3129 BC when a stone potter's wheel was found in Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq. Based on fragments of pottery recovered in the same location, potter's wheels may have been used as early as 8000 BC.

Today potter's wheels can be powered by hand or electricity. Some potters still prefer the control of working on a hand-powered potter's wheel while others appreciate the efficiency of modern technology. Pottery wheel clay should be moist, pliable so you can easily work with it. It should also be non-toxic to keep the artist safe during the working process. Along with pliable clay for modeling, you need to master the art of throwing and centering on a potter's wheel.

When you throw clay, you take a moist lump of clay and throw it down on the center of the wheel head of the potter's wheel. The clay must be properly centered and stuck to the wheel head so you won't fight it the entire time you are crafting its shape. Centering puts the clay is as close the center of the wheel as possible. As the wheel spins slowly, you pat the clay into a cone and force it to the center of the wheel. After the clay is centered, you are ready to make an opening and create walls for a bowl, mug or other creation.

While a potter's wheel is the traditional way to make clay pieces, it limits products to round, vertical shapes. Other tools and material are used to make frames, ornaments, pottery transfers and a variety of other unusual designs with clay. For example, slab rollers are used to flatten clay to make magnet, frames and to make a variety of other flat creations. While clay can be flattened with a rolling pin, most artists prefer using a clay slab roller because you can create sheets in the perfect thickness for certain projects.

Another way to get hand-on experience with clay is to experiment with various flexible sculpting compounds such as Sculptamold. This non-toxic white compound combines the best features of plaster, paper mache and clay. You need to work quickly with this compound because it sets in only 30 minutes. It clings to clean surfaces, resists cracking and is durable. Though Sculptamold dries quickly, you can work in layers. This compound can also be shaped with tools, carved, sanded and decorated with acrylic paints. Sculptamold can also be used to create large pieces, such as floats in a parade.

AMACO/Brent manufactures 11 electric and one kick potter's wheel to meet the needs of any classroom or potter. AMACO also offers pottery wheel clay bodies, slab rollers and various sculpting compounds such as Sculptramold so you can make one-of-a-kind works of art.


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