Learning how to wheel throw pottery can be challenging and often requires a lot of practice to master. While there’s no magic track to getting to grips with wheel throwing, the right instruction and plenty of practice will inevitably pay off.

Choose the Right Clay

Selecting the right clay for a project will both better ensure a successful outcome and assist with wheel throwing technique. It’s a good idea to take some time trying out a variety of clays to assess their look and feel. Clay that is too soft may not hold it’s shape for long on the wheel, while clay that’s too hard may pose problems when it comes to centring.

Wedge the Clay Properly

Keen potters like art conservator Jeremy Casson know that wedging is one of the most important parts of creating pottery. Not wedging the clay properly is likely to make it tricky to work with, difficult to centre and increase the chances of air pockets forming. Before commencing throwing, it’s vital to make sure that the clay has a consistent level of moisture: it should feel smooth throughout and not have any hard spots.

Maintain a Solid Position

It’s helpful to maintain a solid brace position when throwing pottery on a wheel. Elbows should be tucked in and braced against the body to make using the wheel as easy as possible. The wheel should be in the correct position too – raising it by just a few inches off the floor can be a good way to ensure this.

Add the Right Amount of Water

One of the challenges of learning how to throw pottery on a wheel is getting the balance right between too much and too little water. To do so, potters should avoid flooding their piece with water, instead keeping it glossy at all times. Excess water from the base should be removed regularly with a sponge.

Take it Slowly When it Comes to Opening the Clay

While rushing things is never advisable when creating pottery, it’s especially important to take it slow when opening up the clay. Pushing a finger into the centre of the clay too quickly can create a deep hole in the piece, making the bottom too flimsy. Instead, the clay should be opened up slowly, with the potter allowing the wheel’s rotation to do the work for them. This will allow for the creation of the perfect inside size and a balanced distribution of clay on the wall.

For more information about pottery wheel throwing, take a look at the embedded PDF.