Monday, August 26, 2013

August 18th Hint of the Week

Using a Throwing Stick From the Big Ceramic Store Copyright 2000 John Baymore River Bend Pottery 

I saw this explanation on using throwing sticks written up by John Baymore in Clay Art, and it was so interesting I wanted to pass it along. We also have links on the site to several articles written by John. Here is the tip:

I’ve been using throwing sticks for about 26 years or so. Learned from my friend Ben Ryterband at Mass. College of Art. He learned in Japan. The stick takes the place of the left hand (if you throw counterclockwise) on the inside of the form. It is used when you can't easily fit your arm, hand, or finger into the pot, (spout, or whatever) and reach the necessary point to change it from the inside.

If you learn to use one you are about to enter a whole new world of throwing form possibilities as your whole STRATEGY to forming tends to shift. Strategy used with throwing sticks is also useful in throwing forms you CAN reach into.

If you make a bottle-ish form without a stick, you pretty much HAVE to form the lower part before you "neck it in" because you can't go back an change it when the neck is too small to reach into. You can move the lower wall clay inward by pushing from the outside....... but not move it outward. This limitation makes certain shapes much more difficult to achieve. Possible....but HARD.

I am sure that you have noticed that certain shapes of clay on the wheel tend to collapse easier than others. For example, if you get a overhanging curve at the bottom of a wall and then try to apply a lot of torque at the top in necking it back in, it wants to sag, twist, or flop at the bottom. Physics in action. This tends to limit your forms, especially if you are wanting "big and bulbous". The use of a throwing stick allows you to "rough out" the lower form, do the high torque work of necking in the top, and THEN belly out the curve that is less stable.

So you pull a cylinder. Thin it to the appropriate point. Then you lightly bulge the middle just a tad. Then you start to narrow in the neck. You rough out the neck area pretty close to the finished diameter. You then use the stick to belly out the form (and not always in one pass or from bottom to top, or in a uniform curve....use the intermediary curves and the forces to your advantage).Then you finish the shoulder curve and finally the neck details. Then the foot area. Bingo.

The stick can be used both to compress and move clay....or to simple stretch from the inside. It is a different approach to the sequence of the forming process that allows you to take advantage of the structural qualities of the clay and the physics of the forces in play at the wheel. The use of the stick (also called an egote in Japanese) allows this change of approach.

It takes some getting used to. One KEY point is the grip you use on the stick. You have to have FULL control of the stick, and learn to read sensation through it. This takes practice. Don't expect to master it overnight. I find that for most uses that you want the fingers of the left hand to wrap around it like you were grasping a pole to steady yourself on a subway or trying to hold a live ant in your hand until you could get it outside.... and then place the thumb securely on the TOP end of the stick with the shaft of the thumb in line with the stick. For me the KEY is the thumb position. It shouldn't be wrapped over your other fingers like a fist. This is the power and the sensitivity all at once in using an egote.

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