It is a joy to watch an experienced potter throw a lump of clay onto a wheel and create a bowl, dish, mug or pot. The process looks seamless and easy. Of course that is generally what happens when an experienced potter is at the wheel. With any hobby or profession, there are off days when nothing seems to go right. Centering the clay on the wheel properly is a excellent indicator the potter is having a good day.
There are times when the clay will not center properly. There are several choices the potter can make. Many inexperienced people will simply remove the clay and start again. This entails shaping the clay back into a cohesive lump before putting it back on the wheel. There are times when this is a successful maneuver. If it is not successful, there are other options for the potter.
An experienced potter will generally leave the clay on the wheel and try to move it. This takes strong hands and good judgment. While the wheel is turning, the potter must use one hand to push the clay in the proper direction for centering. The other hand is used to press down on the clay and steadies the lump. This method allows the potter to correctly center the clay. If this doesn’t work, the potter will take the clay off the wheel and begin with a fresh lump of clay.
Centering the clay is the first step that must be taken when throwing a pottery object on a wheel. Learning how to judge when the clay can be centered takes working knowledge. Having a teacher on hand to explain how difficult or easy it will be can make a big difference to a beginning student. It can turn frustration into a wonderful learning experience.