The 30cm barrier or how I can't break it

I suppose like most potters you eventually want to make something a little bigger, I know I do and it has been my goal for weeks and every now and again I try to throw something big.  The biggest I can throw is about 30cm and I can't manage any higher, no matter how many times I pull up once I get to that hight I can't break that size and then of course when you shape something it gets even smaller as you give it belly it loses a few centimetres.

Throwing big is something I never really did at university but it is something I want to get better at, I want to make anything I set my mind to.  I know to get really big I need to throw in 2 or 3 parts, but I want to see what the biggest I can personally do with one lump of clay.

This was the first pot I threw today, the ball of clay was about 2.6kilos and the final height is under 10inch.  the clay was hard and I fought with it to centre it and then once I did so I made them same mistakes I always do but as I finished it I had the idea of starting a little smaller and trying to see if that would work better for me, slow things down and try and relax into it.
This is the result of relaxing the pot just behind this one is the one from the previous image, this is clearly bigger and was about 1.7kg so almost a kilo smaller, not sure I like the top of the pot but regardless I learnt a lot from this and gained some insights in pulling up the clay more efficiently and actually started with the clay in a much flatter disk.
After the success of 1.7kg I moved onto a 2.2kg lump of clay.  With the final pull I used a rib and it gave me a much nicer final surface than just ribbing it off after I had finished.
Once again 2.2kg mainly due to it being the last piece of clay in the bag. I worked with the shape a little more to make it feel just that bit narrower
This is the table I tend to sit at to draw and read, it faces the door so I can also look up and see the world passing me by.  I have been reading the Craft of the Potter again, this is the first book that I read whilst at university that helped me understand the actual formulation of a glaze rather than all the other books I read. 

These two things are something I am working on to be a bit more whimsical than the rest of my work and are something that I can use to help fill my kiln when I need a few more tall things.


  1. Keep practicing, you're getting there! You had the right idea trying less clay. I do that also from time to time, and usually find I can pull less clay up the same height.
    I find a collaring pass, followed by a pull helps me get some additional height. Collar, pull, collar, pull,collar, pull. I also use youtube for quick reminders and tune-ups for my technique. Try searching for 'throwing tall cylinders'

  2. For every collar and pull today after the initial three pulls it goes at a cm per collar pull.

    Soft clay I find to be no good, it just doesn't want to get up there, so I have been throwing with clay that is firm and so takes a lot longer to centre, but once it is it wants to get up there.

    I made the mistake of trying to use slip to pull with instead of water and collapsed my pot, after that it was time to give the workshop a scrub down.

    Going about this now in a trial and error way as any good scientist would

    I was always methodical as a scientist can't say I am as an artist though, just the sort to telling the materials off when it goes wrong.

  3. I struggle throwing larger pieces of clay myself. I hate to say it but as a girl my upper body strength isn't quite the same as my dads, also my hands are smaller which puts me at an immediate disadvantage.

    I recently started throwing pieces 2.5 pounds in size and although its a struggle I can do it. Its practice like Brian says...

  4. I have small fingers but hand palms are thankfully bigger, I know my fingers are short because my wife's fingers are longer.

    I got forced to throw larger amounts of clay when I was at university, didn't have the upper body strength for it then so I would brace my elbow against myself and ignore the upper body issue.

    I don't find that not being able to get my hands around the form to be an issue as when centring I only really push in with the heel of my hand (if that makes any sense)

    http://www.joannethropceramics.co.uk/index.html Joanne who I went to university throws all those bottles that you can see on her website there, and the bottoms are flat on the wheel with extra clay that has to be trimmed off. They are plenty over 30 cm. Jo was amazing to watch and was always much further ahead than me, and used to throw all her work on the Shimpo Whisper T