Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hump Day

I first became interested in “throwing off the hump” after watching a video showing Shoji Hamada throwing teabowls off what appeared to be a 10 to 12 pound hump of clay. This was years before I started making pots. While in Japan, I watched intently as Kohyama Yasuhisa threw chawan, tokkuri, yunomi and guinomi off the hump. That was my foundation for the technique. I was able to see several other Japanese potters throw in this way and despite a language barrier, I was able to pick up enough tips to allow me to figure out the process.

My first attempts yielded s-cracks and pots that just didn’t match in size, but over time, these hurdles were cleared. I began to throw all of my test pieces and v-bowls, teabowls and misc. pieces under about 3lbs. each this way. The key to throwing this way is the compression of the clay. Because of the forms I throw, the compression occurs in two places, on the inside, compressing toward the center and by compressing the clay which later forms the pronounced foot that I like.

There are a number of reasons that I like throwing this way. The first is you wedge once and throw up to a dozen times. It also allows a differing view point to see the form at a level perspective while still on the wheel.This technique allows me to throw and define most of the foot to minimize on tooling once the pot is leatherhard, saving on clay scraps and time down the road. Last but not least, with the piece elevated from the wheel head, any altering, paddling, stamping, etc. is easier to perform without striking the wheel. Truth be told, though I am not Japanese, nor do I think I am, throwing in this Japanese way helps me feel closer to a tradition that I have studied and admired, long before I was ever a potter.

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