[Clayart] hand building

Jen Birenbach jbirenbach at speedymail.org
Tue Jan 18 15:32:19 UTC 2022

Thanks for this Mel. I’m new to this list, but have known about it for years. I hope it’s ok if I chime in here-

I’m a hand builder who threw first. I started hand building about decade ago due to a shoulder injury that inflames quickly. I had no interest in hand building before then. 

I was lucky enough to find a great hand building teacher in Raleigh NC who helped adjust my attitude toward hand building. (Jen Stas) She helped get my head out of the “Tyranny of the Round.”

I love that my fingers (& my banding wheel & a rib or two) do all the work. I find it very intimate. I love the problem solving too- every step of the way.

These days, I am grateful for the growing body of hand built work I see and new opportunities in recent years to develop through insights from hand builders. I am amazed by ancient pots as well- those skills. 

It truly is a different skill. One I want to continue to master.

Thanks for reading-
From the currently windy coast of the North Shore of Massachusetts

On Sun, Jan 16, 2022, at 11:29 AM, mel jacobson wrote:
> my discussion on hand building was, and is a reaction
> to those that work at home, small kiln, and hand build their work
> in clay. It is often overlooked.  Hobby potter sort of thing.
> My feeling is that any technique can become very complex and
> difficult to make with grace.  Clay is just very hard to control
> and those that do it....are to be honored.
> It looks so easy to make a slab box..."nothing to it", well until
> you want to make one...cracks, etc. It is complex construction.
> And, the clay body has to be "dead on right".
> I have always felt that throwing should be started at about 14 years
> old.  Before that, it is just mess'n.  Once kids learn to drive cars
> and other forms of transportation and sports, their hand eye skills come together
> pretty fast. Of course girls are about two years ahead of boys.
> My entire life as a teacher was 14-18 year olds. They loved the wheel, but often
> tired of it, and turned to more complex techniques.  Cutting pots in half, re-shaping
> pots, combination of form all became a natural progression. Then add size and scale
> and things got moving along fast.  But the realization that just your hands and a lump
> of clay was complex.
> The big problem with teaching smaller kids is that they get a half a pound of clay...beat
> it on the table and make a snake pot that cracks on drying.  Or best of all, a horse with
> legs the thickness of toothpicks. The horse never makes it to the kiln.
> When adults feel the centering and lift and stretch of clay a great "moment" of learning takes place. That
> transfers to all sorts of clay technique.
> But so much of learning clay technique goes back to the teacher.  My line for years..."Mel, I cannot throw, my hands are
> weak or something".  My reply is always the same..."No, you had a crappy teacher".  It is an adult physics
> problem with your hands, feelings and sense of rhythm. It is like the bike...balance, you "catch it".  once caught
> it is lifelong.
> I know that many of you can teach good technique to adults. But a great deal of hand building is taught
> as funny little pots and animals.  Some of the greatest pots every made where "hand built".
> mel
> website: www.melpots.com
> www.melpots.com/CLAYART.HTML
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