Category Archives: Emily Murphy’s studio

Simple Tweaks to a Better Wheel Set-up

I have seen too many potter friends suffer with back problems over the years. It’s made me be very conscious about the health of my back and my efforts to stop any problems before they begin. Every potter who throws at a wheel has a different set-up. Although mine is based on a pretty traditional set-up, I have tweaked it enough to be both a more efficient work space and back friendly.
You might notice that there is a 2nd wheel in the background. I have a throwing wheel and a trimming wheel. I love being able to move back and forth between the two wheel and not have to clean up and change the set up. I keep either my Giffin Grip or my foam bat on my trimming wheel. I have it set up in the corner of my studio so I do not track any clay trimmings around my studio.

I know many potters who throw standing up to alleviate any potential back problems. For me this just creates another problem from being on your feet all the time. I think the most important thing I can do is to constantly change my tasks (throwing, trimming, wedging, decorating, glazing, paperwork, cleaning, etc…) and my sitting and standing positions throughout the day. Sometimes I will even give up efficiency for this.

Another thing that I did to help keep my back happy is to get a new throwing stool. After a ridiculous amount of research, I found this great potter’s stool: Artisan S-2 Stool that I bought from Clay King. It’s totally adjustable- both the height and the tilt. It tilts your hips into your work so your back can stay nice and straight. This has made a HUGE difference for me. I also put my non-pedal foot on a brick to keep me balanced and symmetrical.

You might have also noticed from the picture the mirror in front of my wheel. I started doing this a couple of years ago and it has also made my throwing life much happier. It took me about 2 days to get used to it (I had to remember to look up!). It stops me from constantly cranking my head over to the side to see what my piece looks like. It also makes a huge difference in the forms that I thrown. I can see exactly what is happening by looking straight ahead. You can make sure that each piece you throw actually has the shape that you think it does. The result is that both me and my pots have better posture. My back and neck are straighter and my pots end up having more lift.

I feel like I’ve lost a lot of time over the years looking tools on the other side of my splash pan. To stop this problem from continuing, I built this little shelf on the right side of my wheel. All the tools I use regularly are kept right there- nice and easy for me to find. (The mini-Altoids tin is perfect for a pair of bat bins). The tools in the picture are on the list of “clay tools that I cannot live without.” (I’ll talk about that in another post.) This little shelf mean less bending forward trying to search for the clay covered rib that has slipped under the splash pan…. My throwing bucket sits right in front of the shelf also for easy access (I’m right handed).

I realize how much I miss my tweaked space when I am teaching and do not have this set up.
A couple of (cheap!) things that you can do, even if it’s in a shared space, like a classroom:

  • Tilt a standard throwing stool by sticking a 2 x 4 under the back 2 legs. You can even drill into the wood about 1/4 – 1/2 an inch so the stool won’t accidentally slip off the wood.
  • Get a mirror. A hardware store, thrift store or Ikea are all great places to find a mirror. The just lean it up against whatever is in front of the wheel- shelves, a table, a wall. You’ll really see a difference in your throwing, and your back might be a bit less achy.
  • Keep your tools and water bucket on a stool next to your wheel. You can keep the stool clean by putting a bat on top of the stool, and tools and bucket on top of that.

update (10/29/07)- a post from John Zentner about his standing wheel set-up on his blog pots and other things.

update (10/30/07)- another great post from Anne Webb at Webb Pottery about her favorite tools and her wheel set-up.

update (10/30/07)- an article from the archives of Studio Potter magazine on back problems and potters.

update (10/31/07)- a post from Jeanette Harris about tools that she can’t do without.

Holiday Shows, 2006

Due to what I can only explain as time passing more quickly than ever before, the holiday season is upon us. The opening night for various exhibitions and shows that I am participating in is this Friday, December 1st.

Visit my studio at Lillstreet Studios in Chicago throughout the month for our holiday extravaganza. Browse the wares in my studio while I continue to produce work. New work will be showing up throughout the month!

Opening Reception:
Friday, December 1, 6pm – 9pm
4401 N. Ravenswood
2nd floor- 205 west
Chicago, IL 60640

Saturdays, 10am – 6pm
Sundays, 10am – 5pm
Weekdays, 12 noon – 6pm

On weekends, 12 noon – 3pm, you can “drop and shop.” You can drop off your kids in the kids rooms on the 1st floor of Lillstreet Art Center while you shop the gallery and 35 artists studios.


You can travel a little ways from my studio to Haus, a beautiful gallery focusing on hand crafted items for the home from dinnerware to handmade furniture. They also have a great selection of jewelry. The work that I have there, of course, is the dinnerware and other pots.

Haus
5405 N. Clark
Chicago, IL 60640

Tues – Thurs, 11am – 7pm
Fri – Sat, 11am – 8pm
Sun, 12 noon – 5pm
Mon, closed

The Evanston Art Center’s Art + Craft Expo opens with a Preview Party on Friday, December 1, 6pm – 9pm, tickets are $25. I have a wide array of work there, from vases to mugs to soap dispensers. There are over 80 participating artists. An event not to be missed!

Evanston Art Center
2603 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60201
December 1 – December 16

Sat – Sun, 11am — 5 pm
Mon – Thur, 12 — 6 pm
Fri, 12 — 8 pm

Woman Made Gallery is hosting their Annual Holiday Bazaar Nov 24 – Dec 23. If you’ve never been to this space before, you should make sure to get there this month!

Woman Made Gallery
685 N Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

Wed – Fri, 12 noon – 7pm
Sat – Sun, 12 noon – 4pm
Mon – Tue, closed

Opening Reception, Friday, Dec. 1, 6pm – 9pm.

Lillstreet Studios website

It’s finally done (almost). The website that I have been making for the group of artists where I have my studio in Chicago: Lillstreet Studios. If you’re not familiar with it, Lillstreet Art Center is a big art center that houses ceramics classrooms, metalsmithing studios, a glass bead making studio and more. Mostthe art center is on the first floor of the building. The 2nd and 3rd floors are what make up Lillstreet Studios. We have over 40 independant artists working. Most are potters, but we also have jewelers, photographer, painters, etc…
We’ve been putting a lot of energy into working together as a group like doing this website and hosting a montly open house called 2nd Saturdays. (Just what it sounds like- a monthly open house on the 2nd Saturday of each and every month!)
It’s great to be a part of a community. There are always people around to brainstorm on business decisions like pricing, or just to have an informal critique about a form. There is a lot of solitary time being a potter (and even more doing all this computer work), but being in this kind of studio helps to balance that out.
Here are a couple of images of some of the studio artists working in their own spaces:

Amy Lemaire, Sarah Busen, Dana Major Kanovitz and Cathi Bouzide are pictured above.

I hope you enjoy wandering through this site.

Second Saturdays- Studio Open House

Saturday, July 9, 2005 -11am – 5pm-
The studio artists of Lillstreet Studios in Chicago are having the first “Second Saturday” studio open house/sale.
We’re coming upon our 2 year anniversary in Lillstreet‘s new location in Ravenswood. The second and third floors are filled with a variety of artists from potters, to jewelers , to photographers, and more. We’re been wanting to organize some sort of monthly event- and we’re finally doing it! I hope you can make it!

Studio Sale – May 7th, 2005


As you can see from my postcard image above, I’m having a studio sale at my studio (an innovative idea…) in Chicago on May 7th from 10am – 5pm. To learn more about this sale and to get important information like directions to the studio and payment options, please head on over to sodafired.com and you’ll see all the pertinent information you need right there. I hope you can make it.

Studio Sale

This Friday December 3, from 5pm – 10pm is the opening night gala at my studio, Lillstreet Gallery, and all 26 artist studios at Lillstreet Studios in Chicago. We’re located at 4401 N. Ravenswood Ave., in Chicago, IL. Come on up to my studio on the second floor (205 west).

My studio will be open during regular business hours throughout the first 3 weeks of December. Feel free to call or email ahead to make an appointment. Or just stop by… I’ll be there.

I have lots of new work, like…

and…

and of course you can always find…

I will be taking credit cards, as well as checks and cash. Gift boxes are available.

If you can’t make it to my studio, you can find work for sale on my website.
Or you can also find my work this season at:

Hope to see you soon…keep warm!