Tag Archives: Jeanette Harris

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.

Tour of blogs about pottery and ceramics (Part 2)

This is an update (a long overdue update) to a previous post about clay blogs. When I first wrote about blogs that focused on ceramics, there weren’t too many out there. I am so happy to find this time around that there are a lot more now! I didn’t include ones that I listed before. And these are in no particular order. Enjoy- and please let me know if there are more out there for the next time around!

one black bird by Diana Fayt
A wonderful blog that I just discovered. (I don’t know how I’ve missed it all this time!) Great posts by Diana and guest bloggers. It’s been a lot of fun reading through the archives.

 

A Potter’s Journal by Ron Philbeck.
Great photos of Ron’s work in progress. I love the how-to posts as well as the studio updates.

 


The Pottery Blog by Jennifer Mecca
Jennifer writes about her day to day life in her studio, balancing her family life with her clay life. This is why blogs are great- you can share your personal experience in a way that you can’t through a book or a more formal publication.



Davistudio: Modern Table Art by Mary Anne Davis
Seeking to stretch ideas about peace, art, design, function, value, culture and making.” And lots of happy pots!

 

Lurearts Ceramics by Pam McFadyen
A fairly new blog- but I think there will be some interesting things on the horizon, like her new Tool Talk series. Keep ’em coming!

This Week @ St. Earth
A weekly update for what’s going on at St. Earth Pottery in Fillmore, IN. I love reading about other potter’s work cycles. And I think one of my favorite parts is listing the music and podcasts of the week.


Douglas Fitch Blog
Maker of “country pots.” When you see the beautiful photographs on his Douglas’ blog, you can see how the landscape effects his pots. Something that I think about a lot as an urban potter.

Bluegill Pottery by Vicki Liles Gill
A nice (and fairly new) blog that has a lot about the business side of pots, and some how-to’s and other studio updates.  


Sister Creek Pottery by Gay Judson
“The occasional musings of an overly-enthusiastic-senior potter who recently found her way to the potters wheel.”
One thing that I really like this blog is
that Gay writes abouts the ups and the downs of making pots!  

 

Design Realized by Julie Rozman
A new blog by a Lillstreeter (def: someone who works at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago) which documents her thought process and her new ventures into selling her work. Keep it up Julie! 

  

Jeanette Harris: A Clay Engineer’s Blog
Jeanette’s blog is hilarious! In addition to the humor she has some great info including documentation on her glaze testing, and reviews of books and videos.

Wirerabbit Pots by Taylor H
Taylor has great tutorials – directions on how to make things like plaster bats and terra sigillata. Great information illustrated with helpful photos.  

Soderstrom Pottery Blog
“A Minnesota potter, trained in Japan”
Check out his wind powered kiln :)

this artist’s life – day to day in the clay studio
by Whitney Smith
Most recent posts have been about Whitney’s residency in Japan. An unusual perspective and thoughtful posts.  

Karin’s Style BlogLooking at the world with a designer’s eye
I love this blog! Karin’s work is beautiful and she has endless links to other makers and designers from around the world.

 

Whip-up: handcraft in a hectic world
This is a group submission site that is about all things handmade. A must visit often site!
See this page to learn more.  

 




Tara Robertson Pottery
A great photo tutorial on pit firing. I’m also enjoying reading about Tara’s venture into Etsy.  

Well, I think that’s enough for now… I hope you have enjoyed this tour. I have thoroughly enjoyed researching this. I have discovered some really exciting new blogs to subscribe to!