I’ve definitely noticed a theme of simplifying and minimizing in my life the last few months. Partly brought on by the lingering injuries and physical challenges of the auto accident, partly by a deeper urge to de-clutter the mental and psychological blockages that build up over time.
I’ve been away from clay for too long, and I’m coming to the realization that I need to start somewhere. It’s become clear that I won’t be throwing like I did 6 months ago any time soon, but I need to get back to doing something. Less clay, smaller forms, less time at the wheel in one stretch. Less expectations, smaller goals, less pressure on myself. Physical therapy is making small, slow, sometimes imperceptible progress, and I need to be content with the same rate of progress in the studio.
Along these same lines, Leo Babauta has written a companion to his book ‘The Power of Less’ — a free ebook called “THRIVING ON LESS: Simplifying in a Tough Economy“.
Granted, it’s a very small data sample and very unscientific, but among those that responded to the poll, the majority throw at the wheel standing up and/or elevated in some fashion. In an unrelated conversation, someone told me they knew a potter who kneeled at the wheel.
Standing – 3
Semi standing – 2
Sitting – 1
Which reinforces something that’s been bugging me for a while now.
-Even before I hurt my back this last time, I was putting my wheel up on bricks to raise it even 3″. . .
– Nearly all of the serious potters I know have jerry-rigged their wheel(s) to raise it in some way
– The ones that haven’t either complain of back problems, and/or have a hunch (whether they realize it or not)
So -why- are wheels built so low in the first place?
The wheels I speak of are SO short, they couldn’t possibly be at the right height for any normal human. OK, maybe a 3′ child.
Jen Mecca was kind enough to post about her throwing technique after I’d asked her about it. Jen throws standing up, which I’ve recently switched to after compressing a disk in my back this past spring. It was non-pottery related, I was changing a flat tire, but it got me even more motivated to minimize the strain of what can be a physically demanding craft.
I’d already started putting my wheel up on 3 bricks to raise the wheelhead, which was better, but still not high enough. The art center has one Brent wheel with the leg extensions for standing, so I’ve been using that one ever since.
Robert Compton has a nice page of different potters working. My favorite is with the wheel mounted on the ceiling. I’d actually thought of that myself once while musing the challenges of gravity. Now I find out someone else was doing it back in 1971… I was taught to throw pretty dry, but I can’t help thinking you’d need a rain poncho and a shower cap for that one!
John Glick has written some great articles sharing his hard learned lessons in back health. His ‘To Sciatica and Back‘ should be a cautionary tale for us all, as well as the followup ‘Down the Spinal Canal: From Herniation to Rupture‘
So my informal, unscientific poll in the sidebar asks you: How do you throw?