TURNING vs THROWING – So you want to “throw” a pot, huh?  Well, pick one up, take your best pitchers stance and let it fly. But if you should want to “turn” a pot, pick up a piece of clay, made a ball, place it on the wheel and get started. Seriously, where in the world did the term “throwing” to mean making a pot on a wheel ever come from?  Now, I haven’t done a lot of research into this but, think about it, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense as there is absolutely NOTHING in the turning of a piece that has anything to do with “throwing” – really.  (OK, OK – some people do throw the ball on the wheel head but is that really necessary when you can place it just where you want it?  Come on.) The best I can find is that somewhere in the far past a professor in his art class used the term and later he, and others, wrote a book and used the term so there it is – throwing to make a pot out of clay.  (You do realize that virtually all books written on pottery have been written by professors – usually ones that have never touched a piece of clay?  And you do realize that once written in a book that virtually every book thereafter will use the same term because before they started to write a book they read all the books on the subject written before to get the majority of their information?  Case in point, one of the first books written about my family stated that Grandpa moved to Arden, NC in 1923.  He didn’t – it was 1925 – but every book written thereafter has the 1923 date.  So much for research.)  At any rate, since the overwhelming majority of people making pottery today took classes in which the term “throwing” was used instead of coming from a family in which the term “turning” was used, throwing has become the norm – no matter how ridiculous that makes one sound. But whether throwing or turning, lots of us like to make things on a wheel out of clay.  HOW we make them can be markedly different depending upon ones skill, the type clay being used and the type and amount of items produced.  Making a 5gal churn from native clay is far, far different than making a tea cup out of porcelain. Most studio potters are far more concerned in how the items they make look than in how many they make.  The old potters were making items to be used on the farm and usually getting paid by the number of gallons they could make in a day - looks were not something they were that interested in.  The really good potters – some members of my family included – would consider 200 gallons a days work.  That would be 40 5gal churns or 200 1gal items.  Just curious, how many of today’s studio potters can made even one 5gal churn or 200 of anything in a day?  Just askin’. So how did they do it? First, when you made large quantities of pots a day - day after day, week after week and year after year – you get pretty good at it. Second, they were not using the type clay used by the typical studio potter.  That clay would be considered “to tight”, meaning it had too much ball clay in it.  Too much ball clay will not allow a clay to “move” as is needed to withstand the pressure placed on it by the old potters. Take a look at this series of photos taken of Chester Hewell turning at their pottery in Gillsville, GA.  If you were watching you would not even notice how distorted the clay becomes while the piece is made because it happens so fast.  (But try this sometime – while centering a ball and putting pressure on it, suddenly let go and see now out of center it is.  Over time, one learns that one must slowly release the pressure, when centering or turning, to keep the piece centered.) Notice how tight – small around - the piece is as he brings it up.  This is because of another reason these potters could turn out the pots so fast – the speed of the wheel.  Chester, his Mother and Dad, have their wheels spinning faster than any I have ever seen.  This allows them to turn a piece very fast – it takes Chester just over a minute to turn a 5 gallon piece!  But that wheel speed comes at a price – one must be very, very careful when turning or the centrifugal force will throw the clay right off the wheel.  Take a look at the Hewell’s web site at - http://www.hewellspottery.com/ So “throwing” or turning – take your pick.  As long as you end up with a piece you like it is all good, huh?   BROWN’S POTTERY - from the inside