POTTER'S WHEEL MODELLING

Modelling a vase by means of a wheel (its moving mechanism has been modified down the centuries), dates back to the middle of the IV millennium B.C.; it was first used in Mesopotamia and later spread to the rest of Asia Minor; in the second millennium it was first used by Cretan and later by Greek vase-makers. In the VIII century B.C. it spread to Italy and from here to the whole Danube basin.
The foot-driven potter’s wheel appeared later and to date has still not been affected by substantial structural modifications. The potter’s wheel is made of two circular planes fixed to the central spinning axis. The lower wheel is larger and forces the smaller upper wheel to make rotational movements (the lump of clay to be modelled is placed on top of this wheel); the spin is given by the vase-maker’s foot or in modern potter’s wheels, by an electric motor. The potter’s wheel allowed the vase-maker to improve and elaborate production so as to meet the increasing demands of the community where he lived. The clay that is used for throwing must be accurately mixed and prepared in quite big lumps according to the object to be shaped.
The first phase of modelling is centering: this is carried out by forcefully throwing the lump of clay onto the spinning pulley; the left hand placed slightly onto the surface of the pulley gently pushes the clay lump towards the centre of the disk and is aided by the right hand that pushes it in the opposite way; the arms are placed in a rigid position, especially the left that has to be kept very close to the operator’s side.
The clay mass is moved towards the top and then back towards the bottom with the pressure of the lower part of the hand palms. This operation is used both for mixing clay and for the centering. The following phase is the opening, which is carried out by pressing the mass centre with one finger. The hands are always positioned so as to keep the clay mass to the centre of the spinning pulley. When the hands get dry, it is necessary to wet them with water so as to increase the plasticity and ductility of the material. The side lifting is carried out by slightly pressing the inner surface with one hand, while keeping the other hand on the outside of the vase.
This operation has to be repeated several times, starting from the bottom and gradually rising up to the ends of the vase.
It is necessary to be cautious and wet hands whenever necessary. It is also important to check that the edge is uniform. The accomplished vase is then detached from the pulley by sliding a steel wire through the base of the pulley level. When the turned objects have reached a level of hardness that allows handling without causing any deformation, they have to be refined through suitable tools. An adequate tool must be used also for making the supporting foot so as to avoid the enamel sticking to the firing level during firing phases.