How to Make Cups on the Pottery Wheel

How to Make Cups on the Pottery Wheel


The art of making a cup on a pottery wheel is called throwing clay. Throwing clay comes from the technique of initially putting the ball of clay on the center of the wheel. Experienced potters throw the clay down onto the wheel so that it makes a good connection with the wheel. If the clay is not stuck to the wheel, it will slide off once the wheel starts spinning. Learn how to throw clay by making a cup on a pottery wheel.

Step 1

Take a fist-size ball of clay and knead it to work out any air bubbles and increase its elasticity. This should be performed for several minutes, and the final ball of clay should be roughly spherical.

Step 2

Slap the ball of clay onto the center of the pottery wheel and turn the wheel on. The wheel speed should be approximately half-speed or slightly less.

Step 3

Apply a small amount of water onto the clay, and press your palm downward onto the center to make it the shape of short, wide cylinder. Press your thumbs into the center of the cylinder to about a quarter-inch from the bottom, then pull your thumbs toward yourself, creating the opening of the cup.

Step 4

Apply a small amount of water over the edge of the cup. Place your thumb at the bottom of the inside of the cup and your finger on the outside, opposite your thumb. Lightly squeeze, putting pressure between your thumb and finger, and pull upward, repeating until the cup is the desired height and thickness.

Step 5

Take your wire clay cutter and swipe it underneath the cup, thereby separating it from the wheel. If this is not done immediately, the clay cup can dry and cannot be removed intact from the wheel.

Step 6

Make the cup's handle by rolling a small amount of clay into a short solid tube. Fashion the tube into a handle-shape.

Step 7

Apply water to the ends of the tube and to the spots on the cup where the handle will be attached. Carefully connect the ends of the clay handle to the cup. You might have to prop it up with a book or another stationary object until the handle dries in place.

Tips and Warnings

  • Throwing clay is not easy, and many people will have to make several attempts before creating a clay cup.

Things You'll Need

  • Pottery wheel
  • Cup of water
  • Wire clay cutters
  • Lump of clay
  • Sponge

Who Can Help

  • Alliance of Pottery Artists Worldwide Association
Keywords: make, cups, on, pottery, wheel

About this Author

Doug Hewitt has been writing for 20 years and has a Master of Arts from UNC-Greensboro. He authored the book The Practical Guide to Weekend Parenting, which includes health and fitness hints for parents. He and his wife, Robin, are co-authors of the Free College Resource Book.

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