Many people have experienced playing with clay in their childhood. But only a few are blessed with the talent of turning a simple lump of clay into the perfect shape of a pot, and henceforth choose pottery as their profession. Though pottery may seem too easy to do, it needs a lot of hard work and dedication to craft out a good piece of work.
Making a pot that looks not only beautiful and has an aesthetic finishing, but also possesses proper measurements is pretty challenging to achieve. Especially when it comes to giving a pottery piece the exact thickness that it requires, the task becomes more challenging. Both too much thick and less thin walls of a pot make it weak and extremely fragile. As a result, it ruins the further processes of pottery and makes it entirely unsuccessful. Thus, certain factors need special attention and precaution to achieve the correct thickness of the pot’s walls.
So, in this article, we will put light on such little but major factors that you should consider to get rid of the uneven thickness in your pottery.
Reasons for the uneven thickness of your pottery walls
If given a closer look, there are several reasons for getting uneven thickness in the walls of a pot. So if you are a beginner, before making your own pottery, you must be well aware of those mistakes and avoid them as much as possible. Following are some of the probable reasons for unevenness of the walls of your pottery:
- The first thing that a potter needs to correct is the process of doing pottery. Improper or incorrect placement of your fingers on the clay body can affect its thickness and depth. So, it is essential to use not only your hand but also your fingertips carefully and adequately on the clay piece. Each finger must be used chronologically and equally on the lump of the clay. Starting from locking your thumbs together, creating the caliper position, to making other fingers work with it gradually, you must learn them all to get the ideal thickness for your pottery walls. During this time, it’s your hands that will gauge the thickness for you along with thinning the walls of the clay.
- The speed of the potter’s wheel is another major factor that can affect the thickness of the walls of your pot. Hence, it is vital to regulate the speed, depending on the successive steps of creating a pottery piece. Usually, it is suggested to keep the wheel in medium speed, while your caliper is closed and ready to make the first lift. If you can manage both the finger and speed of the wheel, only then, the vessel’s base and walls will get the perfect thin texture and thickness that it requires. Otherwise, you will end up creating thin walls that will break off later while lifting the pot.
- Also, dripping water on the clay body from time to time helps to provide accurate thickness to the walls of your pot. Apart from the amount of water, the interval of time in which you trickle the water matter equally. Not spilling enough amount of water in small intervals will thicken your pot and give it a rough texture. So, between each lift, one must squeeze water using a sponge over the rim, while the pottery still spins on the wheel. This action will help in providing a smooth wall texture and thickness.
- Various defects may pop up on the pot’s body while doing the steps of pottery. One such flaw is the mushroom effect or volcano effect. Some of the artists mistakenly make a mushroom-shaped structure while centering the clay. Most potters tend to overlook this mistake, but never do so because it can hamper the thickness of the walls of your pottery. Shaping your clay in that way can create pockets where air and slip might get trapped and make your pot thinner from below.
There are a few other causes too, which can affect the thickness of your model. In the following table, we have enlisted a few more reasons that are less probable to thicken pottery walls, but if unnoticed initially may cause a severe problem later.
How do they hamper the thickness of the pottery walls?
|Selection of the wrong clay||Too smooth clay can collapse or shrink if you take much time to center it on the wheel. Thus, such clays will thicken your pot so much that it will be nearly impossible for you to lift it from the pottery wheel.|
|Clay is too hard||Air-dried clays get pretty hard and result in improper consistency of it. This phenomenon can further lead to uneven thickness when thrown on a wheel.|
|Clay is too wet||When the clay is too drenched, it will give the walls a water-like texture thinning it to a considerable extent. You won’t even be able to bring up the walls of the pot with such consistency.|
|Not wedging the clay properly||Improperly wedged clay pot will form air pockets, and the moisture absorbed will thicken the walls.|
Why avoid uneven thicknesses of the pot’s walls?
Well, there are several reasons why accurate thickness is required during pottery. Unless the walls of your pot have an appropriate thickness, you can’t proceed onto the next steps. Even if somehow you manage to move onto the successive phases, ultimately, in the end, your pot wouldn’t have the desired outlook or quality that you might have expected. So, now let’s take a deeper insight into some other crucial facts of pottery that demand exact measurement of the initial thickness of the pot.
If a single edge of the pot remains thin, then the wall area has higher chances to break off. Even the slightest hit on edge can cause a crack or pull out of the clay directly from the wheel may hamper the lifespan of the pot. Thus, having equal measurements of all the edges is quite essential to make the pottery strong and durable.
Again, if the wall of your pot is thicker than average, then it is tough to carve out a design on it. Yes, you might be able to do any design on it, but it won’t be prominently visible or may look flawed and can later cause a problem in glazing. But, if the thickness is maintained, the design could not only be engraved deeply, but also neatly. It will eventually enhance the beauty of your pottery piece.
Uneven texture and shape:
Improper thickness can result in uneven texture, which means the outcome result won’t be as glorious as you had expected. There are chances of unequal edges and corners, especially if one side remains thin and the other remains thick.
Firing can cause shrinkage:
Firing involves a lot of changes in the physical and chemical properties of the clay, and it also takes a long time. It makes a pottery piece way too hot and can even shrink it. So, if the thickness of your pot is not correct, then bisque firing or glaze firing, both can result in contraction of the pottery, resulting in its breakage.
Incapable of holding liquids:
The thinner walls of a pot are weak as compared to the thicker walls. Hence, the former ones can’t handle massive force or weight. If you try to store water or any other liquid, there will be chances that it will seep out of the pot. Hence, if your pottery is made to carry stuff, then it must be made thicker so that it can handle the force of the objects kept inside.
Solutions for correcting the unevenness in thickness of the pottery walls:
The unevenness of thickness in figures and shapes of a sculpture or pottery ware is a common mistake. Not only amateurs but also the experts commit such mistakes while crafting their pottery work. The wrong or incorrect estimation of the thickness of the walls of your pot can turn out to be futile. So, it is crucial to know the solutions for correcting the uneven thickness of your pottery walls.
- There is a modern technique of pottery known as stove production. This process is related to heat, so it is quite essential to acquire the right thickness while bringing up the walls of a pot. Now, the problem that arises due to inadequate thickness is that the heating effect causes cracking of the clay body, which can weaken your pottery. So, you can prevent this phenomenon by changing the clay source as it is the easiest way out.
- You can also give the right thickness to your pot by accurate mixing of the clay. Whisking the clay mixture with some other materials, using the right composition, and sometimes using a better method of clay preparation can also eradicate the problem of uneven thickness of the walls or may reduce it.
- Refrain from using highly coarse-grained clays. When you try to shape such clays, it will form an uneven surface due to the uneven thickness caused by the coarse grains. However, due to the unavailability of other alternatives, you might need to use such clays. Do not worry! You can remove the rough texture of the clay by using organic fibrous materials, finely chopped hay or straw, coconut coir, cow dung, etc. If these substances are mixed well with the clay, then they will break the grains into finer particles, thus curtailing the unevenness in thickness of the pot.
- Pottery is all about the creativity of the hands of the artist. The more you use your hands artistically, the finer and more delicate will your pot be. Some potters directly throw clay onto the wheel for scraping off the excess clay and frame a proper shape. But, for doing so, if the hand pressure is not maintained correctly, then it may cause irregular thickness. Make sure you allow sufficient hand pressure while shaping a smooth surface of the pot.
- Non-uniform thickness may also affect the balance of the earthen materials. It is assumed as one of the major defects of pottery production. However, this problem can be fixed before drying the pot. If the clay body shows some imbalances, it means that the bottom surface possesses excess clay. So, this additional clay must be scuffed off either with tools or gentle hand pressure. Well, thick bottom surfaces often have a lesser volume so that one can detect it easily by close inspection of the pot. However, to identify the thickness quotient at other parts of the clay vessel, you need an expert eye and experience.
Uneven thickness in pottery is not an incurable problem. It can be solved through various solutions. As different parameters are responsible for causing unevenness, there are wide varieties of solutions to it too.
What must be the ideal thickness of a pot’s walls and how to achieve it?
There is a specific measurement of the thickness of the walls that vary from model to model. The thickness measurement depends on the shape of the bottom of the pot. If you want to scrape off the bottom surface, then it should be a minimum of 3/8-1/2inches thick, but if you wish to avoid trimming, then 1/4-inch thickness is sufficient for medium and small-sized pots.
In the following table, we have enlisted some of the shaping processes of pottery and how they control the thickness of a pot’s walls.
How to execute the process?
|Coiling thickness||Coiling is an innovative method of creating pottery. With the help of this technique, you can make thicker walls and taller-walled pots. You can determine the thickness by placing coils of clay on top of one another.|
|Granulate pressing||One can set the thickness of the walls by clay pressing in a semi-dry condition, which is called granulate pressing. The granulated clay body is formed by spray-drying to produce finer materials containing moisture of about 5-6%. Dust pressing is also used in the manufacture of ceramic pottery and controlling the accurate thickness of the pots.|
|Molding||It is the process of forming complex-shaped potteries. But after the formation of the body, the thickness resolution is also maintained by molding. It is done by applying a mixture of 40%-50% organic additives composed of binders, lubricants, and plasticizers on the greenware. It mainly finds use in crafting cups, glasses, and handle-fixing purposes.|
|Jiggering and Jolleying||Jiggering is the process of using thickness controlling tools to give a smoother surface to the pot. It is used to produce flatwares and plates. Another operation, known as Jolleying, is done for hollow wares like cups. It is an older form of pottery used for shaping and making thicker walls of the pots.|
|Slipcasting||It is a shape building procedure that includes a fluid called slip. It is prepared by mixing a clay body with water and poured into a highly absorbent plaster mold. One may use this method to create internal and external surface walls with accurate thickness measurements.|
|Roller-head||Machine roller-head is used for shaping wares on a rotating mold. So, while giving shape to the pots, the thickness of its walls can also be corrected and controlled.|
Having discussed the ways how to achieve a precise thickness of the walls of a pot, let’s learn a few tips that one must follow to measure the depth of a pottery piece. Here, we go.
- If you are an expert potter, then you can quickly realize the thickness of the earthen pots. But being a novice, you will have to learn the art deliberately. After that, by thorough practice, you will be able to achieve the ability to recognize the thickness of the earthen utensils, merely by seeing and touching it.
- However, for a beginner, a needle tool like Needle Point Clay Tool can be of great help to measure an approximate thickness of the pot’s walls. The distance between your fingers placed at one surface of the pot’s walls and tool on the other surface gauges the thickness of the bottom of your pottery.
- Along with thickening, one must also consider the widening of the bottom and keep a balance between these two. It is vital because this ratio will help in sustaining the balance of the pots, and also give an excellent outlook to your pottery.
- Besides, leveling and compacting the bottom and the sidewalls of a pot is also necessary. Otherwise, the pottery may break due to the weight imposed by the thickness of the clay body.
Reaching at the end of the article, you might have learned why the thickness of the walls of a pot plays an integral role in the end outcome of pottery, what should be the ideal thickness of your pot, and how to achieve it. So, to turn your imagination into reality and craft beautiful pottery, keep the above-said factors about thickness in mind, and go on practicing; you will surely achieve success.
All the Best!