When you’re working with pottery clay, small things can affect how your pottery will turn out. But, did you know that there is 1 tip to get the most bang out of your pottery clay, so you’re not wasting it and using it to its full advantage?
That’s right, there is one singular tip, and I’m going to tell you the secret behind this, why it matters, and what you can do to get the most out of this.
For most potters, they ignore this step because it’s “boring” and it’s not a fun part of the job. But here’s the thing, if you want to really get a good start on your pottery works, this is how you do it, and here, we’ll highlight just what it is, and why it matters.
So, What is It?
There is one thing that will change the pottery game for most people, but what is it.
The answer is wedging!
Why does wedging matter? Well, when you wedge clay, the following happens to it:
- It makes the clay more pliable
- Has a better consistency
- Removes the air pockets from hard spots in the clay
- Can be good for new clay, or for clay you’re reusing
- You don’t have to get frustrated with the clay while on the wheel
The best type of wedging is, of course, Ram’s Head wedging. It’s the easiest way to do it.
The general idea of this is the following steps:
- You throw the clay
- You roll it into a spiral
- You knead it out
This is a repetitive step, and for most people, it’s something that even the experts don’t really count upon. They oftentimes will neglect it.
But, here’s the reality of it, when you skip this step, you’re ultimately affecting your ability to create an easy, useful project.
So, what happens if you refuse to wedge your clay? Read below to find out!
What happens if you don’t do This?
Some of the “experts” in the business will forgo wedging for a few reasons. The top reasons as to why are as follows:
- It’s boring
- It’s useless
- It takes a lot of repetition
- You can just dive right into your piece
- It’s not a necessary step
Sure, you don’t think it’s necessary, but here’s the thing, if you don’t do it, it will affect the consistency and the usability of the piece.
Here’s the thing, deep down when you’re using this, especially with bagged clay, the following happens:
- It will get clumpy
- There will be air pockets
- You will have an explosion in the kiln
- You will notice it will bubble up and possibly create an inconsistent texture in this
Many of the experts think that it’s just smart to leave it be as is, and from there just fix it later on, but here’s the thing: it’s better if you take care of it now, and you’ll thank yourself later.
You will prevent any possibility of the clay exploding, and many people will oftentimes discount doing this, but it could save you a lot of work.
Do you have to do it with all clay?
The big question.
The answer to that is yes. Doing it with all the clay is important because it creates the following:
- More evened clay
- Less potential for cracks
- Less likely to explode in the kiln
- A better plasticity
- A better response to the clay
For many people, they might think they don’t’ have to wedge everything, but it’s better if you do it for every piece of clay. Otherwise, it will cause a problem with the uniformity of the clay.
For most people who are wedging it out, they do it in parts. That’s because it helps with the following:
- Takes less time
- Takes less work
- Allows for the clay to be properly wedged
A lot of people do like to wedge clay a quickly as you can. It isn’t a fun activity, but it’s necessary for people to do if they want to have clay that’s easily put together and helps with the plasticity of it too.
How to Do This
How you do this is pretty simple, and there are a few things that can help with it.
By knowing the proper placement of your hands, and of the actions at hand, it lets the following occur:
- A proper experience with this
- You don’t spend as much time with it as you would with others
- It’s more effective than just trying to do it willy-nilly
To begin, we’ll discuss how to prepare the body, and how to engage in each of the actions that you must do in order to properly wedge the clay.
Place those Hands!
First, let’s talk about how you put your hands or this type of wedging. While there are other ways, Ram’s Head is the most popular, and the easiest to do.
To do this, you must first do the following:
- Put the left hand behind the right hand
- Keep your hands properly cupped around the clay
- Make sure your palms are facing in and towards where they are to one another
Once you have it in place, you then can start the next step, which is the wedging motion. We’ll talk about how to do the motions of wedging in the next section.
Proper Wedging Motion
By properly wedging the clay, you’ll be able to get the motions down pat. The importance of getting the wedging motions down is the following:
- It makes it go faster
- It makes wedging less of an arduous process
- It’s good for the clay to do it correctly
Doing wedging right will save you a ton of time, and we’ll tell you how to do that below:
- First, you want to take a square of clay and put it on the table a few times
- You want to continue to do it to help loosen it, and from there, it’ll leave it in a shape that’s lumpy before you work with it
- Don’t flatten it out just yet, because you’ll want to make sure that it’s loose and useful
- From here, wrap your hands against the clay, holding onto the upper half
- Keep your thumbs touching, and make sure they are also pointing forward and parallel
- Keep the heels of your hands pushing forward and downward at an angle onto the table as you have your palms and fingers cupping the sides of the clay
- Once your pinkies hit the tableside, roll the clay forwards and backward towards your tummy so that the point of the clay is touching the table
- Put your hands on top once more and continue to complete the stroke of wedging once more
- You will want to make sure that you do this about 20-40 times
And there you have it, that’s the wedging motions that you should focus on, and make sure that you get done before you work with it.
Doing it Correctly?
You may wonder if you’re doing it correctly. There are a few signs that showcase that you’re doing it right, and they are as follows:
- After about 5-10 movements you’ll see a shape that’s similar to a ram’s head
- You may also notice a spiral forming on the side where your palms are
- You may notice a nose layering when you start to do the kneading motion
But that’s all there is to it. When you start to wedge your clay like this, it allows for you to get the results that you want and push through to give yourself the best pottery experience possible.
After you’re done wedging, you simply do the following:
- Use the clay for either hand-building or wheel throwing
- Always check to make sure there are no air bubbles or pockets
- Always check to make sure there is an even thickness around
- Put it in the kiln, but only after it’s been checked, and it’s bone-dry
And there you have it, that’s literally all you need to do in order to get started with wedging, and it’s the one thing that changes your pottery. It will help make your pottery experience even better, and if you want to create a better piece than ever before, this is how you do it.
There are a few ways to troubleshoot and fix this if you notice that there is something wrong. Below, we’ll talk about how you can fix this.
If you do screw this up somehow, the following can happen:
- It can affect the evenness of the clay
- It can make it harder to work with
- You’ll struggle when it comes to actually throw the pottery piece
So, let’s highlight a few things that can happen when you start to wedge, and a few things happen.
My Arms are Tired!
This is the first problem, and usually, it’s how you’re throwing the piece. When you throw pottery, you should always make sure the following is happening:
- You use the whole body to do it
- You make sure the lower body and the upper back are doing the work
- You have your elbows straight
- You have one foot in front of the other while doing it
This isn’t just a one-area activity. This is something that allows you to get the job done completely and without fail.
If you notice that there is tiredness setting in, check the state of your position, and always make sure that you’re doing this correctly before you begin.
I’ve Made a Burrito!
This is one of the most common issues that come about when you’re wedging. Instead of making, of course, the ram’s head, you end up making an awkward burrito shape.
The solution to this is, of course, to do the following with it:
- You should make sure that the fingers and palms are not being released
- Don’t push with the cups of the heals
- You should keep your hands as uniform as possible, and don’t try to make it a super round shape
- Push into the table, using the force of this in order to make the shape
- Make sure your hands are cupped and not pushing outwards in any shape or form
The burrito shape is the most common shape for wedging, and if you do it wrong, it will affect the state of the clay. You shouldn’t use the burrito shape, because it causes the following to happen:
- It makes the shape awkward
- It won’t fully get the clay usable, so you’ll have the sides of it still a bit hard
- It doesn’t make it uniform for firing, and could potentially cause issues
For most people who are doing this, the position of the hands when you do this is very important, and you should, with this as well, make sure that you take the time to ensure that you’re getting the right experience possible from this, and one that allows for you to get everything set in the correct order.
Wedging is important, and you should know how to do it, so you can get the most out of clay.
One Tip, but Very Important!
This is something that a lot of the pros claim you can avoid doing, but here’s the reality of it: it’s not something you should avoid. Wedging is a big part of making sure that the clay is put together in a way that’s correct, and in a manner that fits the piece.
When you wedge the clay, the following happens with it:
- You work with it better
- You make the experience easier
- You have a more uniform look to the piece
If you’re not wedging the clay, you’re going to end up with problems over time. Most people don’t realize that this is the one step that will get you the most bang from your pottery.
And what a step it is. It’s that simple, that effective, and you’ll be able to, with this, create the pottery experience you want to have.