To ‘Turn’ or to ‘Throw’


The choice of terms for potters is probably just semantics.  Whether a pot is thrown or turned implies a mechanical pottery wheel of some description either way.  What appears to be a trend is that crafts people tend to throw pots and artists prefer to turn clay.  There may be something in the marketing world that subliminally tells us that turned ceramics are somehow more valuable than thrown ceramics.

The expression, wheel thrown,  makes a lot of sense to me considering the mechanics of the device and the physics (centrifugal force) of the clay spinning on the wheel head.  On the other hand, turned pieces bring images of a craftsman working at a lathe…where pieces seem to emerge from within a solid block of wood. There are some economics to the word turned that I like as well.  Calling something ‘wheel turned’ seems redundant…and turned could easily concatenate what happens on the pottery wheel with what often happens on a banding wheel during construction and decoration.

Six Inch Tall MugsTo fan the flames of the artist-craftsman feud, perhaps turned requires verbalization with the head kicked back slightly, the nose pointed skyward, and the word sung as if it is a very long, one syllable word.

All that being said, I’m turning mugs this week.  For the most part they will become test pieces for glaze experiments and exercises to help me improve my throwing skills.

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3 Responses to “To ‘Turn’ or to ‘Throw’”

  1. Debbie says:

    The way I look at it, anyone is entitled to try their hand at clay/ceramics. If they have talent and work hard, they have as much right as anyone else to sell or display their work. I don’t understand these people who think that one must go to college for years to learn the proper method of creating.

    If one was to become a surgeon, I could see the need for extensive study. But art is art. It’s subjective to those who want to see, touch, or buy it. As long as the artist educates him/herself enough that any food objects are safe (glaze, structure, etc.) then after that it is all up to the market.

    I for one am glad that I live in this era in America and can practice my hobby, without having to be apprenticed in or study only if my forefathers were in the business. What was once an honor only given to some is now available to the benefit of all.

    I think those who scoff at us “hobbyists” must be jealous to some extent, otherwise they wouldn’t take the time to look down at us but simply keep creating their “superior” works.

    Just my 2 crafty cents 😉

  2. Paul says:

    The first time I took a clay class in college, it was not in the Art Department. They would have nothing to do with something they considered a ‘craft’. I could have cared less. I learned something that was fun and energizing…and have a bunch of credits from (what was) the Home Economics Department.

    Thanks for your comment!

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