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What is Hand Thrown Pottery?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Hand thrown pottery is an artisan craft produced by working clay on a potter's wheel. Many art centers, colleges, and universities offer pottery classes open to members of the public who are interested in learning to work with pottery. Also, people can make hand thrown pottery at home if they have space for a studio. Artisans all over the world produce pottery for sale using hand throwing techniques.

When pottery is thrown, it is worked on a piece of equipment known as a wheel. The wheel is a flat disc that rotates, using either an electric engine or a foot pedal. Clay is mounted on the middle of the wheel on a flat panel known as a bat and the potter turns the wheel on, molding the clay with the hands as it spins. Depending on what the potter does with the clay, it can be formed into bowls, vases, cups, plates, and many other types of clay crafts. Each piece will be unique because it was individually formed.

Once formed on the wheel, the piece can be allowed to dry before it is bisqued, glazed, and then fired. The firing process changes the chemical composition of the clay, hardening it and developing the glaze. Special kilns that can reach high and stable temperatures are needed for this part of the process. Since running a kiln requires a large number of pieces and some skill, some crafters prefer to take finished clay pieces to an art center for firing, rather than trying to manage their own kilns.

Skilled potters can make hand thrown pottery that is highly even, regular, and symmetrical. They are capable of producing matching sets of items that will appear almost identical and can also create large and complex pieces, including works of sculpture, on the wheel. People who are still learning how to handle clay and the wheel tend to end up with more irregularly-shaped pieces that may be of varying thickness.

People interested in purchasing hand thrown pottery can find numerous sources of pottery in different styles, ranging from rustic pieces to more formal, delicate designs. The price varies depending on the artisan, region where the hand thrown pottery was produced, and style. Some works are designed more as pieces of art and can be quite expensive, while more workaday pottery that is intended for use rather than display may be more affordable. Many artisans are also willing to work with people to create custom pieces.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By wavy58 — On Feb 24, 2012

@StarJo – Mastering the wheel was difficult for me, too. After trying to make several large bowls, I learned that it is easier to make a bunch of small items on the wheel and piece them together later.

That's what I did with my pottery vases. I wanted to design something large and decorative to go in the foyer, and the only way to make something as big as I wanted was to make it in separate pieces.

I made cones and bowls and turned one upside-down on top of its match. I glued them together with moist clay, and I used the knife to scrape off the excess.

When I pieced the items together, I had the chance to smooth over any rough edges and hide any uneven rims. This became my favorite way to make pottery.

By Perdido — On Feb 23, 2012

I received some hand thrown pottery dinnerware as a wedding gift. The plates are square with rounded edges, and they have been painted to look like mosaic tiles.

I know that my friend didn't make them herself, but she did buy them from a local potter's studio. I marveled at how fine the detail is to be done all by hand.

I suppose that after years of practice, a person can become so skilled at their craft that it becomes second nature to them. I think that a person probably has to have a certain degree of natural talent in that area to become an excellent potter, though.

By StarJo — On Feb 22, 2012

I had to make hand thrown pottery in college. The pottery class was required for all art majors, and I wouldn't have taken it by choice.

The wheel frustrated me greatly. I remember having to re-wet the clay several times while spinning it and never being able to get a good shape out of it.

About the most even side of anything I ever produced was the bottom, and this was because of how it had to be separated from the wheel. I had to take a piece of string and loop it around the piece's base to cut it from the bottom of the wheel. That part was hard to screw up, so the bottom of my pottery was its best side!

By shell4life — On Feb 21, 2012

My best friend is great with the pottery wheel. She made me a set of hand thrown pottery mugs for Christmas, and she used a paintbrush and different colored glazes to make them special.

I don't see how she can shape her items so perfectly. I tried the wheel once, and I couldn't produce anything anywhere near symmetrical. The mugs she made could have been sold in stores, because they were so flawless.

She painted my favorite blossoms on a couple of mugs, and she did a couple of different colored dragonflies on others. I could not have found pottery that suited my tastes so well in any store.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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