Working the Pottery Wheel

Working the Pottery Wheel

Pottery Wheel Skills

Working the potter’s wheel is part art and part acquired skill. While the soul of an artist is certainly useful it is not absolutely necessary to throw good pottery. The potter’s wheel is difficult to master and the beginner must accept that it will require a lot of time and effort to produce the desired results. The beginner must simply relax and enjoy the process of learning.

The first lesson a beginning potter must learn is that the best pieces are created by allowing the hands to form the object and not to rely on the brain to design it.

There are three basic tenants of throwing pottery; practice, experience and experimentation.


Wet clay is easily malleable, transforming its shape at your lightest touch. Practice is absolutely necessary to master the form the clay takes. The mind and emotions must bond to understand how the clay moves while the body builds muscle memory of the routine and rhythm of working the wheel. Practice also gives you the confidence and comfort level needed to throw the pottery and the knowledge of what will occur when you move your hands in different ways.


Experience is the practice of observing and evaluating each move you make and each piece you throw. You develop procedural knowledge of the best methods of working the wheel and the clay. By examining these things objectively and making corrections as necessary you change your behavior to produce the results you desire.


Practice also gives you the opportunity to experiment as you work the clay. You must push the limits of developing your skill of molding the clay through repetition and evaluation in order to rise to the next skill level. You can correct problems in your technique or refine your skill by changing your methods through experimentation. It is important that you don’t become discouraged as you experiment. It requires a good deal of practice and experience to reap the benefits of experimentation.