Lily Pearmain Ceramics

Process : Throwing a doughnut

ProcessLily Pearmain

This series aims to bring you closer to the making process, offering insights into the studio and glimpses of processes that aren't always evident in the the final piece. 

The process of throwing my 'doughnuts' is one that isn't immediately clear. I'm often met with disbelief when I tell people they're hollow, so I wanted to demonstrate how it's done. 

There's a myth that circulates amongst potters, that air bubbles cause explosions in the kiln. It's just not true. The hollow part of the doughnut is one big air bubbles, and I don't put a hole in many of my doughnuts and I've never had a single explosion. Cracks, sure, my joins aren't always perfect. But never an explosion. 

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Center

Centering clay is the thing students struggle with most. It's the process of getting the clay to be completely aligned in the centre of the wheel, the whole way round. So that even when the wheel is spinning fast, the clay appears to be still, or 'silent'. Uncentered clay would lead to a very wobbly pot.

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Open up

Normally, 'opening up' means creating the base of the pot. But seeing as the doughnuts are without a base in the centre, I pull out the entire weight of clay to expose the wooden batt I throw on, attached to the wheelhead. This part is the tricky bit when it comes to making doughnuts, in my opinion. Because there's no base, you have to keep a really steady hand so that the clay doesn't slip and get pulled off centre.

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Compress

By pushing down into the clay, I can create the base and separate the clay that will become the walls of the doughnut. The important bit at this stage is to go directly into the middle. You need the walls to be of even thickness.

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Pull up the inner wall

 

Just like any other pot.

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Pull up the outer wall

If the doughnut was compressed well, the walls should have similar amounts of clay and will pull to the same height and thickness.

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Push the walls together

 

Slowly, slowly...

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Until they meet

When two become one. Compressing the join further by pushing together the walls even after they've met ensures that it doesn't open while drying.

Process : Preparing Clay

ProcessLily Pearmain

This series aims to bring you closer to the making process, offering insights into the studio and glimpses of processes that aren't always evident in the the final piece. 

The first process in making anything is to mix the clay. Here, some is recycled, and some is fresh out of the bag. This process is called 'wedging' - cutting layers and slapping them on top of each other repeatedly. It's very effective at mixing the clay quickly, and gives these beautiful striations. The lighter clay here is wetter than the darker clay, shown by the way the lighter clay buckles more than the dark clay. For the clay to be suitable for throwing it needs to be fully combined so that it all responds equally to my touch on the wheel.  


The next stage is to knead the clay. This is very commonly misnamed as 'wedging', as it's part of the same process of mixing the clay and making sure that there are no air bubbles. This type of kneading is called spiral kneading, perfect for mixing larger amounts of clay. 

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I then cut the larger chunk of clay down, measuring out the required weight of clay needed for each item I plan on throwing. Normally I sit down and throw a whole batch of the same item, so I will weigh out the same weight of clay to make the making as consistent as possible.

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Once I've thrown the clay, any waste is recycled, dried out and then re-wedged, back to the beginning again.