The Spinning of the Wheel

Leah Dean informs about world of ceramics


Tymber Moody, Web Editor

The spinning of the wheel, wet hands painted in grey, and the soft texture of clay beneath her hands. These are all senses that junior Leah Dean experiences when she creates a vessel in ceramics. 

Dean has been interested in art for as long as she can remember, but before high school, she had only drawn and painted as her forms of art. Although, the first time she ever threw on the wheel (which is the word that potters use to call making pieces on the potter wheel) was in eighth grade. 

“[In eight grade] we all got just one class period to throw whatever we wanted on the wheel,” Dean said. “My first piece actually turned out really nice, which is really surprising since the first few times most people throw on the wheel, it usually fails. I’ve loved working with clay since.”

Dean takes a lot of pride in her vessels that she has created and displays the ones that she’s most proud of around her home. The whole process of throwing and creating vessels is very rewarding for Dean.

“My favorite part of pottery is the gratification you experience when you finished a piece that you knew you put a lot of effort and time into,” Dean said. “It is the best feeling ever to get to the last step of opening the glaze kiln and getting to take out your finished piece home.”

By taking ceramics, Dean has had the opportunity to grow her art skills and open up her art experiences to other styles of art than her usual drawing and painting. 

Although she’s already taken the two ceramics classes provided by the school, Dean still makes time to go to ceramics during her study hall. She’s been doing this since the second semester of Sophomore year.

When throwing on the wheel, it all starts with a ball of clay that you have to center on the wheel. Once the ball is in place, you can begin to pull the clay up in a slow process and move the clay into the shape of the wanted vessels. 

Once happy with the piece, it dries until it is ready to be trimmed. This process of trimming allows the creation of a foot-ring on the bottom of the piece and to take off any extra clay. 

Then the piece goes through the first firing process or bisque firing, which makes the clay non-malleable. Once that happens, the piece is ready to be glazed and then fired again in the glaze kiln and then the piece is finished.

Dean is still working on creating new and fun vessels to try but would like to let other people, especially beginners, know to continue working on your pottery skills and not to give up. 

“I could not [have] succeed and even didn’t like throwing on the pottery wheel well until halfway through sophomore year. Throwing on the wheel took me over a year to get the hang of consistently. Don’t worry, the time spent is well worth it.”