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BCS Video: How To Throw Advanced Shapes - Bottles
Bottles are a fairly basic form, but present some unique challenges, so don’t move on to bottles until you feel confident in centering and throwing cylinders. The first steps to throwing a bottle are the same as throwing a cup or any other cylinder, but you should take some time to plan ahead. When you throw a cylinder to turn into a bottle, it should be a minimum of two (and three would be better) times taller than it is wide, and it will be shorter than you expect when completed, so use more clay than you think you will need and trim the top if you need to.
As you begin to throw more advanced shapes, all of your basic skills will become a foundation for you to build on, so don’t take them for granted. When you form the neck of your bottle, any air bubble or off-center wobble will be more of an annoyance that they would be in a cup or bowl. Make sure your clay is completely de-aired and wedged before throwing and make sure it’s completely centered before pulling into a cylinder.
Once you have a cylinder (at least two, preferably three, times taller than it is wide), take your sponge and get as much water out of the inside as possible, once the bottle is finished you won’t be able to. Next, get the outside walls wet, and wet your hands.
Hold your palms down on both sides of the cylinder with your thumbs out at right angles, you will only need to contact the clay with the inside knuckles of your thumbs and the side of the knuckles of your index fingers, more contact means more friction and that can cause the neck to twist an spiral. Starting from below where you want the neck of your bottle to start, gently push in with both hands while pulling up slowly, this is called collaring. It can help to touch the tips of your thumbs or the tips of your index fingers together if you are having trouble moving them evenly.
As the neck starts to take shape you can get a little more aggressive with collaring. You can finish the neck with one hand squeezing the outside, and one finger on the inside to keep it centered and even. It is common for the rim to develop a wobble, so make it a little longer than necessary and trim the top off with a needle tool. Once the basic shape is done, use a rib to smooth and finalize the outside.
The last step in the throwing process is trimming. It isn’t always necessary to trim a piece, if you throw cleanly and don’t leave excess clay on the bottom, you could easily just smooth out the bottom rim with your hands, or roll it around on a tabletop, but trimming a foot will look tidier and will reduce the chance of the bottom cracking.
So how do you trim a bottle? The narrow top won’t allow you to trim it like you would a bowl or a cup, because it can’t balance on the wheel-head. To make up for its lack of balance you will need a chuck. A chuck is a simple too make of clay thrown on the wheel (link to wheels page) and then dried or bisqued. The basic shape (although there is a lot of variation) is a cylinder with an open bottom that is wide at the base and top, and narrow in the middle, I keep about a dozen different sized chucks in my studio for different bottles.
Center the chuck on your wheel or trimming tool and hold it in place like you would any other pot. Then use a coil of clay to hold your upside-down bottle in place on the chuck. It won’t center automatically, but it will be a lot easier than centering on its own. Once it’s all in place, trim the base like you would any other pot.
Bottles can be challenging, even though they seem simple, and they make take multiple failed attempts before you get them right, but be patient, keep practicing and you’ll have it in no time!
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