Big Ceramic Store Blog

BCS Video: How to Throw Basic Shapes - Cup

In part 1 of our basic throwing series, we’ll learn how to make a cup. Enjoy the video and look below for instructions you may have missed.

Cups are among the simplest forms you can throw on the wheel, but are excellent for practicing three of the most fundamental skills necessary for throwing: centering, opening and drawing up.

NOTE: all instructions are for right handed throwers, using a western style (turning counter clockwise) wheel. Many left-handed potters use the same method, while other prefer to reverse their hand positions and throw on a Japanese-style (clockwise) wheel.


You can see an in depth guide to centering in our previous video, but here are some quick tips. Keep your feet flat on the ground. Use the heel of your left hand to push the clay from the side and push down on the top with the edge of your right hand. Cone the clay up a few times by squeezing it with both hands from the sides. Keep your left elbow tight against your hip and use your body weight, not your muscles, to center.


This is also covered in the centering video. Remember to open with the middle finger of your right hand, and squeeze the clay into your left hand, flatten out the rim, this will finish the centering/opening process.

Drawing Up

Now that your clay is centered and opened, it's time to give it height. Using your left hand on the inside and your right hand on the outside, pull clay from the base to the top. What's the best way to do that? You will have to experiment to find out what feels right for your hands, but you can use the tips of your index fingers, or middle fingers, you can also use the knuckles on your index fingers.

It is best to minimize the surface area that contacts the clay, this will make drawing up faster and less prone to knocking the clay off center. Draw up slowly to make sure the walls are even and without spirals or ridges. Try to achieve your desired height in three pulls, too many will wear out the clay and make it harder to work with. Compress the rim after each pull.


Shape your cup however you want. You can bulge it out or collar it in, smooth the outside with a rib, or use texture tools to rough it up. Once it's off the wheel you can use your hands or a paddle to give it flat sides or just add some asymmetry.

Once your cup is dried and fired it will be your own unique drinking vessel. Try making a set of six (or more) all the same, or a mismatched set with similar colors and features but each one different.

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