Throwing the Base of a Teapot

I find it fascinating that there are so many ways of throwing! I have tended not to consider other ways of throwing unless the pot demands it. In this next video clip Mick Casson points out that you . . . .

Throwing the Base of a Teapot

I find it fascinating that there are so many ways of throwing! I have tended not to consider other ways of throwing unless the pot demands it. In this next video clip Mick Casson points out that you . . . .

Latest Mick Casson clip added

In this one he mentions Ray Finch and David Leach and reveals a little about their attitudes to craftsmanship.

Mick Casson 5 added

Please clic on ‘Mick Casson Masterclass’ in the menu bar above.


Latest Mick Casson Masterclass clip added.

Mick Casson Video

I have posted a new page ‘Mick Casson Masterclass’ which I believe to be unique.  The video clips on the page show one of the pioneers of studio pottery in the UK speaking to a group of students in 1980.  This must have been early in the history of using video to record art college demonstrations.  I believe the VHS tape is a very rare example; it is a complete record of a 2hrs and 47 minutes masterclass and covers a number of throwing techniques and pot construction.

The VHS tape was given to me by a good friend whom I believe was the Head of School at a celebrated UK university.  The tape languished in my studio for about four years and I had no idea what it contained.  It was only recently that I uncovered it and decided to see what was on it by having it transferred into a digital format.

Having never used iMovie previously my editing skills are quite poor but hopefully they will improve as I build up the series to cover the majority of the film.  The most recent clips will be added to the bottom of the page to keep the  masterclass in sequence.

These clips will be of interest to potters and students researching studio pottery in the UK.

Hot Air

In a departure from the normal pottery related blog I cannot resist a blog about a recent experience.  It involves heat and propane gas, not for the purposes of raising the temperature of a kiln, but to heat air!  Very early on 1st July (5.30am) dressed and showered ready to go to Bath (UK) for an ascent in a hot air balloon (Our eldest daughter bought us two tickets as a Christmas present last year).  We arrive at a large park in the centre of Bath at 6.30 am as the balloon envelope was being unloaded from the trailer.

P1040947P1040953It was massive!  Over a hundred feet long  and weighing 400Kg.  I’ve seen lots of balloons flying over our house but until you get up close and friendly you don’t realise just how big they are!  The ground crew and pilot carefully unwrapped the envelope and spread it out on the ground – it seemed like acres of material.  It is hitched to the basket and partially inflated with two large fans until it’s possible for people to walk around inside it – just like a rather large marquee.  P1040962P1040975It is then attached to the basket and, as the balloon inflates, we are briefed.  The ladies are to be ballast and the men have to run and climb into the basket at the last moment before the balloon leaves the ground.  The call for ballast is made and the ladies climb in lying on their backs as the basket is on its side on P1040971the ground. The burners are lit and the envelope begins to take on a life of its own swelling up to slowly fill to its capacity with hot air.  This sounds and looks a bit frightening — what if the damn thing should catch fire?!  Then the basket takes the upright position and there is a call for the men and we scramble in.  In only a few seconds the balloon is beginning to heave the whole basket off the ground (all 2.5 tonnes of basket, burners, gas and people).  Floating into the air propelled by hot air.  P1040990  Its weird looking down and seeing nothing between you and the ground except for the thin base of the basket.  Bath looks stunning in the early morning light.  We rise to 3500ft and the pilot contacts air traffic control and requests permission to rise to 4000ft – this seems pretty high to me but it’s only a third of the height I was at four weeks ago in Peru at Macchu Picchu (see the only difference is that then me feet were firmly fixed on the ground!

P1050002P1050006Anyway at 4000ft the pilot suddenly changes into a barman and serves champagne – this is rather opulent but its a once in a lifetime experience – sipping champagne in the basket of a hot air balloon at 4000ft at 8.00am over some of the most stunning countryside in the UK.

P1050010Then starts the descent.  We travelled at the mercy of the wind, to the north of Bath, and are heading for Wick – a small village.  The pilot has an iPad and a communications device to help navigate.  A question crosses my mind – what did they do before iPads?

Anyway, swooping down over the treetops the pilot gives the order to sit and we skim past a church tower and over some houses – they seem close enough to touch and the landing is in a fairly small field.

P1050015The basket touches down and is dragged along for about 20 feet then the ballon begins to deflate.  We think we might even stay upright but at the last moment balanced on the edge of the basket the ballon pulls us gently over onto our backs.  All sixteen of us climb out unscathed.

Flight over, the only thing to do is to pack up the balloon ready for the ground crew to collect.  A brilliant experience from start to finish.

Waxing and Glazing

Once fired to 1025C the pots are a warm pink colour, they are porous and ready to take a glaze.

IMG_1230The first task is to make sure they are all intact and then to check that there are no surface blemishes left after the firing process.

Each pot is placed on the wheel upside down (in this case) and I use a liquid wax to protect the foot of the IMG_1231bowl from the glaze.  This is applied with a chinese brush.  I always add more water to the wax resist fluid as it flows better onto the pot when the surface is very dry.  I have used this brush for over thirty years – it needs a wash in warm soapy water after each use.

IMG_1234After waxing the base of all the pots I mix the glaze.  This is a stoneware reduction glaze I use – it was originally in ‘The Glaze Book’ but I have adjusted it slightly to get a better fit to my pots.  I stir the glaze with a blunger for at least five minutes to ensure that any larger particles are completely broken down and those that have sunk to the bottom to form a sludge are completely mixed in.  I stir the glaze with the blunger every five minutes or so when I am glazing.

The pots are dipped in the glaze.  I hold each carefully with a finger on the bottom (waxed area) and my thumb on the rim and submerge them in the glaze.  I keep them in the glaze for about 3 seconds then lift them out and quickly place them on a board.  I then drip a small amount of glaze from my fingers on the mark in the rim where my thumb has been.  you can just see the spot on the top edge of this bowl.

IMG_1235 The glaze dries very quickly because of the porosity of the clay as the water is absorbed into it leaving the glaze powder on the surface.

Next I clean off the bottoms with a damp sponge and then place each bowl back on the wheel to decorate them.  In this case I am using an iron rich decorating oxide to


achieve a subtle pattern on the fired pot.

A final check then into the kiln to reduction fire to 1280C.  Reduction normally starts at about 850C and ends
at about 1200C with a final soak at 1280C for a least 60 minutes.  It takes twelve hours to heat my kiln from an overnight temperature of 200C to 1280C.  The kiln can be opened after about twenty four hours when the temperature has fallen to under 200C.


The final work looks like this. I then clean the foot of the pots with a stone to ensure there are no rough particles that might scratch a wooden surface before it goes out on the stall.

Turning and burnishing

IMG_1222As soon as its safe to do so the bowls are inverted to enable them to dry evenly.

When they have reached a leather hard state they are ready to turn (i.e. to clean up the base and leave a proper foot for the pot.  I fix the pot to the wheel by wetting the wheel and the rim of the pot, then centring the pot and tapping the base to expel a small amount of air from inside the bowl to form a slightly lower pressure.  The bowl is fixed in place by suction.

I use a metal turning tool that I keep sharp with a grinding stone but it possible to use a small fill to


keep the edge keen.

Using the tool first to carve away excess clay from the walls of the bowl – hopefully not much here as my throwing is reasonably good.  Then to start on the foot.  This continues until I have the shape that I want.

Finally I use a metal kidney to ensure the wall of the bowl is as flat as I can achieve and burnish the outside of the pot with the flat side of an old stainless steel dessert knife.


Last but not least before the bowl is removed carefully from the wheel I impress my initials and the year of manufacture in the base.  Et voila – the completed bowl before its fired.

A Pleasant Afternoon at the Wheel



The wheel is clean and the water cold but on a hot sunny day it’s really refreshing to dip your hands into cool water.  Throw a ball of clay down onto the wheel to make it stick in place.  You need a good aim to make the centring easy.


I always give the wheel a gentle wipe with a damp sponge before placing the clay.  The adhesion is not as good as using dry clay and a dry wheel but the force of the clay coming down on the wheel should expel any residue water.

IMG_1217With the wheel rotating at a fairly good rate I fix my right forearm on the rim of the tray and use enough power through my right hand to push the clay into the centre of the wheel.  I use the outside edge of the palm of my left hand to assist and where necessary contain the

IMG_1218top of the clay and to flatten it off.  I then use the thumb of my right hand to make a hole in the centred ‘piggin’ of clay.  its important to know how far to press down.  It’s so easy to go too far but with practice it will become habit to stop about (in my case) IMG_1219about a centimetre before your thumb meets the metal of the wheel.  Then using the thumb and first finger of my right hand I widen out (in this case) a bowl shape.  The left hand is used as a ligature to keep the right hand steady.  Both hands should be in contact throughout theIMG_1215 throwing process wherever possible on small pieces such as these.  Of course, sometimes potters deliberately throw with one hand to form unique forms.  Here I am more concerned with making the same shape over and over again. Because I am using the sameIMG_1220 amount of clay each time and because I use the guide marks on the surface of the wheel I can be fairly sure that each bowl will be pretty much the same as the one before.  So after about 90 minutes throwing you can end up with a small batch of pots.

Sounds easy but it does take some practice!

These will now dry for about a day in a warm studio and then they are leather hard.