Time to put a lid on it…

In a recent newsletter I briefly highlighted the art of throwing, so I thought it would be good to continue with a little more technical information, this time about lids. When it comes to making a pottery lid that fits – it is an art that one masters over time.
There are several types of lid that are used when throwing pottery. Apart from being a focal point of interest, lids require a certain amount of consideration.. You need to create a lid that fits the pot both actually and aesthetically. If the pot is a functional piece such as a casserole, the lid must also function as efficiently and effectively as possible. The main lid styles are:
Cup lids- the earliest and simplest form – they ‘ride’ over the outside edge of the pot
Inset lids- that sit on an internal ledge formed when throwing the pot.
Domed lids- also sit on an internal ledge or with a seating on top of  the rim. They tend to be elegant in shape and stronger, so are good for larger pots.
Stopper lids-similar to cup lids,  but the entire lid sits inside a V-shaped neck and acts as a stopper
Personally I make and prefer the domed over-edge lid. I make sure it fits well and barely shifts on its seating, and I like it to extend slightly over the edge of the pot, especially if I’m making a casserole. It works very well for teapots too!
I often combine a flat inset lid style with the seating of a domed over-edge lid, which makes for a very good fit. Occasionally when I make small lidded jars that are cylindrical, I use a flat inset lid with a knob on top – nice and simple!

The art of ‘throwing’

You need much skill (and experience) to throw pots that achieve an acceptable standard and have high artistic merit.
During the process of throwing you turn or twist a ball of clay, gently pulling it upwards to create a hollow shape. You do this by placing a ball of clay in the centre of your turntable, which you then rotate. The trick is to press down on it in perfect rotational symmetry ( knows as centring the clay) , it’s probably the hardest skill to master as a potter, but necessary before taking the next steps. When you’ve mastered centring, you will be able to progress into opening – making the centre of the ball hollow; flooring – which ensures that the inside of the dish is flat or rounded; pulling – which shapes the walls to the right height and thickness; and finally trimming or turning which removes excess clay, refining the shape and creating a foot if necessary.
You can then further modify your pieces by attaching handles, lids, feet and spouts.
My experience of teaching pottery-making has taught me that, generally speaking, four to eight sessions are needed in order to learn centring properly, another four to six sessions to learn the basic techniques of opening, and the same again for pulling.