To remove air bubbles. To make clay bodies uniform. To soften. For good clay karma? I mainly wedge clay to remove air bubbles…. If the clay you use comes in plastic bags, it has most probably gone through a pug mill. Sometimes, people don’t wedge pugged clay, but I do. I have only had one thing explode in a kiln…that was in the early 90s. But, when something does explode, it can break other things along with your own. Of course, we don’t want our own pieces exploding but it’s oucho! oucho! if we ruin other people’s. One of those pottery nightmares…bad clay karma! The reason I am writing this today is because I’ve been thinking about wedging clay. I’m not happy with the way I’m doing it and I want to learn spiral wedging. So, I’ve been studying a few sites to learn. I originally learned in the early 1970s and it’s time for a refresher course, as I can tell I have started wedging bubbles into my clay lately instead of removing them. So, it’s time to do something about it. At YouTube, I found a number of videos teaching people how to wedge clay. All of the names of the techniques are descriptive. The ram’s head style looks like the head and horn of a ram when viewed from the side, and spiral wedging produces the most beautiful waves. It looks like the Golden Mean found in nature, as with a nautilus section or the growing pattern of a sunflower… If you need to wedge a large amount of clay, learning the spiral method is your best bet. I think most of the guys in these videos are prepping clay to throw, but that doesn’t matter. Throwing or hand building, it all needs wedged clay. Three videos are up. The first one shows Bernard Leach’s grandson, Simon Leach, demonstrating cut and slap, then spiral techniques. (He also gives a throwing demo part way into it, but I stopped it when it got to that point.) His video is the only one that talks about leg placement and posture. While his video quality isn’t good, the info is excellent. The next one shows Michael Cottrell, a professor of sculpture and ceramics at Florida Community College at Jacksonville in North Florida. He is demonstrating the ram’s head and cone technique. The last one is a Japanese language video featuring Yoshio Nakajima of MONO FACTORY. and, while I don’t understand the language, the demonstration is so excellent, I am including it. You will have to bear with when he is pointing to his poster, but even it is helpful if you study it and watch what he’s doing. I think that if I watch these videos, then go over to my canvas-covered table and practice, practice, practice I will soon be wedging my clay in the spiral style. Good luck with your own adventure!
Simon Leach Teaches Spiral Wedging
Michael Cottrell Teaches Ram’s Head and Cone Styles
Yoshio Nakajima Teaches Spiral Wedging (in Japanese)