Artists throw with new pottery wheels

With the new fine arts building sculpture classes benefit from new pieces of equipment


Arden Ray

CENTERING THE CLAY: Senior Claudia McCabe works on the first step of throwing clay on a pottery wheel. This step is called centering the clay which ensures that the piece is round and uniform.

Carey Wooley, Print Editor-in-Chief

For junior Mia Schwartz the sculpture classes are an opportunity to express their creativity and learn about the ins and outs of clay and other mediums. Schwartz has learned to master how to throw on a pottery wheel through these classes and spends each sculpture class zoning out and focusing on creating perfectly round and uniform bowls.

With construction at Bowie coming to a close, The art department was able to move into several new and larger rooms in the new fine arts building. Specifically, sculpture classes were able to purchase many new pottery wheels giving more students an opportunity to learn how to throw and use clay on a wheel. This also allows students to create clay pieces they may not have been able to prior to the addition of these new pottery wheels.

“Before, we only had a couple kids who were allowed to throw on their own time that had to come in outside of the actual class period,” sculpture teacher Ryan Logan said. “Now, we’re going to actually introduce it to our intro classes and train them to use the wheels and it will be actual assignments.”

Since there are more pottery wheels available, students are able to be introduced to the throwing process earlier in the class. This allows students to enter the advanced classes and already have an understanding of how to throw. Before the expansion mostly upperclassmen had access to these tools and they would have to learn how to throw on their own time.

THROWING DOWN: Junior Mia Schwartz works on perfecting her clay bowl she made using the new pottery wheels. Schwartz has been in sculpture classes for the last three years and has been able to see how the art department has changed with the addition of the new studio and new wheels. (Arden Ray)

“The only rules surrounding the wheels is that you have to have taken sculpture for three years,” junior Mia Schwartz said. “It’s sort of reserved  for the upper class man, because there’s not enough for a whole class to use them at once, but the AP 3D and sculpture three class is small enough where we all could use them if we wanted to.”

Before the expansion sculpture students only had access to four wheels they could throw on due to the old room’s size. Now their room has many wheels lined up on two walls in the classroom along with many other clay tools that can allow students to add details to their pottery while it is spinning on the wheel.

“I’ve been in Mr. Logan’s sculpture class for three years now,” Schwartz. “The biggest change in the program was probably getting the new art room and facility, it’s given us more space to work on our projects.”

Another addition to the new room is that there are now two sides of the classroom that are still open to each other but have a wall that divides them. On one side students are able to throw on the pottery wheels and create art using wet clay. On the other side of the classroom students can work on their dry clay and clay that has been fired through the kiln process.

“There’s a lot more space in the new studio to fit more equipment like the wheels,” senior Claudia McCabe said. “Not everyone knows how to throw, But we are trying to get people to throw more like actually teaching how to do it instead of teaching really specific people because we only had four wheels.”

For sculpture students, there are three different classes they will take throughout their high school career. The first sculpture class they can take is an intro class that teaches students how to use the clay and the different professional tools. Then sculpture two explores more complex technique and sculpture three allows students to go even more in depth and complex. Seniors are also able to be in AP sculpture 3D which allows students to submit their portfolio at the end of the year to be scored by professionals.

“My favorite project I’ve done is probably this year, being in sculpture 3,” Schwartz said. “We are required to create a sustained investigation which is basically a big portfolio of a bunch of pieces that all relate to a theme.” 

OUT OF THE KILN: After students finish their piece on the pottery wheel it enters the kiln once to become bisque. The pottery glaze is applied to it before it is fired a final time. (Photo Courtesy of Mia Schwartz)

Sculpture students are not only limited to using clay as their art medium. Many choose to use mainly clay because of the wide variety of professional tools offered but other mediums like foam are offered. Most of the intro sculpture classes have assignments where students 

“My favorite project that I made in this class was probably going to be the first year in sculpture,” McCabe said. “I made a foam relief board and it is inspired by an art piece by Rene Magritte. It’s called the lovers and it’s two people. I recreated it in my own style and it’s one of my favorite pieces.”

In the sculpture 3 class, students are required to take a deep dive on one specific topic and explore it through their art. This theme is chosen by students and can be a variety of different topics. This in depth investigation includes all sorts of mediums but includes pieces made on the pottery Wheels as well as hand sculpted clay.

“My favorite piece I’ve made is probably these two I’ve made recently,” Schwartz said. “They look like little wine glasses, one of them I turned into a sundae glass but the other isn’t done yet.”

When using the pottery wheels, there are several specific techniques and processes artists have to be aware of before getting started on the wheel. Students learn the basics of how to throw on the wheels and then they can get more creative with adding texture, lines, and changing the shape,  the pottery while they are spinning.

“There’s some specific rules, but most of them are your preference,” McCabe said. “One rule really is when you’re sitting you want to have your elbows connected to your legs at all times for stability. You also never want to touch your piece or try and fix it when the wheel is not spinning.”

At the end of the year students in the AP sculpture 3 class will collect all the pieces they have made and created their portfolio. With the expansion and addition of these wheels, many of the pieces students will have made will be clay bowls thrown on pottery wheels.

“Throwing on the wheels is just really cool,” McCabe said. “You can also mass produce stuff really quickly. I’m still learning how to use everything and how to get better at throwing but it’s super fun and interesting getting to try things out and make art using our new wheels.”