Friday, 29 June 2012

Turning Pots Using Mirrors

New mirror opposite wheel for turning pots
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying out a new system in my studio to help me while throwing and turning pots on the wheel. I’ve had an old mirror lying around the house for years. It was taken off an unwanted wardrobe that the previous owners of our house had left behind: so you can imagine it was one of those long, tall, thin mirrors for seeing yourself full length. I had a feeling it would come in handy ‘one day’ so kept it, but hadn’t found a use for it - until now.

Recently I’ve been suffering from unexplained pain, headaches and numbness in my head and neck. A bit worrying as you can imagine, but after a couple of visits to the doctor and some serious re-assessment of my work practice, I came to the conclusion this was probably self-inflicted. I have a throwing habit that means I tend to strain my neck sideways by snapping quickly over to the right when I check the profile side of a pot. My doctor kept insisting I balance this action by checking the pot on the other side – but since there’s a wall on the left-hand side of my wheel (putting me in danger of cracking my head open) I’ve decided to ignore this suggestion entirely and instead opt for using a mirror to stop me from ‘side-checking’ altogether.

Turning pots using two mirrors
For years I used to use a small hand-mirror for throwing and turning but since I got my shimpo wheel last year I’ve dropped the habit for some reason. I know that potters are divided on the idea of using a mirror to help throw or turn. Some think using one doesn’t give a true representation of the shape of a pot and prefer the directness of seeing or touching the pot for real. I’ve always had the opinion that throwing a pot is hard enough as it is! So anything that can help or ‘ease the pain’ in the process of making a pot, is a potential tool like any other and therefore a positive thing. And after recent events I really can’t afford not to use one.

So I got the old glasscutters out and sliced my old mirror in two (it being far too tall just to lean against the wall). Luckily there was already a hole in the mirror where it used to attach to the wardrobe, and all I’ve done is screw this into the wall directly opposite my wheel. I also use my old hand mirror at a closer angle so I can get a ‘multi-mirror’ view of my pots: a bit like driving a car! Already I’ve noticed my symptoms are improving. I’m hoping that this new, safer work practice will have nipped the problem in the bud. And so far the pots are coming off the wheel quite nicely too!

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