was just a ¼ pound of clay. I cut it off of the corner of a big lump of
clay and absent-mindedly kneaded it in my hand for a minute or two as
my mind wandered. Then it began to dawn on me just how great this small
ball of clay felt in the hollow of my hand. It was somewhat stiff yet
still yielded easily to my thumb. Pleasantly dense with a fine tooth.
I walked over to the wheel and slammed it down on the wheelhead and got
the wheel to whirring ‘round. Ah-h-h, this feels really good. Too small
to really center it two-handed, but in seconds it virtually shoved
itself easily to mid-wheel with nary a wobble.
So I started to pull it.
I’d been making 18” shallow bowls most of the day, so my mind was still
set to that shape. First I pulled it up just a mite so’s my outside
finger would have some ledge for purchase. Then I gave it a good pull.
The clay just came along and came along and like a song that verse
after verse keeps building on a theme, the process drew me in. The
rhythm of the wheel speed seemed perfect to grow this huge flattened
cone and so I just kept working it. Every time I reached to the center
to pull another ring of clay outward, there was more clay to pull. And
so on, and so on, and so on, I returned to the root note and played
Just a quarter pound, but I passed the 36”
diameter after just five minutes of work. The wall of the bowl was
getting so thin by 60” in diameter that when I bent low beneath the
wheelhead and looked up, I could see the shop lights shining through the
Still, as thin as the wall had become, it showed
amazing strength. It didn’t seem inclined to sag. At all. Once I’d
pulled it out to 24 feet, I ran to the garage and fetched my bicycle. To
my amazement, the clay proved to be so sag-resistant -- even pulled out
to that diameter -- that I could ride my bicycle around the rim without
distorting the bowl.
I got off the bike and got back to work. I had to see just how far I could throw this ¼ pound of clay.
When the outer rim reached somewhere around Wapakoneta, Ohio, I finally
had to face the fact that I was coming close to maxing out the clay in
that ¼ pounds. The wall of the bowl was, by then, only at a molecular
thickness. And with a few hundred miles of diameter to the rim, I feared
that, given the immense speed at the outer rim, centrifugal force was
finally going to take its toll on my bowl.
But I had to try one more pull.
You may not believe this – after all, at that wall thickness, it’s
almost impossible to see the bowl now – but the bowl now spans all of
Indiana, most of Ohio, lower Michigan, and Eastern Illinois. I’m
guessing this is probably a record diameter for a wheel-thrown bowl.