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Basic Easy Steps to Throwing on a Wheel- Part 4- Throwing Off the Hump

Updated on March 29, 2016

Example of working off the top of the "hump" of clay-Picture 1

The size of mass of clay will determine how many pieces you can make quickly. Here you can all see the potter using a wire cutter to slice off his intended piece which he/you will trim later
The size of mass of clay will determine how many pieces you can make quickly. Here you can all see the potter using a wire cutter to slice off his intended piece which he/you will trim later

Examples of the many possibilities of throwing off the hump - Picture 2

More images of examples of things to make off the hump.- Picture(s) 3.

Types of calipers I use for measurements to ensure correct size. Picture 4

Throwing Off The Hump.

This is a technique I have used many times. The only thing not appealing to me about this step is the utilization of the word hump. It's my own prejudice but when I learned how much time and energy it saved me, one could give it any name they wanted! It is particularly handy, helpful and time saving when one needs to make a number of similar or identical pieces of ceramics. The only difficult aspect- (not really difficult!)- is centering the large mass of clay. To be honest, the mass does not have to be perfectly centered as one only needs to accurately center the top part - the tip you will be making the clay pieces from.

The first time I saw this done, I was amazed. My ceramic teacher wanted to show how an experienced potter can use it to save on time. He was like a robot! Piece after piece came flowing off the hump. He made endless example pieces. Some were pieces that he "ballooned out" and then almost closed shut on the top. To show how fine the piece was, he literally blew into the piece and it expanded out like a balloon. At first, I thought I would never do this technique. By the end of that afternoon class, I not only was doing it but doing it competently. Enthusiasm is a great teacher. Over time, I became quite good at it. Again, I say this to show you that if I can, you can.... and I will say this many times: it was fun!

As one can see from the pictures I am including, once the mass is roughly centered, one shapes it into the shape of a cone. It is the tip of the cone that one makes the pieces from. Once finished, one cuts it off using the wire cutter as pictured in Picture 1 and sets it aside. If one will be making many pieces, I would suggest covering them with a thin layer of dampened cloth as the pieces will dry rapidly thus making the final trimming difficult if not impossible. I almost routinely cover my pieces with dampened material as I enjoy pottery so much and become so engrossed in the next pieces, I often lose track of time.

Once, I made a set of tea cups that I wanted to also make lids for so the contents would remain hot while the tea was steeping. Throwing off the hump saves me a great deal of time as I needed to make a set of 8 cups and 8 lids. One can "eyeball" for a good fit, but I utilize a caliper to size each piece to make the set close in fit. In Picture 4 is the kind of tools I use to ensure the size I want can be duplicated. Do not forget, when dealing with ceramics, drying time, thickness of clay, etc. can cause slight deviation in the final pieces. Also do not forget that one of the beautiful aspects of art is the individuality of each piece, even if one is making a set. It is amazing what a good glazing job can do to rectify differences as the glaze gives a common theme to the final set.

The list of things one can make off the hump is practically endless: vases, pots, cups, mugs, lids, plates, etc.. I have included only a few examples of the possible pieces. As I have said many times, mistakes are some of the best teachers one has in pottery. Mistakes when working off the hump are easily dealt with as the piece can easily be removed and put back into your stock of clay to be utilized again. It is a good way to practice to get various techniques down.


As in all steps of pottery/ceramics, the only true limiting factor one has to deal with is a restricted imagination and non-practiced technique. I can guarantee that as long as you practice and incorporate FUN into your work, both of these potential limitations will disappear


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