Thoughts about a hand throwing course.
We would be delighted to see you for an intensive hand throwing course at our workshop.
Our hand throwing room is equipped with 4 turning stations, which at the same time have a distance so that you can be yourself, while at the same time you can see the others and experience the workshop community. We have chosen to have two instructors for a maximum of 4 participants, so that there is always approximately one to one teaching. It is the only right thing to do if you want to make rapid progress.
We have mostly taught in a really busy production room or in a classroom that was far too narrow. It is our sure feeling that there will be more peace in the room as there are few of us, there is plenty of space and there is nothing outside to disturb.
We ourselves have been taught that there is a certain way to turn, and have even repeated the same method in the past. But in the last decade we have become aware that it is not the case that a specific way of holding hands is what it is “about”.
There are of course some obvious “obviousnesses” or physical laws that apply. It is primarily about finding your particular method. We will of course always during the course demonstrate practically how we do….holding the hands..the rail etc., but the method that works for you is the right one. As a course participant, you will experience that we, as instructors, also each have our own methods, which are very different. We see this as a strength of the course.
The most beautiful thing about hand turning is that a signature is always left by the turner and that the process itself sharpens the sense of form and change. This both when it is unique or series production.
Our greatest joy in working is that we are “forced” to be present with the clay. Not that we don’t see and hear the outside world when we turn. It is almost a meditative sensation that we find in the repetition. If our focus on the clay decreases, so does the quality of our work.
There is a great element of spontaneous joy in hand twisting. The pliable clay almost calls for the possibility of changing the shape and the tension to be kept intense on the knife edge you encounter in the material and your own limitations. That point gives us today the same feeling of “flow” as when we met the clay as 16-year-olds.
Turning is a craft that, in terms of both flexibility and efficiency, is perfectly suited to all the workshops found in Denmark.
We know about most other ceramic techniques. Professionally, we do not have a deep knowledge of anything other than turning, but can see that the other techniques each have their advantages and good ceramics can be made without turning. However, it is slow and expensive and there is a built-in conflict between the small production and the inflexibility of casting production, which has been dominant in the last 40 years of teaching throughout Europe.
In our workshop we make unique works and one we have developed a small applied art series…..
Aage Würtz tells:
It was also a significant part of the work at KH Würtz, along with the development of new models and the training and education of turners. The first years at KH Würtz, where apart from my son Kasper Würtz there were only a few employees, a very large part of my time was occupied with serial turning, which I love. Making a bowl and then trying to make the next one more beautiful and repeating and repeating so that I get closer to the shape is challenging and developing for me…
16 years ago, I was called by a chef unknown to me, who had received some of my plates and bowls as a gift. He asked if we could make 25 different samples of bowls and plates. We could call when they were done. He was more than surprised when the samples were delivered after 14 days and even more surprised when requests to change the size of a plate were not a problem and our modest workshop only needed 6 weeks to make the 2000 pieces they ordered. If the 25 models were to have been made in molds, production would have taken perhaps 6 months and large start-up costs. The order could be made by purchasing 2 tons of clay and glaze material and a little diligence.
I mention it because the concept, in collaboration with Noma and a large number of other restaurants, has proven to be a widely viable trend and has proven its worth in many workshops.
For us, the essential thing about hand turning is the constant opportunities for improvement and change over time. It gives an expression where you sense the time the ceramics were produced in and the turner’s personal craft development.
It gives us an extra dimension in addition to the shape itself. All spinners are as distinctive as handwriting. It can be seen in small details, e.g. as structure in turning grooves and ends.
Aren’t there any disadvantages to hand-turning?
We can sometimes cringe when we come across ceramics we have turned ourselves, where details are either over- or underplayed. Or even worse, when we meet a bowl where we can clearly see our presence in the turning process has been absent.
It takes a long time to learn to be able to repeat a form. It takes courage to turn what you want rather than what you can. It is a good thing to “play with the clay” and see what it can and will do, but if you want growth, you need a goal.
A fabulous approach to developing the shape you turn, where you intuitively follow interventions along the way, is a path we use ourselves. It is not necessary to have made an exact working drawing, if any at all, if you otherwise master the technique to execute the image you have in your mind of the form.
It is our experience that the turning development only really takes off when there is a pre-desired shape to work towards. A lot of frustration can come from moving on this knife edge with the delicate clay, if you don’t want to settle for chance. But at this point you can also feel the joy of experiencing the development and it is a joyful feeling.
The ceramics education today is described by many students we have met as lacking real teaching in turning. It doesn’t matter if they come from Bornholm, Oslo, Zurich, Toronto or London. The turning discipline is treated stepmotherly and, with few exceptions, is almost completely excluded. If you want to learn how to turn, it is something that you have had to learn yourself for the past several years.
We do not think of the master teaching concept as old-fashioned, it lives on well in many subjects. At the music conservatory, the students are taught by highly competent professional musicians. They are not left to themselves and their own learning, as they do in the many ceramics courses.
Our main emphasis on the course is the spontaneous joy that the pliable clay gives in the work. We think that the very different professional levels among the participants is only an advantage. The course participants are hobby potters, newly qualified, experienced and professionals, but have in common that everyone, like us, loves clay and is given the opportunity to be able to reflect and learn from each other.
We do not imagine that in two days we can reach both deep and wide within the discipline. We know that a lot happens when a group of potters with a common obsession with clay gets together. Our experience also says that when the individual sets realistic goals for his turning development, we get far while having fun.
Hope our little writing gives meaning and inspiration…