To throw or not to throw, that is the question

Hello Internet.

I’ve been thinking for a long time about buying a potters wheel.

SB the artist I go and see once a week is pretty old school and said in her opinion, people should work with clay for 2yrs or so before learning to throw. I understand where she is coming from – it is important to know the material well and techniques other than throwing are very important.

But… But. I want to learn!

I have come thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to buying a second hand wheel many times. But, that little bit of me says – where is the space? The time? And I don’t actually know how to throw. All the throwing I’ve done is about 5mins on a wheel making a cup, which I messed up (cup was saved by the tutor, as mentioned in one of the first posts).

But throwing just looks so fun! The style, the shape, the movement. I really want to try! I know I’ve only really been working with clay for 6months on and off but I start my new job in September and my free time will be largely diminished, so if I don’t give it a go now when I have a little time to myself – when else will I have the chance?

I have told myself to do a class or session with an ceramicist before actually purchasing a wheel, but I can’t do an entire weekend (little one and beloved need me around) but finding somewhere relatively near by that does a shorter session is also tricky.

I have contacted one lady about 30-40mins drive away who runs a pottery studio. She does a 2 hour session one to one for £60 – which is an awful lot of money. But perhaps worth it before buying a wheel of my own?

And then the cost of a wheel is astronomical! Second hand ones regularly go for £300-500 and as mentioned above, I genuinely don’t have the space for one. I’m a home potter who works on the floor and kitchen table and has to pack away all her things asap so that little one and beloved don’t end up eating clay for tea.

The wheel I have my eye on is the Shimpo Aspire with a foot pedal. There is a cheaper Shimpo Aspire with a handle lever instead of a foot pedal for speed control, but I can see myself making a right mess of everything with the hand lever and knocking the pot off the bat or reversing the spin accidentally when trying to turn it off and everything going flying.

There is a (slightly) cheaper wheel called the Junior IV from Top Pot Supplies but I haven’t seen it for sale anywhere else online. It appears from close inspection of photos/youtube videos that the wheel diameter is much smaller and the splash bowl looks more flimsy. Actually the price offered on the site doesn’t include VAT (why do so many potter sites do that – this isn’t the USA, just add VAT to the price – it’s so annoying!) and with VAT it’s close to the same price as the Shimpo hand lever wheel. Which has gotten great reviews all round.

What I have also noticed is that there is a lot more choice for wheels in other countries, particularly the USA, and even the Shimpo wheels are much cheaper there – why is this? This totally sucks. If we were talking about a £200-300 investment I’d jump on it for a new tabletop wheel, but the £500+ is just a huge amount of money, especially for the same product! I thought about trying to get one shipped over from the States but they have 120 voltage and none of the websites seem open to international shipping. I also contacted the Indian Shimpo dealer (Clay Station in Bangalore) because they are selling the same Shimpo wheel for half the price it is here, and India has 240v. A friend of mine lives there and would ship it home for me, but they weren’t open to selling me one and my friend isn’t back till after I start my new job.


Ideally I’d buy a second hand Shimpo Aspire, but they don’t seem to come up very often.

…Perhaps I should listen to SB and stick to hand building. I’ve bought some pattern rollers off eBay (ones for sugarcraft – a little over £1 each!) and hand building bowls is incredibly fast – if you have the right tools (also still waiting on the delivery of rolling guides). Perhaps I can talk to SB and see if she’ll give me a go on the wheel… I just don’t know if she’ll be happy about it. After all, I’ve been going to her studio for short time, which isn’t exactly comparable to 2 years experience with clay.

Comments, recommendations and opinions welcome. As are offers of second hand table top wheels…

PG x


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