I have a confession to make. I named my favourite sponge – I called him Bob. As a collector of many yet unnamed sticks and triangular pieces of wood I feel I am in good company.
For centuries potters have used tools to shape the earth itself; from the wheel to sponges and ribs there’s something deeply intimate about our relationship with pottery tools. Their curving shapes assist the daily commune between potter and clay.
I often think of throwing as a series of little rituals and without not just the right tools but those that we’re most familiar with a pots creation can be thrown off balance in the mind and hand. I’d be at a loss without my perfectly angled trimming tool.
Unique to the potter and often handcrafted they become an extension of our own hands as the clay is shaped. Like a lot of relationships it isn’t until they start to break down that we notice the impact they have on our lives, through seemingly endless days of gentle use that trimming tool becomes a little blunt.
I have my favourite tools for certain jobs. I use throwing ribs a lot due to my smaller hands, I find that when throwing larger pieces of clay it helps to have a greater surface area than what my own hands can provide. Throwing with a rib also helps to produce a smooth surface ideal for decorating; I often like to create a variety of smooth and textured pots. Some glazes just work better on textured pots where the surface of the glaze ‘breaks’ to reveal another colour.
I spend a lot of time turning that is removing excess clay from pots and creating foot rings. For that there’s an array of tools from the home made to the purchased, my favourite are the ‘loop’ style tools great for exaggerating the curves of a bowl.
My uncle always said that to do a good job you need good tools and it’s true they do make a difference!