It can be difficult to make good progress in any skill when you are self-taught. Going it alone does not provide opportunity for constructive criticism from other, more experienced potters. DVDs, books, YouTube videos and the occasional class have all been very helpful, but can’t really replace the rigor that exists in a program, or provide the oversight of an apprenticeship. What to do??
My chief concern is that I might be developing some bad habits in throwing that are only getting reinforced by more practice, and with no one present to tell me otherwise, I might actually be getting good a throwing badly. But a colleague of mine who also throws and actually did take ceramics classes at university told me about a practice of his professor that I’ve adopted.
Cut everything in half.
It’s a great practice for a new potter for a multitude of reasons. First, you don’t get too attached to work that has emotional significance (look what I made!!) but little design or skill value. Second, it gives you tremendous insight into the part of the process you can’t see while throwing — what’s happening on the inside!
You simply can’t miss the giant chunk of clay that you aren’t moving up the form’s wall. You can’t miss the unevenness of the sides, or the too-narrow neck.
And third, watching yourself improve with practice is very empowering and inspires more practice. Remember, it takes hours and hours of effort to throw effortlessly.
Potter Hsinchuen Lin has a fabulous YouTube channel with very good instructional videos. I have learned quite a bit from watching them! In this one, he walks you through the process of lifting the clay into the walls of the pot. Watch this video, and then cut some of your pots in half to compare.