Skip to main content


Elephant Platter/Wall Hanging

via Instagram

Practice, Practice, Practice

A man with a violin case in his hand walks up to a gentleman at a bus stop in New York City and asks “How do you get to Carnagie Hall?”
The gentleman replies “Practice.”

It’s an old joke that has a lot of truth to it. We all must practice to get better at certain things. We’ve all heard the clichés, practice makes perfect or perfect practice makes perfect. It seems that mindful practice helps us to improve.

When I was in the fourth grade my mom took me to the local music shop and bought me a guitar. I learned to read music and tried to play songs but I never got very good. I tried to play for years, I didn’t give up until I was in my thirties because I was playing less and less as the years went by.  I loved it but I couldn’t play it. Recently a friend gave me a guitar that he no longer played. It’s an old Epiphone acoustic 12 string that he restrung to be a 6 string (coincidently just like one I had when I was younger).  It’s been so many years since I played that I forgot almost everything I knew as a kid yet after only playing for about 6 weeks I’m much better than I ever was because of the way I’m practicing.

When I was a kid I just sat down with the songbook and tried to play the songs I liked. They were slow and awkward. It took me about one full second or more to change cords. Try singing along with that.

Now, I found instructors on line that show what to do and a great app that is a fun way of practicing cord changes. I also learned a great way to practice strumming. Now I take a few minutes every day and practice technique. If I’m really busy I only practice the techniques because it only takes ten to fifteen minutes. Now the songs are getting much better.

In pottery we often focus so much on making pots that we don’t practice the techniques that get us there. We want to make pretty pots without practice.

I wanted to play like Jimi Hendrix.

Jimi practiced his guitar playing. I practice my pottery throwing.

When I was at Penland last spring Cynthia showed me a way to improve my juicers. Not the form, that was okay, she thought the reamer could be improved. So I sat down and threw a bunch of domes that looked like the reamer without the bottom. When they were leather hard I practiced carving them so they would juice better. When I was done I recycled the clay.  I now make better juicers. It was worth the time.

Ceramic Pitcher and Juicer by Lori Buff of Future Relics Gallery
Mojito Pitcher with Juicer

My readers who are potters might want to try an exercise. Everyday before you start throwing wedge up a few two pound balls of clay and a few three pound balls of clay. Throw the 2 pounder in only 3 pulls, measure the height, cut it in half and check the consistency of thickness. Then do the same with the three pounder. Now throw another 2 pounds followed by the 3 pound ball. Repeat until you’re out of clay. Keep a log of how tall you’ve gotten the clay each day. You’ll be able to track your progress. Pay careful attention to what you’re doing and try to improve the consistency, height and thickness.

When you’re done practicing you can wedge up the practice clay and throw some pots.

What are some practice techniques that you use?

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff


  1. love how the juicer fits in the pitcher, I'm getting practice on old techniques while showing my students how I make pieces.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Mimi, and welcome to the blog. I appreciate your taking time to read and comment.

  3. I know, I have to be careful about just making a new item and have gotten into the habit of practicing a few times first saying "these will be scrapped and I'll learn something then make the new one"

    1. That's a good way to do it Gary. Prototypes can help us develop a great design.

  4. Odd how enriching it is not knowing a single thing you describe about practicing pottery !!

    Cannot wait to begin my new garden. My previous garden, 30 years, held all my practice, 20 years, before it landed where it should. New garden won't have that learning curve.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

    1. Practicing gardening must be very different Tara. I would imagine after so many years of experience you have gained a wealth of knowledge about what to plant and where for success and beauty. You've also developed an eye by looking at lots of gardens. All of that is practice in my opinion.

  5. I gave my husband a guitar several years ago for Christmas. He is and has always been drummer, but always wanted to learn guitar. He taught himself on the internet, and he practices every single day, usually on the porch after dinner. It is relaxing for him and he has gotten pretty any good. He does it for himself, not trying to make a living at it, just fun.
    I learned to throw cylinders with your method. Its a great way to warm up and get good solid forms. Makes me want to go wedge up some clay!

    1. You should Tracey, and treat the clay like he treats the guitar.

  6. When Jeff is teaching new pottery students he always tells them it's like learning to play an instrument. You have to play scales before you can learn a song.

    1. I used this line just the other day, we were talking about playing the piano but it’s still apropos. Thanks.

  7. Hi Lori! I've been away for a couple of weeks, and your technique is perfect to get me back into my "groove"!!!

    1. Hi Sherri, welcome back. I’m glad this helped you.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts