Parisian Experience Inspires IUPUI Student’s Passion for Pottery

The sunlit ceramics studio at the Eskenazi Fine Arts Building on the IUPUI campus is the second home of many Herron Ceramics majors. It’s a perfect place to make pottery, but it’s not always so sunlit – students can often be found working late into the night. Wheel throwing is such an intense process that “suddenly you look up, and hours have passed,” said Megan Smith, a junior ceramics major at IUPUI.

Megan has been passionate about pottery since high school, but it was her experience studying abroad in Paris this summer that cemented her desire to create her own pieces. Today she’ll be throwing the final vase of a three part set for her Wheel Throwing II class. Here, she studies the two vases she’s already created before embarking on her final one.

Throwing a vase requires a surprising number of tools in addition to the basic potter’s wheel. Here Megan has a caliper at the ready to measure the inner and outer dimensions of her vase after it’s been thrown to ensure it will fit with the other parts of the set. The whisk is used to mix glazes to help break up the clumps.



Megan wedges a piece of clay in preparation for throwing her vase. Wedging de-airs the clay and makes the clay body homogenous.





After centering the clay, Megan is ready to open her vase. She slowly drives her forefinger straight down into the center of the clay, using her other hand as a stabilizer, until she’s about an inch from the bottom.


After raising the walls of her vase, Megan consults one of her premade pieces. She explains that the form she’s examining is divided into thirds to make it dynamic and interesting, and says she wants the vase she’s currently throwing to have these same qualities.


Megan keeps a sketchbook full of her favorite forms close beside her while throwing, which she consults here to help her choose the final design for her vase.




After Megan manipulates the mouth of her vase into her desired shape, her next step is to even out the top.





After she finishes her vase and it’s had time to dry, her next step will be to fire it in the kiln. She hopes it won’t crack like some of her past creations.

Done! Megan lifts the finished vase off the wheel.