Part of being an artist that physically works on a medium means taking certain precautions to ensure that my body remains healthy. I throw hundreds of pounds of clay during any given week, often in extremely awkward positions, and in a way that potentially poses a huge risk to the joints and muscles all over my body.
My wrists and fingers are at a particularly high level of risk, as they are involved in every single motion that I do with clay, both on and off the wheel. The use of my hands go well beyond wedging and throwing, extending itself moving pieces and supplies around the studio. I often have to position myself rather awkwardly to ensure the safety of my vessels that I transport between shelves or to and from the wheel.
These are things that I never considered for the first few years of my ceramic studies that I wish I had. Ceramicists tend to have huge health problems later in life from eye damage due to light emissions during kiln firings, to wrist and hand arthritis from improper throwing technique, to back problems due to uncorrected poor posture at the wheel. Repetitive motions breed health problems and if the avoidable motions are not avoided and the unavoidable motions are not corrected on the backend of the activity, these problems will arise.
I structure my own throwing technique as well as that of my wonderful students around these concerns. It is possible to maintain efficiency on the wheel while still protecting one’s physical health. A huge aspect of this is bracing. Bracing, in this contest, means using different body parts in unison to evenly distribute the force of one’s motions on the wheel. You can clearly see this technique in practice in this shot where my thumbs are braced against one another as I sink the hole of this mound of clay. This may seem subtle, but in the longterm, it causes a world of difference.