Centered piece of clay

How to Center Clay: A Step-by-Step Guide

Piece of centered clay

The first dizzying challenge for most newbie potters is how to center clay. Centering is the process of evenly distributing your mound of clay on the middle of the pottery wheel before creating your piece. It’s a tricky step and tends to produce a lot of silent and audible screaming. 

The reality is simple: centering is frustrating but essential. A shiny, centered mound of clay is the starting point for all shapes on the wheel. Centering allows you to shape your clay evenly, which gives you a fighting chance of making a symmetrical piece. It could happen, right?!

If you’re struggling, rest assured, you’re in good company. All potters have struggled too, and our studio can help you get better. So sit back — or better yet, hunch over your wheel — and follow along as we go step-by-step through the centering process.

1. Centering Prep

You might be tempted to skip the prep, but these steps will make centering easier. Trust us! 

Wedge the Clay

Wedging will give your clay a uniform consistency and help with centering. Roll the clay forward and downwards, slowly folding the clay into itself one layer at time. Spending a minute or two doing this will make your clay easier to work with. 

Make a Ball

After the clay is wedged, use the heel of your palms to bat the clay around and turn it into a ball. This shape is the easiest to center. 

Turn the clay into a ball

Stick the Clay to the Wheel

Stick the clay onto the center of the wheel. Try to get the ball as close to the center as possible.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to have the clay centered, so help yourself out by putting the clay in the middle to begin with.

Use an index finger to push down on the base of the clay as the wheel spins to create a tighter seal between the clay and wheel. 

2. Cone Up

Coning up helps align the clay particles and is a continuation of the wedging process. In fact, some potters refer to this step as wheel wedging. 

Wrap your hands around the clay and squeeze inward with the heel of your hands. The clay will be forced upward and will create a cone shape. Use a high wheel speed to make this part easier.

3. Cone Down

Finally, the main event! This is the toughest of part of learning how to center clay. 

We want to force the clay downward and control it to the center of the wheel. Use a high wheel speed for this step. And add water! 

Most potters will brace the clay with their non-dominant hand and push the clay down with their dominant one. 

  • Hook the elbow of your non-dominant arm into your waist and extend your arm straight  out in front of you. 
  • Cup the side of the clay with your non-dominant hand, with your pinky touching the wheel head.
  • Now lean your whole body into the clay for maximum control. 
  • With the side of your dominant hand, push the clay downward . 
  • Use the palm and fingers of your non-dominant hand to brace the clay and control how the clay distributes itself on the way down. 

Some potters prefer to create dome shape, while others flatten their pieces into a hockey puck. The choice is yours! 

A centered piece of clay


Learning how to center clay is an essential part of throwing. Bowls, mugs, vases, and everything in between all start as centered pieces of clay. 

Prep the clay so it’s easier to work with and then use your non-dominant hand to brace the clay while your dominant hand forces it downwards. Experiment with your body position and hand placement until you find the right combination.  

It takes practice! And nothing beats an in-person instructor. Creative Arts Studio offers wheel throwing classes to learn all these tips and more. Happy throwing! 

Kids Parties Wheel Throwing

All About Wheel Throwing

Wheel Throwing Classes Art


If you come, it will be built…

The act and art of building something by hand is a trend that’s gaining more popularity among families today. Perhaps, it’s the disconnect from the digital and a reconnect to physical that has attributed to the trend’s continued growth. It really comes down to the fact that people enjoy the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes from working with their hands. Yet, it’s not always practical or convenient to take time out to do this, let alone finding the facilities, where building things by hand is allowed.  Enter, the Creative Arts Studio of Royal Oak, Michigan where to build something beautiful and memorable, you have to get your hands dirty, as in wheel-throwing, dirty.


When shape takes form…

Wheel throwing is the process of shaping and forming clay into usable shapes on the pottery wheel. Also, wheel throwing is used for adding the finishing touches to pottery such as lines or designs. As the potter’s wheel spins, small indentations or surface changes are quickly applied to the clay, where the shape and features begin to take form. In wheel throwing, the design applications are as wide and varied as the imagination of the potter.  Here at the Creative Arts Studio near Detroit, Michigan, our potter’s wheel is always spinning, waiting for you to get your hands dirty at designing cool new things!

Wheel Throwing For Kids

The potter’s imprint…

The craftsman of old believed that when they worked with their hands on a project or an object they were actually infusing/adding a piece of themselves into the objects they were working on. It’s as if, they had imprinted a part of themselves onto the object of their creation and that their spirit and essence – live on in their workmanship. While the staff here at the Creative Arts Studio of Royal Oak, Michigan know the objects themselves may be inanimate, it’s the life that’s shaped and spun into them during wheel throwing that does in fact – bear the spirit and essence of the potter.


The reward of working with one’s hands…

If working with your hands on a project or craft has stirred your interest, then wheel throwing is for you! If you’re looking for a new family activity to partake in that will be as rewarding an experience as it is a family-bonding experiment, then wheel-throwing is also for you. If you are looking to satisfy your personal sense of accomplishment, then wheel throwing is equally for you!  The potter’s wheel is always making its rounds at the Creative Arts Studio – Royal Oak, Michigan’s own, public potter’s studio.


Experience family fun in a whole new way…

As this festive, holiday season fast approaches, we invite you and yours out to our studio to experience family fun in an entirely new way. The Creative Arts Studio presents painting and pottery classes to help you hone your hard-earned craft. Our classes are taught by skillful artisans who work closely with new students to provide them a well-rounded grasp on the features and fundamentals of wheel throwing.  By the end of the class, you will know how to create, shape, and design by hand – a pottery piece you can be proud of and one that’s infused with your creative essence…

Wheel Throwing

Photo courtesy of Dick Blick Art Supplies

Wheel Throwing


  • You can take a one time lesson
  • 1 hour long
  • Make a bowl
  • Learn to shape the clay on the pottery wheel
  • Step by step instruction
  • Finished bowl is food safe
  • Paint your bowl during your lesson
  • Six-week courses are available
  • Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings available as well as Sunday mornings
  • Two-hour class sessions each week
  • Small class sizes
  • Learn how to center your clay and how to make bowls, mugs, vases, and more
  • Your own private storage space for your work
  • Come in during your free time to practice outside of class time
  • Scout Troops can learn about wheel throwing
  • Earn your pottery badge
  • Creative Arts Studio badges also available
  • Hand build a coil pot and throw a bowl on the wheel
  • Paint all of your creations during the lesson
  • Projects are designed to meet badge requirements
  • Pottery Badge Days are great for small troops to earn their badges together
  • Birthday Parties 
  • One hour lesson on the pottery wheel
  • Make a bowl and paint it during the lesson
  • Birthday plate is designed with handprints and fingerprints as a gift from us!
  • Second hour in the party room for pizza and cake time
  • The Pottery Wheel is also available for:
  • Bachelorette parties
  • Work outings
  • Family get-togethers
  • Date nights

See More About Wheel Throwing Parties Groups and Classes Here

Serving Detroit Area and Royal Oak

Wheel Throwing