There are a few standard different ways to wedge clay: Spiral, Ram’s Head, Foot, Stack/Slam are the main ones. The method you choose can be influenced both by the characteristics of the clay itself and/or the making technique you intend to use and/ your preference and capabilities.
At Slow Clay Centre we teach Spiral Wedging as a foundational technique because it goes perfectly with *throwing off the hump (a method we teach from the first beginners class). We use a robust but soft, plastic Midfire wheel throwing clay (thank you Bennetts, South Australia!) and we teach our students to prepare a whole mound (“hump”) of clay first before they “graduate” to smaller lumps! Spiral Wedging takes practice, practice, practice to get confident but it means the students are only pressing onto a small amount of clay and it therefore doesn’t require much strength – if you learn it correctly.
Why wedge your clay? It’s essentially a method to knead the clay with the goal of getting any air bubbles out and creating consistency at the same time ie: it prepares your clay for making something. It also allows one to recycle their waste clay into a form that can be reused. If you are lucky enough to own a pugmill you won’t need to wedge but most people don’t have the space or money for one. This video shows Slow Clay Centre owner, Jane Sawyer, explaining the method she has created to teach our students.
Tip: You can practice at home on bread dough or pizza dough but watch out ‘cos it might result in the texture of cardboard!
* making multiple pieces from one mound of clay.