IMPROVISATION IN DESIGN AND FABRICATION OF ELECTRIC POTTER’S WHEEL

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IMPROVISATION IN DESIGN AND FABRICATION OF ELECTRIC POTTER’S WHEEL

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Ceramics can be defined as solid compound formed by the application of heat. It is one of the ancient crafts with a history stretching back into the unknown. Pottery is indestructible if fired to the right temperature. That is why archaeological excavations constantly uncover new and even more exciting relics of pre-historical days (Onu, 2005:3).The need to store things led to the development of containers.  Archaeological evidences suggest that the earliest containers used by the Neolithic man ranged from hollowed out pieces of stone or wood to more elaborate artifacts such as bags of animal skin and baskets (Gascoigne, 2001 para. 1).Although, basketry is one of the earliest crafts to be developed because of the availability of the raw materials in almost every region of the world, yet baskets can never contain liquids. Therefore, early technology soon found an alternative material – clay, which is cheap and widely available. The oldest pottery technique consisted of hollowing out a lump of clay by hand and pinching it to give it the final form.

Pottery served and still serves various purposes. It met some of the needs of the Neolithic man, by providing vessels used for cooking, storing grains, oil and seeds for planting, to keep them dry and protect them from insects, mice and chicken. It also provided containers for carrying and storage of water. As village settlement grew a new phase of man’s development began to evolve which led to improved farming methods with the resultant increase in food production. As agricultural products increased, more pots were needed and various methods were developed to speed up their production; one of such methods is the use of potter’s wheel. The potter’s wheel has paved the way for a faster and easier mode of production in the ceramics studios and industries, as it allows for the production of more pots than was possible using the method of hand building. Apart from its use in mass production, it also made possible the production of circular forms that were difficult to produce using the hand building method.

The potter’s wheel, one of the oldest of man’s machine, can be described as a machine or device with a rotating horizontal disc. Generally, it is made up of three main parts which are the wheel head, the spindle and the shaft. The invention of the potter’s wheel could be attributed to the Egyptians. Earliest wheels were made of stone and consisted of a circular piece, about three feet across, turning on a pivot and spun by hand (Onu, 2005:6). Subsequently, a slot was made in the wheel’s surface so that a pole could be used to make the wheel go round. This rudiment gave birth to the development of the conventional potter’s wheel with two circular surface connected by a central shaft, powered by a potter who kicks the treadle. Electric potter’s wheel could be powered by DC motor. This machine (DC motor) was first designed by a British Scientist-William Sturgeon in the year 1832 but his model was expensive and was not used for practical purpose, hence the later invention by scientist Frank Julian Sprague in 1886 which was capable of rotating at a constant speed under a varied change of load (Electrical4u.com,2017: para.  4). DC motor is best used for constructing an electric potter’s wheel because of its ability to operate at variable speed. Where DC motor is not available, any other variable speed motor could be used.

Today, innovative experiments have continued to characterize the design and construction of potter’s wheel. In Nigeria for instance, as a result of the scarcity and high cost of imported potter’s wheels, a lot of improvisations have been adopted to deal with this problem. In fact, improvisation in design and construction of items is as old as man. Improvisation is creating something from whatever is available. It can be seen as solving a problem using tools and materials immediately at hand. Ali (2008:44) remarkably stated that “nowadays, improvisation characterizes the field of ceramics, with the result that there is virtually no tool or equipment that cannot be fabricated locally or does not have a local alternative”. It is therefore worthy to note that ceramists not only produce ceramics wares but are also involved in fabricating tools which will facilitate their production. These fabricated tools are peculiar to them and most times function more effectively than imported ones, for they understand and can manipulate them. Some may consider discarded parts as waste and not useful any more without the knowledge that they could be transformed into other useful things. But Filani (1999:24) explained that the word “waste” does not mean a thing that can never be useful but a term which relates to materials or tools that have served their useful purposes for specific objectives. In his contribution, he was of the opinion that present technological development has made it necessary that previously used materials could be transformed into other useful things. Ali (2012:37) seems to understand the importance of improvisation as he rightly stated that “it is the only way out of the problems that have been militating against the practice of contemporary ceramics in Nigeria…”.

 

IMPROVISATION IN DESIGN AND FABRICATION OF ELECTRIC POTTER’S WHEEL

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