How it’s Made
Pottery is as much about the process as it is about the finished pot. Nearly all my work is thrown by hand on the pottery wheel. On good days throwing is a meditative, flow-state inducing experience. On bad days it is maddening – clay can tell if you are distracted, upset, or unfocused and will respond in kind. Throwing has taught me more about being in the moment than any meditation or yoga class ever could.
There are several stages to completing a pot; 1) throw, 2) trim, 3) glaze, 4) fire. Each stage brings new activities and the opportunity to experiment and play with the form. Ultimately, I think there is an element of magic in creating ceramics. Earth is shaped and moved, baptized in a bath of minerals, then vitrified in fire.
Clay is made of earth. Elements like kaolin, silica, quartz, feldspar, dioxides, carbonates, and oxides bring unique qualties and personalities to the clay. When selecting a clay, I take into consideration its unique throwing properties, the final color is fires to, and how it interacts with particular glazes.
When throwing, water is applied to the clay to lubricate the surface of the potter’s hands and the clay surface. Water also plays a role in the application of glazes which are suspensions of minerals in water. The water is absorbed by the semi-porous bisqued pot leaving the glaze as a powder on the surface.
Pottery requires reserves of patience and time. Carefully controlling the drying process prevents cracking and allows the potter to alter and add to the form at the correct time. It often takes days to allow the the air to properly dry the clay to the right level before moving to the next stage of the process.
Every pot undergoes trial by fire – being superheated to 1800 – 2200 degrees to transform the composition of the clay into something durable and lasting. The kiln is brought to a high temperature over 8 to 24 hours and then allowed to cool to an ambient temperature. My work is fired in an electric kiln.
Throwing is the act of shaping clay on the pottery wheel. First, the clay is “wedged” or kneaded to remove air bubbles then centered on the wheel to make it perectly aligned. The the potter’s hands squeeze the clay up as the wheel spins to make the walls of the pot taller, thinner, and of uniform thickness. Repetition and focus are key to developing a consistent throwing practice.
Trimming removes excess clay from the base of a pot and refines the shape. This takes place after a pot has dried to a “leather hard” finish, a stage where the pot can be handled easily but is still moldable. This is also the stage where forms can be altered or added to, such as putting a handle on a mug or carving designs.
Glazes give ceramic pieces their finished color and texture, Glazes are combinations of minerals and inorganic compounds suspended in water that develop into an array of finishes and colors after being fired. When fired, the glaze melts and hardens to a glass-like coating that renders pottery impermeable. Its final appearance depends on how the glaze interacts with the clay used, other glazes, and where it is located in the kiln.
Glazes give ceramic pieces their finished color and texture and render them impermeable to water. Glazes are combinations of minerals and inorganic compounds that melt and harden to a glass-like coating when fired. The final appearance of a pot depends on how the glaze interacts with the clay used, other glazes, and where it is located in the kiln.
Pottery is fired in the kiln twice . After trimming and drying a pot it undergoes the first “bisque” firing. This transforms brittle, bone dry “greenware” into a durable, porous, almost stone-like form by heating it to 1800 degrees. The “bisque-ware” can then be glazed and fired a second and final time at a much higher temperature of 2200 degrees. This melts the glaze and completes the vitrification process to result in a finished pot.
The pottery I create is microwave, dishwasher, and oven safe. If using in the oven take care to slowly heat and cool the pots to prevent shattering.