Are you interested in pottery making? If you are about to start out, it is a good idea to take a beginner’s pottery class, where you will learn the fundamentals of pottery making process. Understanding of these stages will influence the quality of your piece and ensure a safe work procedure.
1. Clay Preparation
The type of clay you choose will depend on your pottery technique and is a primary consideration in the several stages of pottery making. Give thought to several key factors about your materials before you embark on the ceramic pottery making process. Doing so can mean the best chance to enjoy rewarding results. Think about the method you want to use to create your ceramic, as this will inform the type of material.
If you choose to hand build, you’ll need a clay that offers malleability combined with strength – the clay should be flexible enough as you shape and mould it to prevent cracks or breaks forming. It should have plasticity as you apply techniques such as coiling. If you opt for wheel throwing, similarly the clay needs to enjoy a good degree of plasticity in order that it can be handled without strain on your hands – on the wheel, the clay can be stretched and elongated into varied shapes so plasticity and strength are key. For instance, if creating tall ceramics the clay needs to be malleable and resistant to cracks. Also, take into account water absorption for your clay, specifically for wheel throwing where it is important to apply the right amount of water. This is less important with hand building, but whatever clay you choose will clearly depend on technique.
2. Pottery Creation Techniques
For beginners, this technique offers a relatively easy introduction to pottery making. Through history, people have created pottery this way and it gives you the chance to try out different ways of shaping and moulding your clay as you develop confidence and experience. Hand building can be broken down into three strands, popularly known as pinch pot, coil pot and slab pot. Pinch pot involves kneading your clay and shaping bowls and other designs with your fingers. Coil pot shapes the clay into long coils that are then moulded into bowls, cups, pots and similar by stacking the coils. They can be smoothed down or left as coils, giving a rustic look to the finished product. With slabs, shapes such as boxes can be made, creating symmetrical, more advanced finishes when combined with other hand building methods. The beauty of hand building lies in your contact with the clay as you get a feel for the material while you create.
The potter’s wheel is a well-known tool for making pottery and beginners shouldn’t fear using it. With practice, the wheel can help you create some wonderful pieces. Wheel throwing involves the ability to operate the wheel and applying the right amount of water throughout the process to keep the clay malleable. Essentially, dexterity of movement and operation can be developed by the beginner until the wheel throwing technique becomes integral to your ceramic creations. Getting expert tuition on using a potter’s wheel is the first step towards familiarising yourself with the mechanics of operation, whether the wheel is turned by electric or pedal power. As the wheel rotates, the clay is hollowed by way of upwards and outwards movements of your hands, simultaneously managing the water application and the wheel’s rotation.
3. Pottery Firing Process
Another of the important stages of pottery making is the technique known as firing. To render your clay into a hard and durable ceramic, the clay must be exposed to temperatures in a kiln of over 1500 Fahrenheit. Through the heating process wherein the clay is altered at its molecular level, the finished product is hardened. A domestic oven would not be suitable because these don’t reach the high temperatures necessary to render the clay to a melting point. Despite the clay not having the appearance of melting, the firing process applies this to the clay’s molecular structure. To fire the clay, there are two techniques, known as bisque and glaze firing.
This technique transforms what is termed greenware – newly moulded clay pots and other shapes – to the hardened ceramic end product by exposure to very high temperatures. The kiln needs to fire the clay gradually in order to extract any remaining moisture. If this process was quickened, it could cause the clay to burst from the rapid release of residual water. With care, the temperature of the kiln is raised incrementally until the clay is no longer fragile and, finally, the kiln is switched off and the ceramic allowed to cool steadily to prevent cracking. The result is known as bisque-ware.
For ceramics to become non-porous, they need to be treated with glaze, which adheres to the clay. Together with its functional purpose, glaze firing also involves decoration and colours so the finished product can be beautiful and durable. A glaze is applied to the bisque-ware, then returned to the kiln for the final stage, known as glaze firing. Again, the temperature is raised slowly then decreased until the product is left to cool, giving a finished product that is tough and practical.
4. Finishing And Decoration Techniques
Dipping with glaze is a simple method of adding an even coating of colour to your pottery, particularly if you have several pieces you want to decorate. You can use an old bucket to create your mixture, with the glaze requiring a cream like consistency. Stir carefully and smooth out air bubbles, then with tongs or similar dip your ceramic for about three seconds to ensure sufficient coverage and then remove and allow to dry. Using tongs, dip with the mouth of the pot upwards if you want the interior to have a different colour.
Decorating your ceramic is one of the most exciting stages of pottery making. Using slip, a mixture of clay, water and other ingredients such as stains or oxides, the blend produces different colours. Once the slip is made, it can be applied to the ceramic for decoration by applying different techniques as your prowess develops.
Pottery is an age-old craft that encourages you to explore the range of your creativity whilst making beautiful products unique to you. Sign up for a beginners pottery class today and start your ceramics adventure.