2/5/10 - 2/16/10

The Process of Making Pottery


Part I - The Clay 

 Part II  - The Glaze   Part III - The Fire



A classic case of Thrower's Block:



I generally use a mirror, bat, sponge, credit card for a rib, pin to cut the top, stick to trim the bottom, and wire to cut the bottom



The clay:   Standard Ceramics 259 - lots of iron



I'm thinking of switching to 153



Before a throwing phase, while I'm waxing glazing and firing
I recycle the dry (slaked) and wet (slop) leftovers.
I let the clay settle:




Then decant the supernatant (water) with a siphon:




Dump them both in the 20 year old dry plaster bat.
The stinky slop from the wheel bucket on the right actually makes the re-used stuff more plastic
Something about bacteria and a higher proportion of secondary clays (per Bill Schran)




Smooth it out and let it sit for a few days




When it begins to pull away from the sides it's time to lift it outta there




Half way out:



The above is about 40 lbs of clay trimmed or slopped from the original 150 lbs in this group.


I use plastic tools to avoid getting the plaster in the clay and getting this:




It's outta there


I tend to remove it wet - in case I have to have my gall bladder out or something
Also useful for softening up older stiffer clay.
It will wait for you - if you keep the wind off it




This is the real star of the show - Peter Pugger VPM-9  de-airing pug mill changes the whole operation.

I mix  factory clay with re-cycled clay in the pugger





If I start with just factory stuff:
I'll cut it in thirds, then cut them in half to get 4 lb pieces,
then find a pound somewhere in the pieces to make a tea cup.
It's ready to throw straight out of the bag from Standard Ceramics, if fresh.





At some point in time one actually has to sit down and throw the pots





The next day

I don't hesitate to use a Giffin Grip: it's just another part of the machinery
Of course don't wait till it's bone dry like the photograph either
I end up using just one trimming tool and my cartouche.

Click on links below for a four part video and commentary on trimming pots:

Videos will open in the same window in Safari (Mac) and Firefox
Explorer will put the video file in My Documents/Downloads folder

   II     III     IV



The same day: alter the clay with textures, carvings, epaulets, handles...

I use  a wood paddle, surform thingy for facets, impression stamps, seashells, hole makers, line makers, a pin to cut up little pieces.
Also a meat tenderizer and wiggly wired cheese cutter for textures, slip to use stick things togerther
David Hendley uses a Danish modern table leg as a paddle !



These are some of the little alterations I often make



Below is 50 lbs of clay thrown in two sessions.
Waiting to be bisque fired to cone 06



Bisque Kiln and Spray Booth:



Our friend the  cone sitter:



Nevertheless, it's a good idea to put some cones on the other side of the peep hole, just in case the small cone doesn't bend for some reason
I don't go to work -I stick around the keep an eye on this step


Bottom row - bowls nested on stilts



Top shelf - the good stuff




Just wait now.
I ventilate the electric kiln with a fan (ductwork you see there) - for toxic fumes since it's in the basement
I make sure to turn the fan off when the cones bends so as not too cool too quickly



The next day:
yay -nothing exploded



Cone 08 07 06 confirmed


I store the shelf on top to protect the fragile fiber top of the little kiln



To me, art pottery is primarily about form - so I start "arranging" as soon as they come out of the kiln.

On the subject of "arranging pots" click here for an essay by Jack Troy

A great form can survive a mediocre glaze
But ain't no glaze gonna save a bad form.


It takes 150 lbs to fill my gas reduction kiln, so the above completes the throwing and bisquing steps

Below is 100 lbs thrown in four sessions (four bags), bisque fired
Three of those seven on the left (two vases one bowl) were sprayed with porcelain:
the old Alfred formula: 25% each ball, spar, kaolin, silica;
as a glaze undercoat two days after being thrown, one day after foot trim.



Keeping basement dust off the pots to assure glaze adhesion:






Waxing the bottom of the pots:

On the advice of Bill Schran, I add a teaspoon of alumina to the wax resist





There are many chapters on trimming the bottom of pots
I like nothing better than the naked swirl of the wire where the mug has been cut off the hump or bat

Waxing is a little like using ink - you just get one chance
If you spill it on the side - you'll have a glaze defect unless you burn it off with a torch or rebisque it

I generally try to cut an 45 degree angle where the foot hits the shelf/ table
The pot will then "show" a uniform band of clay around the bottom, below the glaze
And it's a straight line to wax to, and hopefully the glaze won't run onto the kiln shelf - which is the whole idea

Oh, the shape of the bottom of the pot should reflect the inside of the pot
Round if it's a bowl - flat if the pot has a flat inside bottom





Ever the salesman, Tom Coleman advises  glazing the bottom of the pot, so that the philistines will not think there is "something wrong"

Then again, you have to admit that a nicely glazed bottom does reveal a degree of professionalism

Last I heard, Tom does not routinely apply wax - just dips the whole pot and wipes the bottom with a flat sponge





The tradition is to  dip the teacup into the glaze by holding the foot
As you can see, Jack Troy stains his porcelain  black then signs through it (as of "2000" ?)





Bottoms up





 Part II  - The Glaze   Part III - The Fire



Click here for pots from November, 14. 2009

Click here for pots from August 2009

Click here for pots from May 2008

Click here for pots from February 2008

Click here for pots made in 2007

Click here for pots made in 2005

Click here for Glaze Recipes


Main | Artist Statement | Recent Work | Old Pots | Photography | Collection | Bricks | Contact
Weblog | Kiln Log | Recycle Clay | Glaze Recipes | Shop Tour


It's always nice to work in a calm pleasant shop with reminders of your friends and their work

That's Tomas Lipps below