Ceramics, Pottery and Potter's Wheel Basics

Working with pottery clay to either hand build or hand throw a piece on the wheel is fun and exciting. From first hand experience, the wheel can be difficult at times. When you have finished the piece, it is important to allow the greenware to dry before the next step, bisque firing.

Working with clay to either hand build or hand throw a piece on the wheel is fun and exciting. From first hand experience, the wheel can be difficult at times. When you have finished the piece, it is important to allow the greenware to dry before the next step, bisque firing.

 

HISTORY:

The history of pottery goes back to the beginning of civilization, crossing countries and continents. As of today there are numerous archeological findings to authenticate the ancient findings.

HANDBUILDING:

Hand building is usually done with coiling, pinching or using slab rollers. Coiling is taking a piece of clay and roll it on a surface into coils to reach the length needed. The coils are placed on top of each coil to reach the desired height and design you are building. When placing each coil together you need to apply the crosshatch method so the coils with join and stay together. At this point you can smooth out the clay or leave it as it is, showing the coils. Pinching the clay is just that, pinching the clay into the shape of a bowl or other objects to accomplish the desired outcome. Slab rollers are just a well a constructed table with different settings on the rollers to adjust the thickness of the piece when the clay is placed in front of the roller. At this point you would turn the wheel so the clay will be rolled out flat. Sometimes you may use different designs of paper or cloth for a unique design on the clay as you roll over it. Slab rolling, coiling and pinching can be used to build pieces of art like baskets, bowls and vases.

POTTER’S WHEEL:

Hand throwing a piece on the wheel is fun, exciting and yes at times, frustrating. There are numerous pieces that can be built on the wheel. Vases, bowls, plates, cups and salt and pepper shakers are the usually pieces of art built on the wheel. Throwing on the wheel happens to be my favorite choice.

CLAYS:

Types of clays used for hand building and the wheel range from Earthenware and Terracotta to Porcelain Clays and more. The type of clay used will determine which temperature of the cone to be fired.  Cones range from cone 10 to cone to 5 or 6. Cones even go much lower for firing with different kinds of clay.  Earthenware is fired at cone 10 (high firing) where Porcelain is fired at cone 5 or 6 (medium firing).

GLAZES:

Each type of clay used determines the type of glaze to be applied. When using high firing clays like Earthenware, you use a high fire glaze. The same applies for the medium firing clays; you will use a medium fire glaze. For example on a cone 10 fire you could use the glazes Celadon or Cobalt Blue. Now on the cone 5 or 6 fire, you may use Desert Sage or Turquoise for the glaze.

FIRINGS:

Firings are from Greenwear to Bisqueware. Bisqueware pottery is fragile and easily broken. Use caution when handeing the pottery piece while adding the glaze. When the glaze is dried, the piece can be put into usually another kiln for the last firing. Once the piece has cooled you have your finished product.

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