The first time I went to a pottery studio on my own, I was excited and scared at the same time. I had so many ideas and I wanted to make 4 or 5 things for my kitchen. I was thinking about shapes and designs, looking through magazine and blogs. At the same time, I was unsure how to make all these things? Will they last? How will I fire them?
It’s a real mixed feeling when you are totally independent in a studio.
To calm myself down and to work efficiently at the studio I decided to make a pottery checklist for my projects. This way I would be in the studio using my time more efficiently and not spending time just thinking things out in my head.
Here is my checklist for being a first timer at a pottery studio
-know your clay: thinking about the project you will be making from the point of its finishing glazes. The type of glaze will decide the type of clay. Some glaze will fire to 1000degree and are suitable for earthenware clay. More lustrous glazes will fire at 1200 degrees and are suitable for a stoneware clay. Sometimes I design with a colour clay slip finish only, that work I do mostly using earthenware clay.
Once I have decided on the type of clay, I just start to prepare the clay by wedging. Wedging is first step for any clay project. Wedging the clay works the clay molecules and mixes things up. Wedging is also important because it takes out the air bubbles from the clay. Air bubbles in the clay increase the risk of breakage during fire and that’s the worst thing to happen to you at the studio.
-build using slabs by making different size sections and attaching them to make a whole. Slabs are just thin rolled out sheets of clay that you can easily make using a rolling pin. You can design the thickness of each slab depending on its place in the projects. Then I start constructing the project cutting out clay shapes and putting them together using a score and slip method.
Always use bowls and containers to make an impression mould with the clay slab. This helps me speed up my work especially if I’m doing a rounded design or taking a section of a piece. The slabs must be kept moist all the time, but they shouldn’t be too wet that they can’t keep their shape while you are working.
-To throw a piece of clay on the potters wheel you must know how to centre. Centering is the concept of making the clay in a centre of the wheel so the clay partials will all be in the same direction when you start taking the clay up to make your shape. Centering is a technical skill. Once you have practiced the right technique you won’t have a problem. Different teachers will have their own technique, there is now right or wrong way. Be prepared to practice and practice some more.
Centering is the first step to doing anything on the wheel. When the clay is centered it will be easy to predict its behaviour as you work on it. When the clay is not centered, then you would be starting having to make many adjustments to follow the area of centered and this will just waste your time. Don’t try to fix something that’s off centre from the start, just start and new piece and recycle the other.
-keep in mind that clay will shrink when it losses water. Take the shrinkage rate into consideration when you plan your work. Many times we forget to keep provision for the shrinking of clay. This is especially problematic when you are making two pots that fit together in a base, or when making a casserole lid.
To avoid this problem, always try to make the all the pieces that fit together at the same time. The type of clay and the location of your work in the studio will affect the rate of shrinking.
Have fun at the studio.