Pottery is process of creating an object of desired shape using natural clay & heating at very high temperature in a kiln. Studio pottery refers to individual artist or group of artists working together to create pots & ceramic pieces. Each piece produced by these artists is unique & not repetitive as found in pottery production house. Pottery is a vast subject & difficult to cover in few pages. It is our attempt to introduce pottery concept here. But, one should perform pottery under supervision & do a professional course before being on one’s own.

Pottery has been integral part of human race. From Pre-historic time till today clay vessels, jewelry, artifacts have been used by mankind in different forms.

Studio pottery emerged in late 19th & early 20th century and gained popularity much later. Britain is where studio pottery began. Studio potters define their work as functional & non-functional pieces. Tableware & cookware are function where as sculpture & artifacts are non-functional pottery.

To know history of British studio pottery & important contributors to this amazing art, please refer to http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/county-museum/collections/british-studio-ceramics-collection/brief-history-of-british-studio-ceramics-in-the-20th-century/#.UgM8JxaSGu4

Following is the list of material & tools that will be required to create any bisque  in the studio. Please understand that pottery is an art that needs a lot of learning & experience before one can start building on its own. We highly recommend everyone to learn it under an expert first, as understanding clay properties & its  response to temperature is very important.

Tools & Supplies:

1. Clay :  Most important aspect is choosing a clay. Each clay has its own composition & hence are different in color, temperature range, plasticity & handling quality. One should be careful while selecting clay depending on kind of form that needs to be achieved. Broad variety of clay with its maturing temperature are

  • Earthenware: Range 1000 – 1180 degree C
  • Stoneware: Range 1200-1300 degree C
  • Porcelain: Range 1240-1350 degree C
  • Bone China: Range 1240-1250 degree C

Before starting working on the clay please check the shrinkage rate and right consistancy – neither soft nor firm. Ensure the clay is stored in airtight plastic bag for long storage period. The clay that has not been fired can be reclaimed for later use.

2. Tools for Hand-building:

  1. Rolling pin
  2. Wire to cut the clay slab
  3. Wooden sculpting tools
  4. rib to smoothen the work
  5. Sponge
  6. Needle to cut the clay slab
  7. Slab roller (optional)

3. Throwing tools:

Kick or electric wheel for throwing
A needle to cut top edge level while throwing
A sponge on a stick to remove water from inside base of a tall narrow enclosed shape
Ribs for applying pressure while throwing to smoothen the outer surface
Metal kidney to pare away the surface
Wire for cutting thrown piece from the wheel
An angled bamboo tool for making a clean angled base
Chamois leather for smoothing & refining rims
Pointer gauge for throwing repeat shapes to same height & width
Trimming tools for trimming leather-hard shapes
Hole cutter for making small circular holes
toothbrush for applying slurry
Callipers for measuring lids & fitted shapes
A toggle for cutting lids & small objects off a hump

4. Glazing & Firing Supplies:

Glazing & firing are a very tricky subject & we highly recommend to do it under an expert’s supervision.

  1. Glazes & underglazes
  2. Brushes
  3. Buckets for dipping bisque in glaze
  4. A kiln & its accessories

Techniques:

Important step before building any pottery form is to prepare the clay, to ensure even consistency throughout the clay mass. The process involves wedging & kneading the clay. In wedging we cut the clay mass with wire into pieces & stack them together.  Kneading can be done using either spiral or oxhead method. Once done with kneading, cut the clay mass with wire to check for air pockets, bumps or foreign particles. If found none, it is ready to work on.

There are mainly 2 techniques: Hand-building & Throwing

1. Hand building: There are 3 methods that people follow to make functional &  non functional pieces. Pinch, coil & slab. All the methods are explained in the following links.

  1. http://www.lakesidepottery.com/HTML%20Text/Methods%20of%20Handbuilding.htm
  2. http://www.jhpottery.com/tutorial/pinch.htm
  3. http://www.jhpottery.com/tutorial/coil.htm
  4. http://www.jhpottery.com/tutorial/slab.html

2. Throwing: Throwing involves centering of the clay mass, opening or hollowing, pinching & lifting and trimming after the clay is dried. For detailed demonstration follow links below:

  1. http://www.lakesidepottery.com/Pages/Pottery-tips/Throwing-a-pot-Lakeside-Pottery-Tutorial.htm
  2. Trimming  : http://www.lakesidepottery.com/Pages/Pottery-tips/Trimming-a-pot-Lakeside-Pottery-Tutorial.htm
  3. http://www.jhpottery.com/tutorial/center.htm

3. Glazing:

  1. http://www.lakesidepottery.com/HTML%20Text/Tips/Mixing%20and%20Using%20Glazes.htm
  2. http://www.lakesidepottery.com/HTML%20Text/Tips/Dry%20Glaze%20Mixing%20Instructions.htm
  3. http://www.lakesidepottery.com/HTML%20Text/Tips/Understanding%20Glazes.htm

4. Firing:

  1. http://www.lakesidepottery.com/HTML%20Text/Tips/Clay%20drying%20and%20firing%20process.htm
  2. http://www.lakesidepottery.com/HTML%20Text/Tips/Firing.htm

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