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The Pottery Studio

My studio is very conveniently situated in my back garden and was once a garage/workshop. I had it renovated and insulated 3 years ago and it now provides me with a great space for making and firing my pots.

I have 3 electric wheels (incl. a portable version which is ideal for demo’s / fairs etc.), a pugmill (for recycling / reconstituting clay), and a blunger (for making casting slip) and casting bench which means I’m very well set up to make hand thrown or slip-cast ware. The benefit of having more than one wheel is that I can offer throwing lessons for couples or for two friends at the same time (check out my lessons page)

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text][huge_it_slider id=”4″][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]There is a glazing and decorating room equipped with a spray booth, a compressor and a number of spray guns which enables me to apply multiple layers of glaze or ombre effects. I can also straight dip / double dip or pour glazes. There are banding wheels and a good selection of brushes used for decorating.

There are 3 kilns – 2 electric and 1 gas. I really love using the gas kiln for the final glaze firing because I can influence the level of oxygen in the flame and thus create a so-called “reduction” atmosphere in the kiln. This reduction firing is how I achieve the beautiful copper red glaze colour.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_tta_tour color=”orange” active_section=”1″][vc_tta_section title=”Throwing” tab_id=”1463505643475-3a4d7f0c-3b5f”][vc_column_text]I confess that throwing is far more satisfying that slip-casting. I love the spontaneity and sense rhythm you feel when throwing.

The first step is of course to prepare the clay for throwing. This is called “wedging” and is a process of kneading the clay to ensure a regular consistency and to eliminate any trapped air.

The clay is they made into a ball and thrown onto the centre of the wheel head. The next step is to “centre” the clay and it often surprises people how much strength / pressure is required to get that lump of clay running dead centre on the wheel without any wobbles! The wheel needs to be turning fast and you need plenty of water for lubrication. Once centred you must create an opening in the top and drill down towards the wheel head but leave sufficient thickness for the base of the pot. The hole is then opened up to create the inside diameter of the pot you want to make thus you have something that looks a bit like a doughnut. The walls of the pot are made by squeezing the clay between the fingers of your left hand (which is inside the pot at 3 o’clock) and the fingers on your right hand (which is outside the pot again positioned at 3 0’clock) as the clay spins. As you apply pressure you slowing lift your hands upwards and the clay pot will grow with your hands – this is the throwing process. To counter-act the natural tendency for the pot to flare outwards (due to centrifugal force) it’s important for your hands to travel in an upwards and inwards motion – as if drawing a line on a cone. This is repeated several times until the wall thickness is thin enough and even from top to bottom. By following this ‘cone line’ you should be able to maintain a cylindrical shape until such time that you want to create the final shape. To create a bellied shape the fingers on your left hand (inside the pot) apply more pressure than the fingers on your right hand. To create a neck / narrower shape, the opposite is true – the fingers on your right hand outside the pot apply more pressure than those on your left hand.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Turning” tab_id=”1463505716620-3a2892e6-cff5″][vc_column_text]Once the throwing is completed a wire is used to cut the pot off the wheel head or from the wooden throwing batt.

The pot must now be left to dry evenly until it approaches the texture of cheddar cheese. It’s wise to turn the pot upside down half way through this drying process to enable the base to dry to the same degree.

The cheese-hard pot is then positioned back on the wheel upside down and dead-centre. It is secured to the wheel head with sausages of clay. With the wheel turning at a moderate speed a sharp metal tool is used to shave excess clay from the base of the pot and to create the foot of the pot. This is the “turning” process. It can really enhance the final ‘visual balance’ of the shape and is as important as the throwing itself in many ways

You have to be careful not to cut away too much clay and end up with a pot with no base.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Handle Application” tab_id=”1463505769982-9018250e-a5c1″][vc_column_text]There are extruders that you can buy to make uniform strips of clay for handles but I much prefer to “pull” my handles from a lump of clay. The process is a bit comical – almost like milking a cow as you start to pull / stretch a length of clay from the lump. Plenty of water is required and the cross section of the handle strip you are pulling is determined by the shape you are able to make with your hand / fingers as you pull the clay downwards.
The handle strip after pulling must be left to dry for a while before it can be applied to the pot. It needs to be rigid enough to hold shape when you bend and apply it to the pot body. The contact area on the pot must be scratched first and some thick clay slip (i.e. a mixture of water and clay) applied over the area. The handle is presented to the pot and pressed into position with the slip acting like glue between the two surfaces. The curve of the handle shape is now finalised as you create the contact point for the other end of the strip. The same routine of scratching and applying the slip is followed before pressing the other end of the handle strip to the body.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Sprigging & Embellishments” tab_id=”1463505825018-59ec9db1-5900″][vc_column_text]The surface of the clay pot can be decorated in several ways – scratching / carving / piercing or by applying other clay elements. The latter is called “sprigging”. I have made my own sprig moulds by hand. They are made out of clay and biscuit fired. I use these to press clay into and then stick onto the surface of the posts with a little slip. It’s a very effective technique.

I also have a few laser-cut wooden stamps which I use to make little clay ‘badges’ which I stick to the pots.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Glazing & Decorating” tab_id=”1463505872429-52be5957-0aab”][vc_column_text]I make all my own glazes to recipes I’ve found or evolved over the years. Thus I have quite an extensive stock of ceramic raw materials such as Ball Clay, China Clay, Colemanite, Cornish Stone, Dolomite, Feldspar, Flint, Ilmenite, Nephaline Syenite, Quartz, Talc & Whiting plus a host of metal oxides which are used to create the colours.

The glaze is applied in a number of ways – spraying, dipping or pouring. I like to use several glazes together and this is best achieved with spraying.

I love the rich reactive qualities of Stoneware glazes (particularly when fired in a reduction atmosphere to over 1300C in my gas kiln). It’s a little more difficult to control but I love the effects that can be created – especially the Copper Red glazes!

For the most part I use metal oxides to decorate my pots applied by brush or sometimes by sponge[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Firing” tab_id=”1463505922498-1a2080ae-9eac”][vc_column_text]There are two firing processes. The first is called the biscuit firing. This reaches approx. 950C and the pots must be completely bone dry before the firing commences. I use the electric kilns for this and the firing takes about 8 hours to reach top temperature. The clay pots can touch / can be stacked in the biscuit firing.

The second firing is called the glaze (or glost) firing. In my case I favour using the gas kiln because I can create a ‘reduction’ atmosphere inside the firing chamber. I do this by starving the flame on the gas burners of oxygen. The flames ‘seeks out’ oxygen from wherever it can find it. Thus molecules of metal oxides present in the glazes and clay are stripped of oxygen and return to base metal. For example; copper oxide which in an electric (oxidising / neutral atmosphere) kiln will create a green glaze in the gas kiln with reduction will give a beautiful copper red glaze.
The glaze firing takes 9-10 hours to reach full temperature of over 1300C. I love the excitement of opening the kiln 36 hours later to see how the firing has gone. There are always some disappointments but also great surprises. It never ceases to give me a thrill.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Finished Product” tab_id=”1463505982740-fda890d8-4963″][vc_column_text]The strange thing about potting is that I can remember making every pot when I see it even years after the event. Each one has its own individual story and sparks a memory for me.

The beauty of hand-made ceramics is that very pot is unique – even when I make sets there will be some small variance between each pot. I see that as an added value rather than a detraction. I do actually prefer to make stand-alone pots as this gives me a greater sense of creative freedom. My overriding wish is that my pots give their owner pleasure in use and that they are cherished / valued in some way.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_tour][/vc_column][/vc_row]