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The Birth of a Pot

October 18, 2011

What do you think about the art or crafts courses that seem to be very popular these days? Is it worth trying something new out or maybe it’s just a waste of time and money as you aren’t going to be as good as the real artists and craftsmen? As the weather is getting colder and the garden has to be closed for winter it’s high time to research this matter.

I was invited by my friend to attend a pottery course. The price wasn’t too steep and the organizers advertised that at the end we’d have our own bowl – this sounded very tempting.

Glazing the inside - pouring some liquid glaze in, covering the sides and removing the rest

Before we started we didn’t know anything about ceramics. Hmm… I shouldn’t say anything as we knew that it brakes, that we’d need clay, the potter’s wheel and that there would have to be a kiln involved. In reality the whole process turned out to be a bit more complicated.

Our teacher turned out to be very generous with advice and showed lots of secrets. Yet she decided that it would be too hard for us to make anything decent using the potter’s wheel, so we ended up making our bowls using an ancient method – rolling a long clay “snake” and then forming round swirls for the bottoms of our will be bowls/dishes, later on adding more long strips of clay and going up, making the walls (sadly I have no photographs to illustrate this as at the time my hands were covered in clay – it was a complicated and messy job; the complication is not to leave any gaps and to make your clay “snakes” glue to each other).

Applying liquid glaze onto a rocking horse

Once we were happy with our pieces of art they were taken to the kiln. I didn’t know that the temperature during the firing process has to reach 850-900 degrees Celsius!  So before anyone asks – no, it isn’t possible to do that in your oven (unless you use not the ordinary clay).

After a week (it takes days for the kiln and everything what’s inside to cool) we had to come back to the workshop to finish everything off by putting some glaze on. Do you know how it’s done? We used liquid glaze, so on small items it had to be applied with a paint brush, while the insides of the pots and bowls were glazed by actually pouring the liquid into them. The trick is not to make the layer too thick and to leave the surface, that will be touching the bottom of the kiln, clean (if it’s glazed it can stick to the kiln and the only way to remove your piece would be to break it off and it would, no doubt, be damaged).  So as you can understand for the ceramic piece to turn shiny, so that the glaze would melt, you need to fire it once again!

Glazing a bell that was formed using a rolling pin

A short summary: so that you could use clay for making pots it has to be kept in special conditions for about two years (all natural materials: stems or roots, have to disappear, i.e. to rot), the pot making process is not as easy as it might seem, after an item is made it has to be fired in a kiln and if you want it to be glazed it has to be fired once again. Will this make you think a bit differently about the price of a hand made ceramic dish or bowl the next time you are buying one? This learning experience certainly changed my view!

Ready for the kiln

And as for my opinion about the art or crafts’ courses – I’d do it again. There’s no better way to spend time with your friends or family members who’d enjoy trying something new out, making something with their own hands. (Country Days – the editor’s of Country Homes & Interiors Blog advertised a series of creative workshops throughout October and November organized by Lewis & Wood, please go to their news page for more information.)

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