Sunday, 6 December 2015

Twelve things I've learnt from my pottery course | The Small Desk

My final pieces!

Next week will be my twelfth, and final pottery lesson. To mark this occasion I thought I would share with you twelve things I've learnt from the course.
I made a gif!

1. Patience
When I first started the course I had no idea how many processes are involved in created a piece of pottery. This is a summary of the process:

a) Firstly you have to 'wedge up' the clay. This involves cutting a piece of clay into half and hitting it with the other half to get the air out.
b) Then you shape it on the wheel.
c) After the wheel you have to let it dry a bit.
d) Once it's a bit drier, you can 'turn' the pot, basically make it neater.
e) Then it has to dry out completely.
f) After this it can go in the kiln for 'firing'.
g) Once it is out of the kiln you can glaze it.
h) Finally, it needs to go for a second 'firing', and then it's done!

Be prepared for this lengthy process!

2. Get that air out
As I said before, you have to prepare the clay, which involves 'wedging' it to get the air out. If you don't get all the air out it can completely ruin your pot later down the line. Air bubbles can make your pot difficult to centre on the wheel, and they can also cause pots to crack in the kiln. Basically, you do NOT want any air in your clay!

3. All is not lost if you suck at the wheel
I briefly mentioned 'turning' in the summary above. This is the part where you can neaten up a messy pot. I am terrible at the wheel, but I have transformed pots through turning. It involves taking some tools, putting your pot on the wheel, using no water, and smoothing the wonky parts of your pot. You will probably also find you are able to take a lot of clay off and make a thiner pot. For some reason newbies always tend to make very thick and heavy pots.

4. Slab making is way easier
This is where you simply roll out the clay and cut it into shapes and stick it together. It is much easier than turning. If you want to make anything square – this is the process you would use. It is still very much a professional technique, so don't worry if this is the only way you want to make pottery.

5. Slurry is your best friend
I have no idea what slurry is made from, but basically if you want to stick anything to another piece of clay you are going to need some slurry. It is a potter's glue. Thinking of adding a handle to a mug? You're going to need slurry. It is often applied with a toothbrush!

6. Lots of water
The amount of time I've heard 'now, lot's of water' during my course is too many to count! When you are throwing a pot on the wheel you need so much water! I had no idea! If your hands aren't really wet they can stick to the pot, which in turn can mean you end up causing the pot to collapse. You will also need a never ending supply of sponges. In a beautiful way the clay picks up every imprint, but then again you don't really want finger marks all over your pot, so a sponge is the best way to smooth everything out.

7. Spin the wheel fast
I'm not very good at this! I get scared the clay is going to fly off the wheel! But, if you watch any of the best potters on YouTube you will see how fast they spin the wheel. It is very important in order to get a nice, neat pot, that hopefully doesn't need turning!

8. Glaze is evil
I don't know if you would feel this way if you made your own glaze, but I find it impossible to know what the glaze will turn out like. You can make the best pot in the world, but then the glaze can completely ruin it.

9. Cross your fingers for the kiln
You can only cross your fingers once it is in the kiln. This terrifies me, but as long as you've done all the right preparation, you should be ok. I don't know one person who doesn't do a little prayer before their pot goes in the kiln!

10. Do not wear your best clothes
Pottery is a messy process! I now have a pair of shoes I call my pottery shoes, because they are covered in clay!

11. Clay is recyclable
If your pot totally collapses on the wheel you can chuck it in a bin full of clay and water that the teacher provides, and start again!

12. Centre your clay
Centreing your clay is the hardest part. If you don't centre it on the wheel, then you end up with a wonky pot. After twelve weeks I am still yet to centre the clay by myself! It sounds so easy, but it's really difficult!

Overall I've really enjoyed my pottery course, and it's been great doing it with my bestie from Uni. I'm not sure if I'll do the course again, because it's been quite a commitment to rush to it after work every Tuesday, and sometimes the results can be very frustrating. Watch this space!

What I have loved the most is learning a new skill, and appreciating the way that pottery is made. Even if I don't do the course again, I'm sure I'll not doubt find myself on another course!

From 1999 to 2006 I went to school. From 2006 to 2009 I went to University. From 2009 to 2010 I worked at getting on the career ladder. From 2010 to 2011 I did a Graduate Course in the History of Art and Architecture. From 2011 to 2013 I did a part-time Masters degree in the History of Art. In 2014 I worked hard on my blog, and saved hard to go to Australia. In 2015 I did the Prince 2 project management course and a pottery course! So, you can see I love to learn!

Have you tried pottery? Or would you like to?


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