Introduction to Clay Pottery Class - Week 1 - 3 of 6

Updated on December 20, 2018
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Science by training, art by doing. Simon loves making and also viewing art of all forms.

The Studio

Kingston Potters' Guild
Kingston Potters' Guild | Source

First Half of Pottery Class

I like the idea of pottery because it's something that I could do with my hands and at the end I have something beautiful and rewarding. In the Fall, I enrolled in an Introduction to Clay class at the Kingston Potters' Guild. The class ran for six weeks, three hours per session, every Mondays. The first three weeks covered pinch pot, coiling and slab techniques.

I was very anxious after my first few classes because I really struggled with the coiling technique. I wasn't sure if I could make the pieces if I didn't have the basic techniques down. I almost thought of quitting. However, I did some extra research on the techniques at home and forged on. I was happy that I continued and persevered because in the end I was able to make the demoed pots. Here is the first three weeks of my pottery class.

Motivation

This Fall I wanted to do something with my hands. I was hoping to use my hands to make or build something. I considered woodworking, but there weren't any classes in that field that I could take. There was, however, pottery classes offered in the Fall. The Kingston Potters' Guild had an Introduction to Clay class on Monday nights. This was a six week program that mostly concentrated on handbuilding techniques with a "taste" for throwing. I thought this was perfect for me. I could use my hands to make interesting mugs and bowls. So I immediately enrolled in the class.

Week One

I was excited to go to my first class at the Guild, which is located in the Tett Centre. In the first class, we met our teacher. She was a young woman with a background in engineer and moderate experience with pottery. She introduced herself, talked about the schedule of the program, health and safety, and then we all introduced ourselves. One of the things that I learned is that frequent exposure to clay dust, which contains silica, can cause lung health problems. So in the first class we were told to always wipe down our work area with a wet sponge and to only mop the floors. After all the formal announcements, we got to work with the clay.

The first technique that we learned was the pinch pot. Our instructor demoed the technique for us to see first and then we tried it on our own. We were given a small lump of clay and told to shape it into a ball by hitting it against our palm with cupped hands. Then we inserted our thumb or finger into the middle of the ball of clay. Next, we inserted our thumb into the hole and using our thumb and index finger pinch the sides. As we kept pinching it, the sides became thinner and higher. We kept doing this until it formed a small bowl. This was how we made little bowls.

We were also shown how to make little feet for the pinch pots. Feet could be made with round balls of clay or a coil of clay.

The last thing we did was rolling coils. This gave me a lot of trouble. I kept rolling the coils flat or couldn't get the coils to elongate. The instructor watched me do it and gave me some pointers like moving my hands along the coil as I rolled. While others made coasters with the coils, I only managed to roll one coil.

After class, I looked online for instructions for rolling the coils. I found one website and a few YouTube videos, which helped. What I have learned is that you need to stand up to roll the coils. You also need to apply even pressure, sometimes a bit of firm pressure helps. Don't roll in one spot as that will cause flattening. Roll from centre outwards, each hand going opposite directions. And spread your fingers out when rolling. You don't need your thumb to roll the coils.

Pinch Pots

Week One (Glazed in Week Six)
Week One (Glazed in Week Six) | Source

Week Two

I was very nervous and anxious for week two as we were going to mainly do coils. I was afraid that I wasn't going to be able to roll any coils as the week prior I wasn't able to roll them. I finally just said to myself: I'll try my best and if I fail it's not the end of the world. Doing some research on coiling did make me a bit less nervous though.

The first part of the class was spent making a coiled bowl. As usual, we watched our teacher make it first and then we tried it ourselves. She rolled coils and placed them into a bowl that acted as a mold. If there were gaps between the coils, she filled them in with small balls of clay.

The first coiled I roll was again flat. But I fixed it by tapping it against the table into a square and rerolling it. Eventually, I was able to roll some coils. You wouldn't believe how relieved and happy I was that I could roll coils. In the end, I made a coiled bowl.

We also made a Dr. Suess-esque pot using the coils. These were meant to be funny and wonky. They were build with thinner coils that are layered on top of each other. I was thrilled that I could make one!

Coiled Bowl

Week Two
Week Two | Source

Coiled Pot

Week Two
Week Two | Source

Week Three

After the scare of week one, I was anxious for the rest of the classes. I wasn't sure if I could do or make the pots in the allotted time. However, I didn't quit and trudged on with the classes.

Week three was all about slabs. We used a slab roller to make slabs of even thickness. Our teacher then showed us how to make a small mug with the slab. She used a rectangular cardboard template for the sides of the mug. She taught us two type of mugs, one with a triangular feet bottom and one with a flat bottom.

I opted for the flat bottom mug. Other students imprinted a unique pattern on the side of their mugs, but I decided to keep it simple and have it plain. The bottom of the mug was made from another slab cut to fit the opening of the joined sides of the mug. We also made handles for the mug by pulling clay with water. This took me a long time and I was worried mine wasn't going to turn out but I persevered and got it done. It took the whole class (3 hours) to make the mug. Again, I was happy that I could finish another piece.

Slab Mug

Week Three
Week Three | Source

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