Science by training, art by doing. Simon loves making and also viewing art of all forms.
Tough But Rewarding
The last three weeks weren't so bad. Week four was a bit nerve-racking as we were finally on the wheel. Centring the clay was the toughest part, and it required a lot of practice, but our teacher helped us do it if we had trouble. After week four, the final two weeks were a little bit more relaxing. We smoothed out all of our pots and trimmed the ones we made on the wheel. All the pots were then bisque-fired. The last week was spent glazing, which was fun and easy. The pots were then fired for the final time. We were then able to pick up our pots the week after. Overall, the six week class was harder than I expected. I was quite anxious while I was taking the class. In the end though, I was happy I stuck with it and came away with seven lovely pots.
I think everyone was excitedly waiting for week four. This was the week we finally went on the wheel. Our instructor showed us how to create a small bowl from a one pound chunk of clay. She first placed it in the centre of the batting, then sealed the bottom to the batting, and centred it. She molded the clay into a cone and then pressed it down, repeating this three times. Then she made a hole in the clay to begin creating a bowl. The hole was expanded with her fingers, pushing the clay to the side. Then using her thumb and index finger she pulled the sides up to create the sides of the bowl. When finished, the bowl was cut loose from the batting using a wired string.
She gave us some good tips. She said to brace our elbows against our thigh for stability. She also said that our hands, while working on the clay, should always be linked in someway. She stressed that we should only manipulate the clay while it is moving.
So we were then given a clump of clay to work with. My first try was a big fail. When I tried to secure it onto the batting, it didn't work. My clay went flying off the wheel. This happened to another person as well. I had to call the instructor for help. She got me a plastic batting that was a bit easier to secure the clay to and she also gave me instructions on how to seal it to the batting. I managed to secure it to the batting with her help.
I tried to mold the clay into a cone and press it down as instructed but I wasn't able to make a very tall cone. I proceeded to the next step anyway. After that I made a hole and expanded. I had a hard time getting the sides of my pot to go higher. It went up maybe 2 cm and thinned out. So I decided to stop. I was able to create a shallow dish!
I tried again with a fresh piece of clay. This time I secured my clay to the batting by using my fingers to seal the edge of the clay to the batting to prevent it from flying off. It worked! This second time I had a lot of trouble centring the clay. I tried four times and finally had to get the instructor to do it for me. She was able to centre it with some hard work. Then I had the same problem with this pot as I did with the last one. I just couldn't bring it up very high. So another shallow dish!
This week was a lighter load. We made final touches on our pieces. This was basically smoothing out rough spots on our dried pots. The rest of the time we trimmed our pots we made on the wheel. The instructor demoed how to the trim the pots. She centred the pot on the wheel and used three small clumps of clay rolled into sausages to secure it to the wheel. Using a loop tool, she took off uneven or excess clay from the bottom of the pot as the wheel spun. We also learned to make a rim or circular foot by taking clay off the middle. It looked relatively easy.
It was our turn to trim our pots. My first pot was dried enough to be trimmed, but I had to blow dry the second pot as it was still slightly wet. We had to first measure the bottom to see how thick it was using two loop tools with the same length. One was placed inside the pot and the other on the wheel, then the two tools could be compared to see the displacement, equaling the thickness. This was done so we didn't accidentally take off too much clay from the bottom. Trimming was easy and a lot of fun. The pots did look much better after being trimmed.
The last thing we did was watch the teacher glaze the pots. She did this to save us time the following week so it wouldn't be too hectic.
Week Six - Final Week
The final week was spent glazing our pots. Our instructor bisque fired our pots the week before. We immediately started working on our pieces when we arrived. First, we used a wet sponge to remove the dust from the kiln firing. Then we waxed the bottom of our pots. This was done so that the glaze doesn't stick to the bottom. Any glaze on the bottom of the pots would hardened and attach to the kiln shelf when fired. We were told that this was a pain to pry off. That's why we wax the bottom to prelude the glaze from sticking to the kiln.
After waxing, we then proceeded to glaze. Glaze is a watery mixture of silica and other elements. We were told to dip our pots in and take it out immediately, then shake off the excess glaze. This was a very fast procedure. After they're dipped, we cleaned any glaze off the bottoms with a wet sponge. The glaze was very fast drying and was absorbed really well by the pots. Our teacher inspected every piece that we glazed to make sure none was stuck on the bottom.
About a week later, after the pots were glazed and fired, we were able to pick up our beautiful pots.
Doing pottery is much hard than it looks. It's definitely a skill that you have to practice often to do well in. I was quite apprehensive throughout the six weeks. I wasn't sure if I could make the pots that was shown to us in the given time. But in the end, I did it. I pushed on and didn't give up. I'm glad I took this class. I now have a greater appreciation for the people who do pottery for a living. It's indeed hard, but it is rewarding as you can create beautiful pieces of art work.