Pottery 101: Everything You Need To Know

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

Before beginning to work with clay, it helps to have a basic understanding of its properties, the types of clay available, and basic forming techniques which all comes with the terms around it. Hopefully this article will help you get started with pottery.


In Greek, the word Ceramic is ‘Keramos’, which means ‘potter’ or ‘pottery’. It is the creation of functional and/or beautiful forms through the manipulation of clay minerals, which undergoes rigid processes with the application of various heating processes. There are three main types of clay:

1) earthenware

2) stoneware

3) porcelaine

In our studio we commonly use stoneware because of its color and durability. Here are the 5 phases of pottery:


1. Wet Clay


Source: https://highwaterclays.com/collections/wet-clay?page=2


Clay is the product of the breakdown of the earth’s rocky surface (primarily feldspar rock) through the actions of wind, water and temperature. Meanwhile clay bodies are blends of clay minerals and elements that produce specific results when manipulated and treated in various ways, which is what you will be using to make ceramics.


These custom blends of minerals can be tailored to produce a wide range of colors, textures, strength and temperature ranges. After you have your blocks of wet clay, you can start creating your desired form with several techniques:

-Hand building: it's using your hands to form an object out of clay.

-Slab Building: A process whereby slabs of clay are rolled or pounded flat, either by hand or with a slab roller or rolling pin. Then these flattened slabs are used to construct objects or vessels.

-Coiling: is the technique to make an object with rolling the clay by rolling pin. The clay is rolled out and built up in a spiral fashion, with the coil being added joined to the coil below it layer after layer until the desired wall height and profile is achieved.

-Throwing: Wheel throwing is done by using a manual or electric potters wheel to center a ball of spinning clay, open it into a vessel, and lift and shape the walls while the wheel is spinning. This technique is usually used to make symmetrical and cylindrical forms. It can then be textured, decorated and reformed into alternative shapes.


2. Leatherhard


Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/judeallman/5388701210


Leatherhard is the stage where the clay is already formed. In this stage, the clay is still soft enough to decorate, carve, and stamp, etc.


3. Greenware


Source: https://jimgottuso.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/all-hells-breakin-loose/


Greenware is the phase where they have lower water content and are ready to fire to bisque. It is important to wait your clay until this stage before firing. When you fire a leatherhard piece, the moisture will try to escape which causes your piece to crack or explode in the kiln.


4. Bisque


Source: https://id.pinterest.com/pin/222154194099813993/


After the first firing, your piece is called a bisque / biscuit. At this point your piece is ready for glazing/painting. After it's done, the piece needs to be glazed. In our studio, we are equipped with dipped glaze, painting glaze and trailing glaze. You can purchase our glazes here.


5. Maturity


Source: https://thepotterywheel.com/types-of-clay-for-pottery/


After the piece is dried, it is now ready to go through the second firing. After the second firing, your ceramic is now at maturity. There are some additional glazes that requires third firing, however this is usually done in smaller batches. Some examples of this would be gold luster, silver luster, and in some cases platinum. This is because these metals have a lower melting point in comparison to the traditional glazes.


Of course every clays and studios are different, but these are the basics and common terminology that are used in pottery. If you’re interested in knowing more about ceramics, we have classes for you to join. You can check out our other posts and find us on our instagram @tanakitaceramics. Our studio is located at Jl. Tanjung Duren Barat IV No.1, RT.9/RW.1, Tj. Duren Utara, Kec. Grogol petamburan, Jakarta Barat.

Sources:

https://wiki.milwaukeemakerspace.org/_media/classes/ceramics101.pdf

https://skutt.com/skutt-resources/education/ceramics-101/


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