Work in progress…

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​I thought I would share with you some of the magic of pottery. Even by showing and telling, the magic will remain. watching the clay go from a cold, damp material to a finished colourful piece… Read more below…

 

​The first part of the process is to prepare the clay. It is cold and slightly damp when it comes out of the bags it is delivered in, but soon warms to the touch. The clay has to be kneaded, a bit like bread – the reason being to get rid of air bubbles and to make the clay useable. The air bubbles if left in can cause destruction in the kiln as the air expands in the heat and explodes, taking with it all the other pieces round-about. Not a pretty sight… Once the clay is kneaded it can be used on the wheel or for hand-building. Here you can see I have rolled out some clay and cut some shapes – the rolling pin and cutter are typical kitchen items but the knife is a pottery knife, at a slightly different angle to usual knives. The clay is rolled out on cloths or it would stick to the worktop.

 

​While the clay is still wet, slip and texture can be added. I make the fish eyes with the end of a kiddie’s paintbrush, then add the pattern by using the crocheted doily – pressing it in to the clay creates a beautiful pattern which is then highlighted with coloured slip – a watered down clay to which colour is added using chemicals. Maybe you think the doily is too pretty for getting so dirty but I can’t resist using it!

 

​The fish then need to dry. Once the clay is dry it can’t be re-shaped so while it is still wet I shape it. If the pieces are to be flat then I would put some plasterboard on top to keep it flat while it dries, but I like the fish to have some shape, so I lay them out with little pieces of sponge or newspaper to give them curves. It might take a day or two, or for bigger pieces a week or two, to dry out enough. Things can’t go into the kiln until they are dry – they would break if they still had moisture in them. Wait, wait…

 

​Once dry they can be fired – another wait while the kiln reaches the right temperature – maybe 1000 degrees or 1200 degrees depending on which clay and glaze I have used. Then another anxious wait while the kiln cools… usually the next day. Then the coloured glazes and oxides can be added. By now the clay is light and hard, like the  half-glazed fish in the picture. The sponge is used to wipe off excess glaze or to deliberately remove layers of glaze to reveal texture beneath.  The glazes and oxides don’t always look the way they will once fired – it’s a trial and error process, and test pieces are needed so I can remember how the pale blue above turns into a rich a mottled sea-blue…

 

​If the fish are glazed on both sides for the shoals they have to be hung up to dry. That’s when my fellow potter, Pauline, walks in to the pottery and knocks them off their drying points as she is taller than me. The surviving fish can then go back in the kiln for another day of firing and waiting. If they are only glazed on one side they can go straight onto the kiln shelf, so long as the shelf has been protected with batt wash. If they have glaze round the edges they have to be lifted onto little stilts, or like the fish above they need to be hung on little racks to as to lift them above the shelves.  The kiln goes on again and that’s when more magic happens with glazes reacting to the heat and to other glazes and to their position in the kiln… Wait, wait again…

 

​Once the pieces are out of the kiln, often still warm to the touch as I am so impatient, they need to be finished and assembled. Any drops of glaze need to be removed from the kilns shelves, or splinters from the backs of pieces. The fish are then mounted on driftwood clocks made by Chris, or into frames and mounted on materials I paint with sea colours. At least for this bit I get to sit in the dry, warm dining room. Here is one of the finished pieces…

 

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