Pottery classes

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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Abba, Abba, Father, you are the potter, we are the clay. But what would happen if the tables were turned We can all have a chance to play God by entering the wonderful world of ceramics.

Nearly 8, 000 years ago people learned to make pottery. The idea caught on and people learnt to rely on their creations. With their bowls, jars and jugs, people could store food. They settled down, raised crops and livestock, waged war and built communities. Civilisation owes a lot to the humble pot.

Today, pottery is not the survival skill that it once was. However, it is a creative craft that can bring you and your loved ones hours of fun and a number of objets d’art for your mantelpiece. After all, nothing says I love you like a handcrafted urn. A lump of clay is your muse and it offers you infinite possibilities. Many of these possibilities are a variation of a wonky mug with “Mum” emblazoned on the side, but you don’t have to go down that road.

Taking a part-time pottery class allows you to try before you buy. This is important, as equipment can be quite expensive and you should be sure that you are suited to it. Doing an evening course will give you easy access to materials, wheels and kiln time – you can find out what equipment you prefer if you do decide that it is to be a lifelong passion.

There are many methods of constructing pottery which you will learn in your pottery evening class and then you can decide for yourself which techniques work better for you. Most classes will teach you how to coil, slab and throw pots, sculpt clay, hand-build as well as decorative techniques such as slip-painting and glazing. Each technique can have its difficulties but practice makes perfect so it is important to stick with it!

The first initial stage is making the pot which can be achieved by either throwing or hand-building it. The results can be varied and some people find they have a natural preference or skill for one and not the other so it is definitely worth trying both techniques. Moreover, the quality of the pots you produce could be more advanced using one technique than the other. A good starting point, however, is with hand-building since a potter s most vital tools are the hands! This method will give you a good foundation in the basics of clay building and will stretch your abilities too.

Once you have mastered this technique you may wish to try throwing pots on a wheel, a process which can prove tricky at first! This process begins with the preparation of the clay. You have to ensure that there are no air pockets, as this will make the clay difficult to work with. Next, you shape the clay into a workable form and secure it on the wheel. You also should ensure that your water bucket is handy, as you use water to make the clay more malleable. You can then begin the process of shaping it into a pot, working from the inside out, slowly pulling it apart.

Throwing pots on a wheel isn’t easy. It is likely that your first few efforts will look like the rebellious children of an ashtray and a radiator. Learning to work and control the wheel itself can sometimes take a while to master, but once you do there is no going back as this technique encourages you to explore the texture and qualities of the clay as a means to express your own creativity.

Once you have completed your pot, it is left to dry completely. When this stage is complete, the pot is fired in a kiln at a temperature of 1000 C degrees Celsius. When it is taken out of the kiln you coat it with glaze and fire it again, this time at temperatures up to 1300 C. Things can go wrong in the kiln – your pot can smash because your clay is too thick or not thick enough. But with a bit of patience and some dumb luck you can end up, as T’pau said, with china in your hand.

Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze made sweet pottery to the tune of Unchained Melody in Ghost. If you want to follow in their mucky footsteps, check out the many pottery course options in our database.

Frank Bolger

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