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Author Ceramics

Understanding Clay – The Basics of Pottery Making

Understanding Clay – The Basics of Pottery Making

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Understanding Clay – The Basics of Pottery Making

Objective: To provide a comprehensive understanding of different types of clay, their properties, preparation, storage, and consistency.

Materials Needed:

  • Different types of clay (e.g., earthenware, stoneware, porcelain)
  • Water
  • Mixing container
  • Clay tools (e.g., rib, knife)

Introduction: Clay is the backbone of pottery making. Without it, we wouldn't be able to make beautiful, unique pieces. Understanding the different types of clay, their properties, preparation, storage, and consistency is crucial for every potter, whether you're a beginner or an expert.

  1. Different Types of Clay: There are many types of clay, but the most common ones used in pottery making are earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain.
  • Earthenware is a low-fire clay that is easy to work with and is commonly used for making sculptural pieces and functional items like mugs and bowls.
  • Stoneware is a mid-range clay that is strong and durable, making it ideal for functional pieces like plates and platters.
  • Porcelain is a high-fire clay that is known for its translucency and delicate beauty. It's typically used for fine art pieces like vases and figurines.
  1. Properties of Clay: The properties of clay determine how it will behave when you're working with it and how it will respond to different firing temperatures. For example, earthenware has a coarser texture and is more porous, while porcelain is finer and more dense.

  2. Preparing Clay: To prepare clay for use, it may need to be mixed with water to create the right consistency, (most clay comes ready to use). The amount of water you add will vary depending on the type of clay you're using and the conditions in your studio. It's important to mix the clay thoroughly to ensure there are no lumps or air pockets. This is called wedging.

  3. Storing Clay: Clay should be stored in an airtight container or plastic bag to prevent it from drying out. If you have leftover clay, you can wrap it in plastic and store it in a cool place.

  4. Consistency of Clay: The consistency of your clay is crucial for making successful pieces. It should be firm enough to hold its shape, but pliable enough to be molded into different forms. If your clay is too wet, it will collapse or warp during the drying and firing process. If it's too dry, it will be difficult to work with and may crack.

Conclusion: In conclusion, understanding clay is a vital aspect of pottery making. Familiarizing yourself with different types of clay, their properties, preparation, storage, and consistency will help you create successful and beautiful pieces. Keep experimenting with different clays and techniques, and soon you'll find your own style.

Assignment 1: Research the different firing temperatures and techniques used for each type of clay. Write a brief summary of your findings, including the benefits and drawbacks of each method. Use this information to choose a type of clay and firing technique for your next piece, and explain your reasoning behind your choice.

This assignment will allow you to further your understanding of the different types of clay and how they respond to different firing temperatures and techniques. It will also encourage you to think critically about your process and make informed decisions about your work.

Additional notes and resources

At Author Ceramics, we use sand in our clay to add colour and texture. We do this by adding 2-5% sand to our clay base and wedge this in until smooth. Start by adding small amounts, a little goes a long way.

Make sure you pick a clay that will fire in the kiln you have available.

Take the time to prep your clay, wedging your clay and ensuring no air is in the clay is the most important step to prevent cracking, we will cover this in later lessons

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