ahhhh, look at this cute bup (not quite a bowl, not quite a cup). this footed cutie is from my previous kiln load and the espresso brown is a reference to the shape. i love the contrast of the two clay bodies. saturday will be a special day as my daughter and i photograph the best work i've selected for my shop 📸
It’s fascinating how clay transforms at each firing stage. I love the mellow tones and how this collection resembles iced gingerbread cookies 🍪This clay began as a rich brown fresh out of the bag, saturated to a coral after it was bisqued, and ultimately subdued to a café au lait with speckled flecks.
I’m very happy with the results and have wet-sanded each piece a second time with a fine-grit screen. Serving food out of these generously sized bowls will be a welcome addition to meal times.
It took a full day to glaze eighteen pieces and they will vitrify at a cone 5 fire. Cone 5 is a temperature range around 2167F (1186C) that fully matures cone 5 clays. This fire will be considerably hotter than the previous cone 06 bisque fire.
It took some practice stamping deep enough for glaze to seep into the clay and create clean lines.
Dry glazes are economical and many pottery stores sell in-house varieties you can mix in your studio. Be sure to protect yourself and studio mates by following the instructions. Read more on how to mix glazes.
Not pictured is a respirator. Mix dry glazes in a ventilated area. Wear a respirator as disposable dust masks are not powerful enough to filter silica and other dry materials.
This kiln fire produced eighteen beautifully bisqued pieces that are ready to sand. Before I glaze my work, I make sure to sand each piece to create a smooth touch that will not scratch wood or other surfaces.
Sanding adds craftsmanship and value to your ceramics as it improves the tactile connection a person has with your work. Clay with a high grog content has a visual and textural intrigue as it develops after firing. Grog also feels rough—it has a tooth that scrapes and snags. I’ve found that sanding groggy clay produces a velvet-like smoothness as the grog is now level to the clay and still substantial in texture. Sanding clay with little to no grog creates a smooth coolness that’s similar to soapstone.
As a maker, I’ve become more aware of the connection people make with art, and refining your work can mean the difference of a sale. When you’re at a market, do you find yourself picking up pottery, observing its surface and design, and feeling the bottom to ensure that it won’t scratch your table? If the clay feels unintentionally rough, you might put it back on the shelf.
If you are a new potter and wondering how to prevent this scenario let’s work together to remedy that. I find pottery students turn to sandpaper as it’s the logical solution— sandpaper is meant to sand—but bisqued pieces are harder than the paper itself. If you’ve found yourself vigorously scrapping the surface of your pottery with little results, know that you’re actually wearing down the paper, and not your ceramic work.
The solution is to buy drywalls screens at a home improvement store. Drywall screens are available in different textures at $5 a pack. You’ll want to pick up a medium and fine grit, and cut the screens into 3-inch squares, or a size that is manageable for you. Start will a medium grit to remove larger pieces of grog, and use the fine grit to finish the surface. Fine grit drywall screens are recommended for sanding porcelain and low-grog clays.
Now, I have to tell you that you absolutely must sand your pieces wet. Absolutely, without an exception. Silica is a real threat to a ceramist’s health, and exposure to it can lead to lung cancer. If you do a simple search, you’ll find that silica dust remains suspended in the air for hours, and can not only affect your health, but compromise your classmates’.
This is an alarming truth that must be shared with new ceramics students and potters as you can do your part to reduce silica exposure. The safest technique is to wet-sand bisqued fire clay by soaking each piece before sanding with a drywall screen.
Wet sanding bisqueware is a safer alternative as wet silica is too dense to float in air. Because your work has been fired, you don’t have to worry about it cracking when exposed to water. A bisqued piece of pottery can handle being submerged in water without being damaged.
I dunk my bisqued pieces in a water bucket, and will continue to wet the drywall screen and pottery as I sand. You’ll find the screen will wear down after sanding a few pieces, but you’ll also see a good amount of grog coming off of your work. One screen can sand several pieces of pottery.
If you clay has a lot of grog, you can choose to submerge your bisqueware in water to saturate it as you sand. Be prepared to hear your ceramic pieces “squee”. It’s a funny sound that occurs as the fired clay rapidly absorbs water. Bisqued clay is highly-absorbent and the high-pitched sound is an example of unvitrified clay.
Vitrification transforms clay from a porous body to a surface bonded to its glass particles at a kiln fire appropriate to the clay's cone. Vitrified clay is water impermeable, making glazed and specified unglazed surfaces functional and water resistant. In terms of food-safety, you want your pottery to be vitrified so the clay does not absorb liquids and harbor bacteria.
Bisqued clay is extremely absorbent, which allows the glaze to seep into its porous surface. After your wet-sand your pottery, your piece will be waterlogged and you’ll want to let the bisqueware dry under a heat lamp or sit out for a few hours, depending on the heat and humidity of your work environment. Once your work is completely dry, it will be ready to absorb glaze.
It took a couple of hours to sand and dry eighteen pieces, so allow yourself time. Now that my work has been safely sanded, it will be glazed and fired for a second time in the kiln. 🔥
The clay transformed from greenware to bisqueware, and the kiln fired perfectly. Skutt electric kilns are computer programmed, easy to fire, and reliable in results. They’re the microwaves of pottery firing.
A cone 06 bisque fire reaches 1828F (997C). This temperature is hot enough for cones 5-10 clay to transform from greenware to bisqueware. Bisqueware is partially matured clay that is porous enough for glaze to adhere.
Electric kilns heat ceramics in a controlled oxidation environment and can be programed from 100F (37C) to 2380F (1300C). This temperature range allows you to dry greenware with a preheat setting, fire overglazes at cones 020-018, bisque greenware at cones 04-06, and vitrify glazeware between cones 5-10. The oxygen interacts with the chemistry of the developing glazes and clays, enhancing the vibrancy of your work.
Gas kilns are known as reductions kilns and eliminate oxygen by adjusting the amount of fuel that powers the fire. The results are muted and earthen. White glazes take on bluish-grays and the clays darken. Both oxidation and reduction effects are desirable and it’s worth considering how you want to fire your ceramics.
Pictured is the top shelf of this week’s bisque load, so in total I have eighteen pieces that will be wet-sanded and glazed with a white cone 5 glaze.
I have two shelves worth of pottery-wheel thrown pieces ready to bisque! These oversized, wide bowls are in various stages of dryness and are the same type of clay body.
As clay dries it lightens, and unfired clay that's unglazed can be stacked to save space in the kiln. It's my habit not to stack more than two pieces high to avoid cracks along its base. Once bisque fired, the clay will brighten to a shocking peach.
I programmed the kiln to preheat for hours to ensure the pottery dries completely before firing. The preheat temperature of a kiln is around 187F (86C). Firing damp pieces at the boiling point, 212F (100C), will cause your clay to expand. Wet clay heated to 752F (400C) will explode from the force of escaping steam. Always air dry greenware until it is bone-dry, or preheat the kiln for a determined time.
Hey potters what do you do when your trim tools are dull? I pulled out the Dremel to sharpen my favorites. I can't cope with spending extra 💵 on what I can DIY. Always sharpen with gloves and protective eyewear.
I have to admit that during the process I found that I like working with metal ⛏️
This might sound granola...but the resident kiln was out during Mercury's retrograde. Now that we have a new, shiny kiln, I'm ready to turn all of the greenware I've been posting into fired, glazed pieces to photograph and add to my shop ⚱️
Did you know Time Magazine named Austin's downtown library one of the top 100 places in the world? I'm extremely lucky to studio close to it and frequent it often.
If you haven't been, do yourself a favor and spend an afternoon there. Their books and materials are an extensive collection of old and new, there's an art gallery, gift shop, cafe that serves cocktails, and its design is inspiring.
Here's my current book stack, including The Potter's Dictionary, which is on frequent rotation 📚 @austinpubliclibrary @time
Juiceland is my go-to for plant-rich smoothies and meals. I only drink smoothies from these juice bars as they use frozen fruits and veg, and not ice as fillers. I love stopping by to get a Bam Bam, a green smoothie with pineapple, mango, crushed almonds, hemp protein, coconut oil, and spirulina. It has enough plant protein to keep me full during studio. If I’m extra hungry, I’ll pick up a house made falafel wrap that’s made with chickpeas, organic carrots and kale, picked veggies and vegan tahini sauce. Every Juiceland in Austin is a retro jungle, and some have free arcade games, and an eclectic collection of records for sale.
These small cups were thrown on the hump and I added a deep foot while trimming the shape. I add Little Clay Studio’s logo when the surface is large enough, when it’s not I’ll think of a design to brush on. You can tell that my wheel has been well-loved with the amount of trimmings that have collected in the splash pan. Potters call wheels in this condition “seasoned.”
When I’m done I’ll add the trimmings and water to a plastic bag. It will take a good 5-7 days for the clay to slacken to an even consistency and after wedging it, it will be ready to use again. You can reclaim clay as long as it hasn’t been fired and doesn’t have underglaze or glaze on it. Reclaiming clay is a common practice that saves money—especially if you throw your pieces thick and trim off a lot of excess.
After the cups have been bisqued fired they will brighten to a sandy peach. They will then be wet sanded, glazed and fired a second time.
The last of the students' work is firing in the kiln, my art installation is complete, and now I can go back to throwing on wheel. I made this cute lil' pot and lid on the hump, and have several others to trim.
Throwing on the hump is a term for creating several pieces from a large mound of clay. It saves time when you want to produce a lot of work in one sitting, and it's quite miraculous watching a knob and lid take shape as you throw.
It's quiet in the studio. As I'm working I'm reflecting on my first semester as a resident artist and what's in store for 2019.
Without giving too much away, here is my favorite corner in the restaurant that highlights the commission I’ve been working on for several months. As a potter, making bowls is easy and enjoyable. The installation and coordination of the wall art was a challenge I liken to an oversized decorative puzzle. I love how it turned out. It’s a punctuated end to 2018.
This kiln fire was a part of a wall art installation for a private dining experience in Austin, Texas. The project is special to me as the client collaborated with local artists to decorate their new spa retreat.
I selected five clays that are made in Austin and San Antonio, Texas for this collection of oversized ceramic bowls and plates. The clays range from espresso, chocolate, golden sand, buff with iron specks, and an eggshell white porcelain.
Clay bodies vary across the states, and regional clays are made in-house at local pottery stores. These clays are well known amongst the ceramics community as each body has distinctive characteristics.
An assortment of glazes were used including cotton white, ivory with brown speckling, and clear to highlight the clays with a satin sheen. Each glaze was brushed on using the pottery wheel to illustrate curvilinear strokes.
This subtle palette of brown clays and white glazes will balance the bright copper plates and decorative Binga baskets I purchased from vintage shops to complete the design.
Tomorrow is layout day where I will be onsite to apply the design concept to all of the elements I’ve sourced and created.
Ya'll! I didn't think it could be done, but I made a bowl large enough for that table-sized bat. I removed the splash pans from the wheel so I’ll have to trim super slow...
The kiln yard is where you’ll find assorted kilns for firing ceramics. Each yard varies, but the safety standards require concrete flooring and walls to prevent fires. Rows of shelves hold clay pieces that have been bisqued and are ready to be glazed.