Friday, 20 July 2007

Pottery making

I have been asked by halfmom AKA Susan if I will do a posting on pottery. I don't have any photos of my own pottery or pottery making on the computer. All my pictures are of the old-fasioned 35mm film, so the pictures shown are all pinched from google.

We are very spoilt here as we can just slip down to Stoke-on-Trent, the famous Potteries town and buy clay already cleaned, seived and pugged, and in 25kg bags. True potters dig their own clay and then do all the processing themselves, but they have to be lucky enough to live near good clay seams. If I started digging the clay from around Stoke I would be arrested as it all belongs to the clay processors!

Before anything can be made the clay has to be worked well. This means wedging and kneading.

The process of kneading. The clay ends up with the classic 'ox head' look. Once the clay has been prepared then it is torn into suitable sizes and is then ready for throwing on the wheel. This is great fun. First the clay has to be centred. This is the famous 'Ghost' sequence with Demi Moore doing naughty things with clay, dressed only in her nighty. As if. Clay and water splash everywhere. I usually wear a big pinny, a towel over my lap and a man's shirt with the arms cut off.

The actual throwing is quite easy once you get used to it. Some people say that when they tried to throw, their clay shot across the room and stuck to the wall. Don't believe them. They are just saying it for effect. I have never, ever seen that happen in all the time I have taught and potted myself. What happens to beginner throwers is that the clay slides off the wheel and into the tray, where you just scoop it up and put in back in the bin for recycling.

Pots being thrown.

After the pot has been cut of the wheel it is allowed to dry out until 'soft leather hard'. Then the pot is put back on the wheel upside down, and secured by soft blobs of clay. Turning then takes place. This is the trimming of the bottom of the pot to make a foot ring. It is like wood turning and also uses similar tools. The wheel is used instead of a lathe.

Pots being turned.

When turning is complete, the pot is allowed to dry out slowly, and when thoroughly dry it is time for the first, or bisque firing. This is quite a low firing, only about 980 degrees C. This leaves the pot still porous and ready for glazing. Glazing is a whole new post, so I won't go into it here, except to say after glazing earthenware pots are fired to 1100 degrees C and stoneware pots are fired to about 1200 degrees C. Porcelain if used goes up to 1300 degrees C.

Opening the kiln after a glaze firing is always very exciting. It can be wonderful or it can be very disappointing. It depends what has been happening in the kiln. Chemical reactions occur at high temperatures and often the glaze has a mind of it's own. Sometimes I have had amazing results. Nothing to do with skill but simply a reaction of the glaze chemicals in the kiln. You should be able to predict results, but actually it is often arbitary.

That's enough for now. If anyone wants further posts on pottery then I would be happy to oblige. But now, I have to rescue Badger who has managed to get herself shut outside and is now stuck halfway through the catflap.

Poor little Badger!


Maalie said...

Stupid dog!

I think potters are very clever. When are you going to fire up your kiln again?

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I am stuck in the middle of a science deadline but wanted to quickly thank you for your post and say that I will be back to actually read it completely soon - my deadline is about 1pm your time on Friday.

I am much looking forward to our conversations on this!!!

lorenzothellama said...

Maalie: I'll fire up the kiln again when I get the damn thing mended.
Susan: good luck with your deadline. I have been reading all about your grant problems.

Craver Vii said...

The part about "true potters" reminds me of the joke where a scientist says he doesn't need God to create a human being. First you take a lump of dirt... "Wait," interrupts God, "get your own dirt."

L.L. Barkat said...

Ah. My own little daughter just taught me yesterday that we can dig clay. And apparently we can make a sawdust kiln too. But I am more likely to plant seeds in my clay than to shape and heat it!

Libbys Blog said...

Thank you for visiting my blog! I have just read through your blog and hope your garden is not back under water again after all the rain.
I was born and raised on the Wirral, not that far from you!!!!

Martin Stickland said...

Wow! We need to see some of your finished work!

Now, you have a skill and are obviously very knowledgeable on the subject which I admire. Where as I am a fake and it hurts me to see you ask questions about dogs on my dog blog, you are a friend and I cannot deceive you and I hope that I am not deceiving others in to thinking that I have written all the articles.

My business is not running very smoothly at the moment (please do not mention this on my blogs) and I have tried to turn my hand at other methods of earning money.

One method is by affiliate marketing whereby you promote other people’s products (see the dog training 'Click me' banner) or get revenue by people clicking on the Google Adverts that are on your site.

I have set up the dog site because it is a subject that I am very keen on and honestly do want to help other dog owners with advice but not being so knowledgeable about the subject of dogs I belong to a group that exchanges articles about subjects which can then be put on to web sites etc.

Most of the main parts of my dog text are written by ghost writers and not by myself in the aim to drive traffic to the dog care blog (I hope that you are with me so far!)

I hate to say that all the posts on my Combe Martin blog spot site have been written by me and I cannot blame this on anybody else!

Hopefully the dog care site will help others and will help me too to get out of a bit of a hole.

I feel that I have to be honest with you my friend and I do appreciate your kind comments but I would hate to offer you wrong advice such as get rid of the dog for a mongoose etc.

Do you forgive me? I am only trying to earn an honest crust guv!


PS I have a lot of ebooks etc about affiliate marketing and I can email you a copy if you want to know more about the subject and how it can earn you an extra income.

Anonymous said...

Bisque firing.
Is that when you put a lobster in the kiln?

Anyway, a comment on Stoke-on-Trent. I thought there hadn't been any clay extracted there from a long time. The reason I say that is that at school, my Economics teacher asked us why was it that even though there was no clay left there, Stoke-on-Trent continued to thrive as a pottery town. The answer of course is that all the skilled workforce, and infrastructure are already there, and that Japanese tourists wanting to buy something from Wedgewood with Peter Rabbit on it would hardly go to Dorking, say, to buy pottery, because it has no reputation for pottery.
Was my economics teacher right about there not being any clay there?


lorenzothellama said...

Dear Jack,
Your economics teacher was wrong, certainly about red earthenware clay. This is known as Uturia Marl. If you drive down the A500 (locally known as the D road) off the M6, you actually pass the clay pits. These are dug by Valentine Clay Products where I buy my clay. Valentines then supply the pottery suppliers like Potclay and Potterycraft. I go straight to the processors (Valentines) and it's best to wear wellies when you visit as all the process of cleaning, seiving etc. is going on, but that's maybe for another blog.

I don't know where stoneware clay is dug or porcelain but I will ask Rhian. China clay comes from China. No it doesn't, it comes from Cornwall!

Wedgewood, Royal Doulton, Spode etc. still have their works dotted around Stoke and of course there are the factory shops.

Do you know where the Japanese clay is dug?

Anonymous said...

Japanese clay? They scoop it out from the crater of Mount Fugi. I thought everyone knew that!

Martin Stickland said...

Woofy woof woof Grrrrrrrrr woof woof!

Ex-Shammickite said...

Have all the cammenters on this blog gone looney? Or is it Martin's influence spreading....?

Hmmm... back to the subject at hand.... I took some pottery classes, had a great time. Had a go at all the different techniques, even tried the wheel, hard to get the hang of at first. Puddled around with different glazes and decorations, and I was very pleased with the results. I'd like to see some of your finished pieces. Do you pot just for fun, or commercially?

And how's yer toe?

Tortoiseshell said...

Hi - I'm Lorenzo's naughty nephew.

PLEEEEASE vote for me in the inaugural Welsh blog awards - follow the link to my site!

Sorry to hear about your toe, Lorenzo :-(

Mike said...

I think potters are very creative people. This is something I would like to learn...but, I don't think I have hte patience for.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Ah Lorenzo - I am relatively done with the grant - it is submitted to our National Institute of Health - but under the wrong name - a mistake that I didn't pick up until after it was submitted and the name popped up on the screen - apparently that is one of the forms I didn't fill out and the administrator put in the name of an old grant - so that one will take a bit of sorting out on Monday.

I am so very sorry to hear about your poor toe and teeth - hopefully not all parts in between are hurting as well. I think, were it me, that I would settle back in a rather dark corner and read a good book and tell the world to go away for a bit.

However did you so badly break your toe?

I will have a brain back in a few days to truly understand your blog. It has so very many theological implications that I want to make sure I understand it in potting terms first before I start applying them to life. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and publish it for us!

Kalyan said...

A nice informative post about pottery. Really its a huge task. Thanks for sharing

Raelha said...

I agree with Martin - I'd like to see some of your finished work.

Sorry to hear about the toe. Will you be up and running again soon?

Melody said...

I'm a non-practising-ceramist, believe it or not. I studied ceramics for 3 years at university back in the beginning of the 90's. When I visited the Uk in '96/97 and stayed with Raelha, I felt very fortunate that her mother and her took me to the Wedgewood factory. I still have very fond memories of that tour. One day I will be inspired to hit the clay again, in the meanwhile I will enjoy seeing some of your work (possibly?)

lorenzothellama said...

Thanks for all the enquiries about my toe. I managed to hobble along to church this morning but found the journey back a tad painful. I only had 200 metres to walk each way! The deli in Poynton will have to wait a bit longer. Broke to toe by rushing about stupidly and stubbed it on the castor of my settee. I can't see I'll be running for a bit, but I may try to cycle tomorrow, but fear the toe clips might put pressure on the toe. We'll see.
Maalie has instructed me to take any photos I have to Jessops and get them to put them on a cd. As soon as I have done that I will put a post up with some of my pots in it!

Martin: Thanks for the offer. If I don't get to Jessops I'll take it up. Perhaps you could email your address to Maalie, as I haven't got the facilities on this blog to get emails. He will then send me your address. If you put it on the blog publically, you will be beseiged by all your frantic, throbbing female admirers, and I'm sure you wouldn't want that.

somepinkflowers said...


reading your blog
i thought:
this llama looks AMAZINGLY
like demi moore!

what a good-looking llama,
she is...i was thinking.

hung over from reading harry potter
most of the night,
i MISSED the line
about ~~pinching a few snaps~~
from google...LOL


Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Yes, Lorenzo, there is a lot to discuss!

You're so right. It is up to the potter to make "good clay", and human potters can choose, just like the heavenly potter, what clay to "throw" back into the water. But real clay, unlike me, has no will of it's own to resist. And resist I do - and run away and bask in the sun thinking it is good for me, something the potter has denied me and all I end up doing is being crunchy hard clay that can't be molded into anything of use.

backpakker said...

i always thought pottery was sensual

Rauf said...

i remember the movie Lorenzo, more for whoopie goldberg.
Your ways are pretty much advanced and pottery is a hobby and fun. But here in India it is a livelihood. i have done a post on
THE POTTER These poor people are struggling to survive. We had a potter's colony, most of them have disappeared

Rauf said...

Sorry Lorenzo. forgot that i had already given you the link

Ruth said...

LtL, thanks for coming to Synchronizing and encouring me about the potter's wheel. We are looking forward to the day we get one and start the process of learning this craft. I think it will take a long time to begin to see some satisfaction in the results, but after seeing your post, and rauf's, and remembering the scenes in "Ghost" I know it will be a sensual experience, even if the finished objects are sub-par.

madretz said...

That's so fascinating, I'd love to try this sometime. I wonder if there's a clay studio around here...there must be.

sheilabythebeach said...

I gave up digging my own clay, I save my hands for wedging it now. I to agree, true potters dig their own. This potter pays for someone to dig it for them and put it into 25 lb bags!!!
Would be fun to see some of your work!

Thesaurus Rex said...

I used to be a house cleaner for a potter. She was always covered in crap from the wheel etc. so I, like you, know that Demi was just pretending. That's ok though, she is an actor. But doesn't it always get on ya bits when films get the details wrong? I'm apoplectic whenever anyone picks up a guitar and plays it like their fingers are glued together. There should be a special section at acting schools for musical instruments.

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