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  • Writer's pictureAnya Naumovic

Clay and Glazing

The art of pottery is a highly scientific practice. With the process being rendered obsolete if the steps aren’t followed correctly.

To start the pottery process the clay needs to be removed of any bubbles, as when fired, if there are any pockets of air, these will explode as the clay begins to harden. This can either be done by hand kneading the clay or using a ‘Pug Mill’. Which is used in factories such as the Wedgwood factory which I had recently visited. However, the mill is mainly used by industrial-sized companies, as it takes in large quantities of clay at a time. I hand kneaded the clay, which takes about 15 minutes of heavy working, and throwing onto the floor to release any of the bubbles inside. For the sculpture I was creating, which was in the shape of a house, I needed to use the slab method. This involves, scoring the edges and creating a slip, which is just a mixture of water and clay together as the pieces will break apart if this method is not used. Another method of clay building is known as coil potting where layers of coiled pieces of clay are built on top of one another and then smoothed into the desired shape.

The next step of the process after letting the clay fully dry into what is known as “greenware’ which is the state of clay before being fired, is to put the pieces into the kiln. For my pottery which would be classified as bisque ware, due to the hardness of the firing process, it would need to remain in the kiln for 24 hours at around 1130 degrees. Gradually heating and cooling in the kiln. Due to the kilns being computerised this process is done for you whereas in previous periods this process would have been completed by fanning the flames of the kiln fire and adding or removing the kindling. After the clay has been fired. The glazing process can begin. I chose to use paint on the method of glaze however where the minerals and oxides are already in the mix of glaze. The glaze itself consists of coloured glass and differing pigments and minerals in the glaze mix which melts and disperses during the second firing process. I painted on the glaze and left it again to dry for a couple of days. The glaze looks extremely different when first painting it on to after firing. With my final product looking pink at first with the unfired glaze, to deep red after firing. The traditional method of knowing how hot to have the kiln for glaze firing is called ‘cones’. This was due to the method of measuring how to the glaze would react to the heat. The glaze would be dipped onto the top of a clay cone and when the cone started to tip over, the heat is at the correct temperature. However, due to that being considered an archaic option both degrees and cones are labelled onto the glaze.

After firing the glaze is hardened onto the surface and forms a shiny outer layer. My final product turned out exactly how I wanted it, with the irregular dappling formed by the minerals within the glaze. I like how the glaze creates its patterning and the final form is unknown until the firing process is finished. I will continue with my clay experiments, perhaps combining the print method, with the clay. Perhaps even attempting the use of the pottery wheel.

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