My first introduction to pottery was with the movie Ghost (you think cheezy- right??!?!). I knew then itself that I HAD to try my hand at it. After all, who doesn’t want to look like Demi Moore! It looked like a beautiful flowing and expressive art form...and pretty simple. Fast forward to an ‘x’ number of years (let’s not get into an ‘aging’ discussion)...my first day at the pottery class, I found myself struggling, feeling exhausted, clumsy, trying my hand on the wheel with 300 grams of clay that felt like 2 kgs!!! This is not how it was supposed to be. The clay had a mind of it’s own. I couldn’t centre it- forget about moulding it with my hands into different shapes!!!
Luckily, I was learning with an excellent teacher and a renowned Studio Potter, Rachna Parasher ji. Under her guidance, her assistant Raj Singh and with encouragement from the other students, who had gone through ‘my’ phase’, I realised I could reach ‘their’ phase pretty soon . I did love the feel of clay on my hands and I knew I could tame it eventually to my ideas!
There were two drastic changes to my personal style when I started pottery - first went my lovely long manicured and polished nails. Long nails are a big NO if you want to be a potter. Simple reasons- not only will the nails destroy anything that you make, you will also get a ‘clay settlement’ under your nails. The second thing that changed was my clothes. I started living in jeans with clay all over them. I felt proud to to walk in anywhere with clay splattered clothes and shoes because I knew the splatters were my mark of achievement! The lovely feminine dresses went packing into the box.
Most importantly, I learnt that pottery wasn’t just about the wheel. There was so much one could do without the wheel by hand-building.
The basic techniques to make a form are:
Throwing on the wheel (like Demi Moore!)- Once the pot is ready, it is left to dry till it is ‘leather hard’ or ‘cheese hard’. It is then put upside down to give it a nice base and remove extra clay to make it lighter by turning/trimming.
Coiling- When clay is rolled out into coils and the coils are joined together to create a form.
Pinching- this is when you squeeze and pinch to make a form with your fingers
Slabwork- when you roll out flat slabs of clay and then join them to make a shape (eg- a square box)
From the Wheel
The form at various stages can be carved, decorated, have more hand built work on it, have slip decoration on it.
There are also different types of clays that can be used. Every clay has a different feel to it while producing a form out of it, the shrinkages vary and the end results are different. In India, the traditional potters mostly use Earthenware (teracotta), which is most porous, leaky and relatively soft in nature. It is also used by studio and industrial potters. Other commonly clays used are: Stoneware (has stone like characters- is dense and hard, more durable; glazes merge well with it), Porcelain (low in plasticity, difficult to make, has translucent body and gives good end results for delicate looking forms) and Bone china (kind of porcelain with bone ash).
There are many more techniques like Slip-casting and press moulds. These are used commonly in production or industrial pottery.
Once the form, that one has made, is absolutely dry and moisture free (called ‘bone dry’), it is put into bisque or biscuit firing (at approximately 900 - 1000 degree Celsius).
Once Bisque fired, the form is glazed and then fired again. The maturing temperature (when the clay body and glaze reach their optimal stage), as mentioned earlier, depends on the clay type.
Temperature range groups:
Earthenware: 1000 - 1180 degree Celsius
Stoneware: 1200 - 1300 degree Celsius
Porcelain: 1240 - 1350 degree Celsius
Bone China: 1240 - 1250 degree Celsius
I started learning pottery as a hobby in October 2010. It has been some journey ever since! It’s become a full time profession and the one thing I am most passionate about. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to train with some amazing people at Colm de ris pottery in Dublin (Ireland) and Monkey business in Goa (India).
Oh...and I can throw a pot without so much struggle...just like Demi Moore!
Here’s a link to my pottery page on Facebook:
I would like to thank Thomas Louis for all his guidance and teaching me so much.. turning me into a complete potterholic! Thanks to Bhagyashree Patwardhan for giving me the opportunity to come and learn & work at Monkeybusiness http://www.facebook.com/domonkeybusiness?fref=ts A fantastic experience and an unforgettable time with two lovely people!