For the past year, I ‘ve been pottering around – literally. I started with an Intro Ceramics class at DeAnza College in Cupertino last year. Under the tutelage of Rocky Lewycky from Santa Cruz, I learned about pinch pots, coil building, slab constructing, wheel throwing, stains, slips, glazes, bisque-firing, and glaze firing. In subsequent classes, I was tickled to be considered an “Advance Student!” I learned even more techniques for throwing pottery on the wheel, where the most difficult and yet most important aspect is centering the blob of clay.
We used clays of Bravo Buff, Smooth Sculpture, Recycled (from the mishmash leftovers of ceramics classes!), 8-11, B Mix, and later, Black Mountain, and Cinnamon. I even now have a bag / brick of some type of porcelain – which I’m a bit intimidated to open and throw with just yet! Just this quarter, I’ve wedged in feldspar and molochite (bisqued, ground up clay) to make a “groggier” mix with much texture and expression, and used this rough clay in a “dry throwing” technique – no water!
Rocky has challenged me to increase my clay I throw from the usual 3 pounds to 6 pounds, and now 12-15 pounds! 3 pounds of clay is about a small softball, and is held easily in one hand. 6 pounds requires 2 hands to hold, and 12+ pounds require ab workouts to wedge and carry as a ball to the wheel! Must do sit-ups more often …
My favorite firing technique is Raku – being so unpredictable, depending on the amount of raku glaze, wax, and regular glaze! I guess from the glass blowing days, I’m used to working with the intense heat, and I don’t panic. I’m just a closet pyromaniac?!?!?
The Low-Fire clays and glazes with the intense colors have been fun to work with, and I do love how they’ve come out, but it’s better for more detailed and smaller work. I like to challenge myself, too, with how I can make something 3D in an unusual form, like making the base with 3 shaped feet, or wrapping a textured slab around a cup for a raised effect.
The wonder of clay is how it allows and takes on so many textures. Each clay body allows a different effect, too, and the finishing with stains or glazes changes the total outcome of the piece! So much to work, experiment and have fun with!
During the Spring onward, I’ve had some Pot-throwing Parties, which culminated in late October with a Gumbo Gathering (ala Stone Soup method of potluck)! Meredith Odom came with her guide dog, Mars, and taught her grandson to throw a simple cup.
Meredith is legally blind. She was in my Intro ceramics class, and had invited me to do a demo with her blind center students a couple of weeks ago. Being blind has not held her back from throwing, and in fact, probably makes her more aware of what’s going on with the clay than those of us with sight! In fact, Meredith suggested to Rocky to have us tie blindfolds, de-focusing us (so to speak) on visualizing the centering. It worked pretty well!
Here are a few of my humble beginnings in ceramics. I’ve a lot still to learn about glazes – which I thought were just colors to slap on the surfaces and fire up. Ha!
First “Burnout” thrown vessel – glaze test