Retail Pottery

My pottery studio has evolved from amassing supplies, tools, and equipment. A friend recently Instagram-shared her Guatemala visit showing a potter making pots with corncobs for surface texture, and found objects to trim the ware. Here, in Southeastern Pennsylvania, my pottery making appears to support a vast retail industry.

My usual go-to is The Ceramic Shop in Norristown, PA for quick trips to pick up an item or two or 15. It’s where I order my clay, usually speckled brown 112, dark brown 266, and white stoneware 181 – all Standard clay bodies that I fire to mid-range. They make it easy to efficiently load 500 lbs. of clay or bags of chemistry into the car from their loading entrance, located on W. Basin street.

I also do my share to keep Amazon growing by leaps and bounds. From shop vac to buckets, shelves, and countless other supplies, ubiquitous Amazon purchases can be found organizing, storing, and basically supporting the pottery process throughout my studio and kiln shed. I’m sure I’m part of the reason for the increase in Prime membership fees. A Google search of a,azpm and Amazon is the top hit. Go figure.

A couple other retailers I’ve purchased from are Axner and Bailey,  Axner for specific items, such as bamboo teapot handles, fountain parts, or a roll of ‘dishwasher and microwave safe’ stickers;  Bailey Ceramic Supplies when that one special glaze I needed wasn’t in stock at the Ceramic Shop.

My most recent purchase was from Diamond Core Tools, for some diamond grinding discs. After watching those Instagram videos of potters smoothing pot bottoms in a matter of seconds, I overcame the mild sticker shock and was sold. I purchased the 8 inch 120 and 240 grit discs, which arrived yesterday. I also snagged one of those ‘sticky bats’ to try out – total impulse buy.

When I look around my studio, I can’t help but think about that Guatemalan potter making pots with found objects and corncob tools – straight from earth to ware. But it’s time to try out those new diamond grinding discs…

Altered wheel-thrown form

After seeing a wheel-thrown altered pot on Pinterest, I wanted to try making a few. I threw a form on the wheel with about 4lbs -5lbs of Standard white stoneware clay and after each form was leather hard, used a needle tool to mark the four corners of where the cuts would be created. A fettling knife was used to cut out a little square and then stamped with one of my home-made clay stamps. Then I used the needle tool again to mark 8 holes – 4 holes outside the cut shape and 4 holes, one in each corner of the little cut out square. I made sure the holes were large enough to allow for passing twine through after firing shrinkage. Then I replaced the cut-out shape into each wheel-thrown form and allowed the clay to dry. After bisque firing, I applied underglaze to the cut-out shapes on both forms and when they were dry, applied a coat of wax resist. I also applied wax resist inside the openings created with the needle tool to prevent the glazes from accidentally getting ‘brushed’ into those 8 holes. Next, I applied underglaze to the pot rim and base (shown on left), allowed it to dry and applied clear transparent glaze over the whole pot surface. For the pot on the right, I used Amaco Textured Tan glaze very loosely and unevenly applied. After glaze firing at cone 5, I used garden twine to ‘tie’ the shapes to each form. This was clearly an exercise in procedure and now I’m stoked to try variations on this idea of an altered wheel-thrown form.

The potter’s manicure

All my life my hands have been relegated to the unadorned among us. Oh the toenails saw some lacquer in the summertime, don’t get me wrong, but my hands always found themselves in too much water, sawdust, grout, or reduced by length and banned from polish due to someone’s rules and regulations.

 

 

From the dress code in high school to similar restrictions as a nurse in a Catholic hospital, my nail polish went underground,  inside my shoes. A later career change to teaching art kept my nails short and color-free as practicality won over vanity. I could count on less than two hands the number of professional manicures I’ve had. Once, when I returned home with a French manicure for a special occasion, the eye rolls from my daughters confirmed my suspicions that painted digits weren’t ‘me’.

 

 

Now, during the day I still teach art, although it’s all graphic and web design- but I’m a potter at night, on weekends, and holidays. Potter’s hands take a lot of abuse from having them in water, not to mention the sanding effect of the grog in the clay, and the incredible drying effect of stoneware on the skin. So, to keep my hands ready to wedge pounds of clay, plunge into buckets of water, and grind over grog-filled stoneware on the potter’s wheel, today I follow my own rules and regulations about short fingernail length and polish-free nails.

 

Setting up a home studio

A friend of my niece is going to set up a pottery studio in his new house and was asking what he would need to get started.

My work area has evolved since the beginning, so I thought about the basic components I gathered when I first set up my potter’s studio.

Besides a good potter’s wheel, having access to electric, adequate lighting and ventilation, and easy-to-clean flooring /horizontal surfaces are a must.

Speaking of clean, easy access to water, a bunch of hand towels, a good apron, sponges, and a scraper are working and cleaning essentials.

Storing work and ware makes bags for storing unfinished projects; crates and shelves for carrying and storing bats and ware; and vessels to stow tools an organizational necessity.

A wire cutting tool, ribs, sponges, a needle tool, and trimming tools serve as the very basic throwing tools.

A yard of heavy canvas, a rolling pin, a fettling knife, an old kitchen spoon and fork, and a slip container can be the basic hand-building tools.

As far as glazing brushes go, I used 1″ and .5″ hardware store utility bushes for the first couple of years.