To Teach, To Learn, To Share

The Firing Stages of Clay

We often talk about firing items in the kiln and such terms such as “ramping up” and “soaking” are bandied about, but what exactly happens when you are firing your kiln?  And what stages are the most crucial?

There are some brilliant articles about the stages of firing, and what happens chemically to your clay as it goes through a firing process.  The article talks about six stages, and it explains it in a really interesting way.

These are very interesting, and written in a way that while it does have some chemistry terms, explains it in an easy to understand way.

Sorry, these articles are no longer available!

Saturday Clay Club

Our Saturday Clay Club has been running for over a year now, and it is a big success.  For members only, you can come to the guild on a Saturday morning from 9:30 – 12:30.  The cost is  $10 per session but it is a good way to share your ideas, or work through a problem, or just throw in the company of like-minded people.  Here are some photos of the last clay club.  Click on any image to see it full size.

Heritage Day at Buckhorn

A great experience for us at Heritage Day at the Buckhorn Community Centre on Feb. 15th. Lots of demonstrations of heritage crafts both inside and outside the building, as well as outdoor activities for the kids.

June Goodwin did her usual magic with the children, creating lots of small bowls. George Stewart finished the day with the kids (and one adult) making bowls and a flower pot. Vicky Kilner and Lillian Forester had the opportunity of talking with the parents and grandparents about the guild and the gallery, as well as promoting the kids camp this summer. A very successful day with plenty of happy faces on the children.

Janet McDougall – Studio Stories

My studio is just a small downstairs bedroom that has been converted. I have a throwing area that has protective thick plastic sheeting on the floor – I am a little messy!, a working table, drying shelves and storage shelving along the wall – although there never seems to be enough storage space. My husband just built a shed for me so I could store my materials for glass mosaics and stone carving. This really helped in keeping my studio space organized and more stream-lined although it may not look like it.

The following pictures show the stages of throwing – it this case a bowl. First I weigh out the amount of clay I will need and form a ball. This ball of clay needs to be centered on the wheel. This is a crucial step. If the clay is not centered – you’re not going to be able to throw anything. Once centered, the clay is opened and the walls of the form are pulled up and shaped. It may take 2 or 3 pulls to bring the clay up to the height and thickness you want. The final shaping of the form is often done with a rib. The rib helps compress the clay and smooths out any throwing lines.

The form is then moved to the drying racks. It often takes a few days for the form to dry out to a leather hard stage. At this point, the form is returned to the wheel and the bottom rim in trimmed out, giving a nice foot rim. Once completely dry to the touch, the form is bisqued fired in the kiln to take out any moisture in the clay. Glaze is applied to the bisqued ware and a final glaze firing is done.

Click on any  image to enlarge.

Lillian Forester’s mice

Lillian Forester is famous for her cheese mice.  The perfect little friends to accompany your cheese tray!  These cute little fellows won’t even nibble!  Like the rest of us, Lillian is getting ready for the show, and has her kiln loaded and ready to go.  Check out her beautiful work, before it is even glazed!

Click on any image to enlarge it.

Studio Stories

We thought that you (and our fellow members) would be interested in seeing where the potters that belong to the guild work at creating their wares.   There must be a reason that studio tours are so popular!

We have a few members that have space in our studio, but because a lot of our members have been potters for years, they have been able to carve out a space in their homes where they can work.  In some cases, our potters are full time artists and this is how they make their living, in others, it is a passion that they do in their “spare” time.

I thought I would start us off today.  We hope that you enjoy the peek into where we work, and will find that it doesn’t matter how fancy the space is.

Mary Sullivan

I’m the website designer for the guild and web designing is also my day job.  So I already have a room in my home that I use as my office.  However, when we moved into our home in 2002, I commandeered a spare bedroom that didn’t have carpet or even proper flooring, it has large wooden panels that are painted.  Little by little I have stuffed that poor room with all sorts of art supplies, be it acrylics, beads, paper making, you name it, I have some of that material in my Art Room.  Then the clay started.  I’ve been making sculptures of various things for years.  I took a course many years ago where we sculpted with clay, but we then made a plaster cast of the piece and it was cast in a cement material.  But in 2004 I bought myself my own kiln, as I wanted to make clay sculptures that were fired.

It’s likely not a very healthy idea to work with clay in a bedroom that is across from the room that you sleep in.  Yet I have been doing that for over 8 years now. (oh well, we’ll all die of something)  But the room was getting more and more cramped and I was not able to move or find a place to put down anything.  Plus, I have my kiln out in the garage, my pugmill and extruder in the basement and I found that when I was in my art room I needed something from the garage, or if I wanted to pug some clay for a piece, I had to lug the clay down two flights of stairs, pug it and then lug it back up again.  And clay ain’t light!

This summer I discussed an idea with my husband as it meant taking up a bit more room.  I decided to make a quarter of the basement my pottery studio.  The guild renovated our glaze area and there was an extra table that they were going to return and I promptly bought it.  A friend and I set up the new space and I have to say it is so much easier to be productive now!  I have my dry ingredients for glazes still outside, as it is safer for me to mix them there (you shouldn’t breathe that stuff in!) and the kiln is in the garage too, but everything else is in my space in the basement.  I have one table to work on, right beside my pugmill, so if I need to soften up some clay from the many bags I have (see picture) it is easy to just move over and then start sculpting.  I have a number of drywall boards cut into a manageable size and I place my work to dry (tiles especially, as they will warp if you let them dry without a bit of weight on top) and then they double as trays to take upstairs to load into the kiln!  I have boards with cloth on them, one for white clay and another for brown, and I work on those and can easily swap them around.  I’m close to the sink (it is my laundry room too) and I can rinse down anything to avoid dust.

On the other side of the room is the glazing area.  I have my underglazes on the shelf under the table, and I can quickly bring out the ones I need, and when I’m not glazing I can use this table as a place for some work to dry.

I’m finding myself a lot more productive now that I have all my tools in one place and eventually I will put some shelves up and boards to show my test tiles for easy reference.  I look forward to seeing everyone at the sale, this is my first year back for at least five years.

1st Week of Summer Camp!

What a lot of fun our campers had at our first week of Mud & Motion Day Camp.  You can tell by the big smiles on their faces.  There was clay, dancing, dress up and a cupcake party at the end.  We can’t wait to start all over again next week!