Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finishing your Pottery: Glaze Fire

Do you live near Princeton, New Jersey? Come visit me at the Crafter's Marketplace on November 19 & 20, 2011. Find great handcrafted gifts for someone special.

Firing Your Pottery: Step 2

Once glaze has been applied to a pot and allowed to dry it needs to be fired again to get the glassy surface most people think of when talking about pottery, so back to the kiln! The pottery is placed on shelves again, just like with the bisque firing, but with glaze firing you can’t stack pots one on top of another because they’d fuse into one when the glaze melts so no touching! Not pot to pot, pot to shelf, or anything else.

When I fire my medium-sized kiln to it takes about 8 hours to reach maximum temperature (2192°F; ~1200°C) and I let it cool down overnight. The pots are still warm to the touch when I open the kiln the next morning.  But don’t sneak a peek! Opening the kiln while it’s firing or cooling can let in a draft of cold air which can lead to cracking, which would be a shame given all the hours you’ve already put into making that pot.

Glazed pottery before firing.

And the same pieces of pottery after firing. For the giraffe plate, I hand painted the giraffe with black underglaze prior to adding the translucent brown glaze on top.
As you can see the color of the applied glazes frequently don't resemble the final fired glazes. This is why potters like to use test tiles, to give us a better idea of what the glaze looks like once fired.

So now you know, pottery making is a laborious process that involves several steps and many, many hours (even if it’s just waiting for a pot to dry or be fired). People often ask artists why a piece of pottery costs so much, it’s not so much the cost of the clay or glazes, or the electricity/gas to fire the kiln, or even the capital investment of the kiln, it’s really the experience that potter has gained over the years of practice and the time it takes to create each piece of pottery by hand. 

And you ask what about the ceramic dinnerware set I can buy for $25 at the local big-box store? The difference comes down to volume, when ceramic pieces can be made by the hundreds using a mold, glazed in en masse, and fired in gigantic kilns, we’re talking a whole different ballgame. Artisans you see at craft fairs, on Etsy, and in galleries have hand crafted individual pieces of art for your enjoyment.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this overview of pottery making. If you want to learn more there are hundreds or books and probably even more websites dedicated to the art of pottery making. And if this has whetted your interest and you want to give pottery a try, check your local art centers, schools or community colleges, they typically offer pottery classes for all ages and skill levels.

Next time I will tell you about raku, a unique firing process that produces beautiful metallic glazes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting Ready for a Craft Fair

Spent all weekend getting ready for a craft fair that I will be selling at next weekend. I thought the fairs were exhausting, but it seems like the preparation is just as exhausting if not more so! Selecting which pieces to bring, pricing, layout (not too little, not too much stuff).

Have a slightly new set up, so I did a test run in my living/dining room this weekend!
Had a friend over to help me with pricing and she took some great shots of some of my stuff. Thanks Sassi!

If you are in the Princeton, NJ area you can come see me on Nov 19-20 at the Crafter's Marketplace.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Making Ceramic Pottery: Glazing

Do you live near Princeton, New Jersey? Come visit me at the Crafter's Marketplace on November 19 & 20, 2011. Find great handcrafted gifts for someone special.


A glaze is a special kind of glass which is chemically formulated to adhere onto the surface of the clay when fired. Most functional pieces of pottery are glazed to make them water resistant, durable, and easy to clean. Glazes can be found in all kinds of colors and opaque or translucent.  Many potters mix their own glazes using time-tested recipes or experiment with chemical combinations to make new colors or textures. Since this isn’t a full time adventure for me, I buy ready to use, commercially available glazes.

My stash of glazes.
Glaze can be applied in many ways including dipping (dunking your pot into a vat of glaze), brushing (just like painting), pouring (the glaze over the pot), or spraying (using an airbrush-like device).  Layering glazes one on top of another can produce an infinite number of color combinations and effects.

This is my glaze board. The tiles are called test tiles because they allow me to see what the glazes look like on the clay I use. Each tile set is a pair, one in brown clay and the other in white clay - a glaze can look very different depending on what clay it’s applied to. I also apply one glaze on the top half of each tile and another glaze on the bottom half with an overlap of about an inch in the middle. This lets me see what glazes look like when layered.

 Next time: Finishing your pottery, the final firing.