Making pottery

Saskia Daniel Ceramics

Making pottery

Making pots on the wheel is called throwing; a process that has been practised since antiquity. It takes about two weeks for a lump of clay to be turned into a finished pot.

First, I shape the clay into a ball by hand, then I shape it into a cone on the wheel to make sure all the particles are facing the same way and unevennesses are smoothed out. Now I pull it up to the height I want and shape it. Once the shape is right, I cut the pot off the wheel with a metal wire and put it aside to dry for a day or so, depending on the time of year.

When the pot is 'leatherhard', I go back to the wheel with the pot upside down and turn (trim or fettle) the bottom to neaten it or to make a foot-ring. At this point, I'll also make a handle or a lid, if necessary, and carve or decorate using slip (semi-liquid coloured clay), as well. After another day or two's drying, the pot — which could still be recycled by soaking in water at this point — is biscuit (or bisque) fired to 1,000ºC. It takes 24 hours from when the kiln is turned on to the pots being cool enough to take out again.

After the biscuit firing, pots are fully hard and can no longer be recycled into soft clay to be used again, although they are still quite absorbent, which is what makes the glaze adhere to the pots. Glazes are a suspension of different minerals in water. The water is drawn into the pot and dries out, leaving the glaze particles on the surface of the pot ready to be fired.

Then the pots are fired again — this time to 1,260º for stoneware. After another 24 hours, the kiln is opened and, if all has gone well, the finished pieces are ready.