There are so many techniques and styles that I have tried and would like to try but most of my work is created using the following process.
Preparing the Clay
I buy moist clay in 50lb. boxes since I currently don’t have the equipment or desire to make mixing clay worth the effort. When I pull clay out of the bag it is usually ready to work with. I might mix the new clay with some clay that I have reclaimed. For most pieces I use Warm Brown Stoneware by Amaco. I wedge the clay to remove air bubbles and make sure there are no hard or soft spots. When the clay is weighed and cut to desired amounts it is ready to be used.
Throwing or Building Forms
Most of my work is done on the potter’s wheel. I start by centering the clay as the wheel spins and then opening up a hole in the middle. Then I start squeezing the walls from the bottom to pull the walls higher. After a few pulls the walls can be shaped and the rim can be finished. I cut the clay off the bat and put it on a board to dry.
Drying, Trimming and Attachments
After the clay is leather hard (not sticky but still somewhat soft) I add texture, handles and other attachments. When everything is finished I set it on a shelf to dry or under plastic if slow drying is needed.
When I have enough pieces that are completely dry I load them into my electric kiln and fire them for 9-10 hours. This firing reaches cone 04 (about 1945°F). These pieces are now solid like glass but not fully vitrified so they can absorb water.
After the bisque fired pieces are cool I wipe or wash off any dust which could prevent glaze from sticking to the pot. The glaze is made of powdered chemicals suspended in water. I usually dip or pour glazes onto each pot. I have to brush 3-4 coats of certain glazes. The water evaporates and leaves a thin layer of chemicals on the pot.
Before loading the kiln for a glaze fire I prepare the kiln shelves. This includes scraping off flaking or bubbling kiln wash and applying new kiln wash. This protects the shelves in case glaze runs off a pot when it melts. The glaze firing takes about 8 hours and reaches about 2220°F. When the firing is finally finished the kiln must cool which takes at least 12 more hours. I use a kiln vent to suck fresh air into the kiln and suck odors and chemical filled air out.
Sanding, Finishing, Re-Firing
If everything goes right I don’t have to do much after taking pots out of the kiln. But sometimes there are glaze defects, kiln wash stuck to the bottom of a pot or sharp edges. Some pots can be re-fired to fix the problems. Others just need a little grinding or sanding. Some pots get the hammer.
Ceramic decals can be applied to finished pots. The decals are printed then soaked in water to help them slide off the backing and onto the pot. Once the air bubbles and wrinkles are pressed out they are left to dry. Then the pots are fired again to bisque temperature. The decal burns away but the iron in the toner is left on the pot and becomes part of the glaze.