In Ceramics, there are multiple types of clay that you can use. Each with different properties and a variation in price, consideration is needed for choosing which clay to use.
To gain knowledge and basic understandings of the fundamentals of pottery we used which is the cheapest clay used at the university.
The pinch pot method is one of the oldest techniques used in ceramics. To start you form a ball, no bigger than your fist, making it as spherical as you can, before pushing your thumb down to create the centre of the pot. Then, using your fingers and pinching up from the bottom, you start forming your ‘pot’, spinning the ball as you go to try and keep it even. This technique takes a while to get used to employing well. People often find it painful when applying to form more substantial creations, due to the repetitive nature and the unusual motions of the hand.
In this workshop, we were told not to constrain ourselves by having a set outcome, not to make a pot, to explore the materials and processes. The result is not essential, it is the creating that was.
The second techniques we taught during this workshop was extrusion. Extrusion is generally used to form larger objects and can build up quite quickly. The extrusions can be in a large variety of shapes, and if so desired, you can design your mould for the extruder. At university, we have two extruders, with one being far more substantial than the other, which need consideration when devising your design. With the larger one you can create more, and larger extrusions each time you put it through the extruder, but it requires you to have far more clay to extrude. When creating a piece out of coils, you can make complex hollow shapes that go in and out. The clay has to support itself, so shaping needs to be slowly built up over layers so that they do not collapse. The width and dimensions of a coil is a crucial decision beforehand, as a large size can enable you to build it up very fast, but smaller would allow steeper edges and more complex forms. When you are moving in and out and working with coils, you often have to leave sections to dry for a few days as you create. Drying gives the piece stability before adding more layers, so it does not fold in on itself.
When you join the extrusions together, as with all clay, you have to avoid air bubbles, as trapped air can explode in the kiln. To do this, you must cross-hatch both sides where they are to meet and then use slip (a mixture of clay in water) to make sure there is a secure join.
Around every three layers in a coil structure, you have to join the coils together on at least one side. You achieve this by smoothing the coils; you have to decide if you want the inside, or outside smooth.
Kidneys can be used to smooth out the edges of the clay before it enters the kiln. To start smoothing use a lightly serrated kidney before a smooth one as this helps create a much smoother result, even though this feels very wrong.
Once you are happy with everything you have made, you place it on the correct shelves to enter the kiln. It is advisable to create multiple pieces as the duration and energy required by the kiln means only once it is full that it is started. It is good practice with clay as it is an organic material and is not predictable to make multiple pieces anyway. Your clay needs to dry out for about 24 hours before it enters the kiln and the firing takes three days, so you mustn’t leave it close to a deadline.