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03 Creative Session: Pottery

Finished ceramic pieces

I've been developing a growing interest in ceramics over the last few years, so when the opportunity to join a workshop run by the very talented Rachel Carter and Kate McIntyre for Kaolin, I jumped at the chance and dragged Maurizio along with me to spend the weekend in Waitakere, Auckland.

The workshop was a great way of covering some of the fundamental pottery techniques - from hand building to slip casting, and of course, wheel throwing.

We managed to slab build planters, and while it was quite fun, I feel that it lacks the precision and control I like to have over form and anything I make. I suppose with more practice and the use of tools I could get a more precise result...

Slab building a planter

Next up was slip casting. We used plaster molds for the cups and then poured a liquid porcelain slip (hence the name) into it. The slip sits inside the mold and the plaster actually sucks the moisture out of the slip, forming a wall or skin around the inside of the mold. The longer you leave the slip, the thicker the wall. I quite enjoyed this process!

After the wall forms, we tip out the slip and let the wall set a little before removing. Once removed from the mold, we left it for a few hours to firm up before trimming and cleaning up the piece. I decided to take my knife to the exterior surface and carve out chunks because I wanted a faceted finish to my cup.

Slip poured into mold
Glazed and fired slip cast porcelain cup

I really like the finish on this porcelain, although I was surprised by how thick the glaze was, I was expecting the facets to be a bit sharper but the glaze smoothed them out quite a bit.

Our final and most challenging task was throwing on the wheel. I'd already been to a couple of throwing classes beforehand but hadn't had much success with it. That is, until this workshop. Rachel taught us a better technique for centering clay on the wheel and boy did that help! Everything fell into place and I threw the best damn pots I've ever thrown.

I'm a bit bummed I didn't get to keep all of them, but we had to choose the best one to get fired. I do really like those one I chose though. I've joined the Wellington Potter's Association so I'm hoping to get some more throwing practice in and make a few more bowl. Our house will be cluttered with bowls soon I suspect.

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