A Week of Handmade Work…

sculptural frog on the rim

Last friday I threw 10 mugs and 5 bowls. 15 pieces. Those pieces took most of that day to make. Over the next 7 days, those 15 pieces were brought to a finished level but only up to a point.

Pottery is a slow process. It is something that I am learning that I need to accept the slowness of the process and be patient. I am getting there but, after being in the corporate world for so long where presses were running at $1000 an hour and you were upstream of those presses, preparing the work so as to not have a mistake stop the presses causing that price to go up for the company or the customer. I have had to slow myself down and have a different set of expectations for how quickly things get made. I don’t have a customer waiting, at least not one that I can see just yet, I also want the work to be the best quality that I can make. There is no point in hurrying if the quality suffers. That is also something that was important in the corporate world. If the press had to wait, it was better to get the work done in the best quality as possible to avoid an additional stoppage or material waste.

My last post was of the trimming process of those items. I wanted to try and show that there are many steps that go into a handmade item. After the trimming was done, the handles were made and with each step the items are packed into a plastic box and wrapped with plastic to avoid them drying out before the next step can be completed. Another reason for the slow drying is to avoid attached pieces from separating from the piece. The moisture content of the handle and the cylinder that it is attached to will even out and putting them into a damp box or under plastic allows the moisture content in the entire piece to become consistent.

The decoration that I have chosen to add to my work is a time consuming process in that I add a white clay body slip over the brown clay and then either draw through that slip or add a stencil that holds the white clay back from the brown clay. Then some color is added and clean up of areas where the clay or color may have bled into an area where I don’t want it. Then I am adding the sculptural frogs and give each one a personality so that each piece is unique.

Handmade items are special. What makes them special is that they aren’t made with a machine, except for the wheel, and are given the attention that sets it apart from a mass produced item. That said, I’m not sure I will ever achieve the production potter status. I can see that I will use the production mindset but I don’t ever see having a set “line of work” and have items that I make for a while and then when I get bored with the pieces that I am making, I will create a new item to make for a while.

So these 15 pieces will then get fired when they reach a dry state. The firing will take about 8-10 hours, then an additional 12 hours to cool. Then each piece will be glazed and fired again, an additional 8-10 hours with the 12 hours to cool. Of those 15 pieces, there will be pieces that I will discard because they won’t be the quality that I want to be representative of my work. Some of those little “blips” will stay in because that is part of the “handmade quality” that I want to achieve.