So many people ask me, “How long does it takes to make a piece of pottery?”
The short answer is below! LOL
Wedge, Weigh and Wheel
There are many different clay bodies. Lori Martone Pottery uses a sturdy, high-fire white stoneware. Each piece is glaze-fired at 2,285 degrees, making it safe for dishwashers, microwaves and ovens. Wedging, like kneading dough, is the first step in prepping the clay. Wedging distributes the moisture evenly and works out any air bubbles. Depending on what I’m creating determines what the weight needed for each clay ball. Even though no two pieces will be exactly the same, starting with the same weight will help the size consistency. Sitting comfortably at my spinning wheel, it’s time to ”throw pots”. Guiding the speed of the wheel by my foot, the most difficult part of producing pottery is centering the clay, while the wheel is turning. Some say it takes up to four years to be proficient at centering! I have it mastered now, but I remember the early years! Next step is to make a hole in the middle of the smooth clay and start to gradually pull up the sides. By pushing in or out, and pulling up at the same time, my piece starts to take shape. Knowing that clay shrinks by up to 18% means that the wet clay piece needs to be 18% larger than my desired measurements.
Trimming and Accessorize
Once off the wheel, each pot needs to dry for several hours, or several days, depending on the moisture in the air, before it can be trimmed. The pot has to be “leather-hard”, not too dry but not too wet. This is when the finishing touches can be done, especially on the bottom. The pot returns to the wheel, this time upside down and centered again. Special trimming tools help carve the piece to its final stage. Some pieces need clay added to it, and this is the only appropriate time to add a handle of a mug, or a knob to a jar cover, or feet to a bowl.
Drying and First Firing
Each piece needs to dry again, from leather-hard to bone dry. There cannot be any moisture at all in a piece or it will explode in the kiln! This can take a couple of days to up to a week, depending on the size, thickness and the weather! The pieces are very fragile at this stage and need to be very carefully loaded into the kiln for the first firing, called the bisque firing. I have a top loading kiln which means I reach down into the kiln from the top. I fill a shelf, then construct another shelf on top of that shelf, with stilts. I repeat until I’m at the top. Depending on the sizes of the pieces, I can fit 50-100 pieces my 6.4 cubic foot kiln. The firing starts off manually, with the lid slightly ajar, to let the gases escape. After a couple of hours on low, I turn up the volume on the kiln to medium, for another hour. Lastly, the lid is closed and the automatic feature brings the temperature to 1,850 degrees. Approximately eight hours later, it’s done. However, if the kiln is opened too quickly, the cold air can break the bisqueware, so I wait another 12 hours before opening.
Wash, Wax and Glaze
While being fired in the kiln, the pots get a bit dusty, so into the water they go, as I pull each piece out of the kiln. They must dry again, but only an hour or so this time. Before glazing, wax resist needs to be applied to each and every pot bottom. Even a bit of glaze on the bottom of a pot can cause it to weld to an expensive kiln shelf. Applying glazes, or the colorants, is the final part of the prep. Glazes are a mixture of many ingredients like silica, alumina, fluxes and colorants. Just like baking from scratch, the measurements are crucial. Stored in big buckets in my small studio, the glaze is the consistency of waffle batter. All pots are dipped or sprayed or painted on with one or more glaze colors.
All pots go back in the kiln! When all stacked, the kiln is gradually increased to a higher heat of 2,250 degrees! In about 12 hours, the firing is complete, but the cooling is longer and I don’t dare open the kiln for another 24 hours. Pots can easily crack or break if not completely cooled. Also, color results vary based on where it’s placed in the kiln. It’s not an exact science by any means. Opening the kiln is both nerve wracking and exciting! Finally, after weeks of working up to this point, my lumps of clay on the wheel have morphed into beautiful, yet functional, pieces of art!
Watch Lori throw a tiny vase!
Please inquire directly with Lori for inventory and custom work questions.