I work on each of my pieces from start to finish. What does that mean exactly, let me take you through the journey of my work.
In the initial stages of my work I sketch ideas of forms or textures or little inspirations that catch my eye. These initial sketches or ideas make it on to my wheel and into clay form as loose concepts. I can play with proportions, textures, and decorations without too much pressure. This all happens in a stage called "wet" or "leather-hard." This means that the clay hasn't been fired yet and can easily be scrapped, reclaimed and used again.
For the concepts that pass the initial stages of experimentation and I'm happy enough to take to the next stages or even competition get made in batches. Making consistent batches of the same product help to fine tune consistency and aesthetics. I throw these forms on the wheel learning the same movements to create a repeatable piece. Pieces come off the wheel and are set aside to firm up, typically over-night or up to two days.
Then these pieces are ready for the addition of a handle, or to be trimmed. Trimming is when a tool is used to remove clay from the surface. This most often happens on bowls or plates, carving the bottom side to create a foot ring on the bottom of a pot. This would also be the time when I add decoration, sometimes its carving, stamping or slip trailing texture onto the surface of the pot.
When I'm done manipulating the pieces they are allowed to dry out completely, it is vital that all the moisture evaporates from the clay before going into the kiln.Then comes the first firing! This is called the bisque-fire. I bisque my wares to a low temperature and this starts the vitrification process.
The bisqueware that comes out is still porous but "cured" enough that the form is no longer malleable. Bisqueware gets dipped into glaze and can be decorated further with brush marks or other glaze applications. I typically wipe the glaze off the bottom of my pots before going into the next firing but there are alternative methods such as using wax or stilting the pots.
The final glaze firing is sometimes considered the most exciting part of the process. This is where all the efforts culminate into the finished pieces. Glazes melt in the firing process much like glass and create the final surface and the clay body becomes fully vitrified. Once the firing has cooled we remove the pots and inspect them for flaws. Each item then gets wet-sanded and washed.
Typically a batch of wares takes weeks from start to completion. But it's commonly said that every piece takes years of experience. The continual practice and learning is self evident in each form produced.