Clay Work

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Introduction to my Techniques

Each vessel is handbuilt using coils. Small pots are quickly built, taking only an hour or two. But larger vessels may take a week or more to complete. Why? After adding several rows of coils to a pot, the clay must be smoothed out and then set aside to firm up so it will not collapse once new coils are added. A slow process...but well worth the time!

I do not use glazes on my vessels. Instead the clay goes through a three-step burnishing process, producing the high gloss. When the vessel is still slightly wet (or ``leatherhard'') it is rubbed with a polished stone, compacting the clay and smoothing the surface. Once the pot is totally dry, a small amount of water is rubbed into the surface with the polished stone, increasing the gloss. Finally, oil is applied to the vessel and burnished with the stone, producing the high gloss.

The pots are now fired in a kiln to cone 013 (or 1540 degrees F). This strengthens the clay and greatly reduces the number of pots lost during the pitfiring. Pitfiring---the easiest way to desribe this process is to have you think of a camp fire! A bed of sawdust is first laid to cushion the vessels and also provide combustible material at the bottom of the pit. Next the pots are set on the sawdust. Chemicals (rock salt, copper carbonate, and cobalt corbonate) are sprinkled around the pots. These chemicals, when burned, help produce colors on the clay (burgundy, oranges, yellows, and blues if I'm lucky!). Cow dung is now piled around the pots, completely covering them, followed by kindling. Then the massive bonfire is lit and all you can do is let Mother Nature work her magic! The fire usually burns for a couple hours and pots are left alone overnight to cool. The next morning is like Christmas for me! Seeing what colors have happened and where the fire licked the pots and left swirls and patterns.

I participated in a pottery workshop during the fall of 2001 in Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Click HERE to experience this trip of a lifetime.