Sunday, June 28, 2009

Behind the Wheel: Handbuilt Pottery

In our last post I briefly mentioned handbuilt pottery. This name refers to a large variety of pottery that is created by hand and not thrown on the wheel. Sometimes the clay is rolled out flat and then molded into a form or stamped with a design. Other times the clay is rolled into long thin pieces and coiled, rolled, and pieced together to make a freeform piece.

clay molded to a bowl we found at the beach house the other week : )
a similar idea shown in our freeform bowl in the shop
a handbuilt bowl made by one of mom's classmates

Some of our plates are wheel thrown, but others with intricate patterns or specific designs are hand built using molds.

lagoon blue plate

pistachio deviled egg plate

Our coasters and trivets are also hand built.

gunmetal coasters

And of course our jewelry is hand built using carving tools, stamps and various designs.

limeade ring

Next up a look at glazing...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Rings Have Arrived

I think I'm even more excited about this than Mom! We are introducing rings to our summer jewelry line! We have a few different styles to offer, but all of our rings are fully adjustable (easy for gift giving and easy to change hands or fingers for yourself!) The best part is they adjust at the top rather than under your finger, so no more pinching.

Here are just a few we listed, but continue to check back as we add more...


vintage blossom

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Behind the Wheel: Throwing

Now that you've seen the studio at Sunset River, it's time to check out the wheel!

We often use the phrase "wheel thrown" in our descriptions of pottery. This is as opposed to pieces that are "hand built." There are many potters who choose only one of these methods, but we find that we can do some very interesting things with both. For instance, some of our plates are wheel thrown and others are hand built using molds.

For this post, I photographed Mom throwing a large bowl on her wheel last week while I was visiting. You will have to imagine the fact that the wheel is spinning quite fast and I'm literally capturing a split second. Each of these steps is done while the wheel is spinning at various speeds, so give us a bit of your imagination and check out what she can do with those hands!

This is the wheel set up in the garage (soon to be her own "home studio"). The foot pedal on the left controls the speed at which it spins, just like a sewing machine. And next to those tools on the table, there is always a large bucket of water.

The first step is kneading the clay to make it pliable and remove any air bubbles. She uses a variety of clays, some dark, red, white, or speckled.
Next, she makes it roughly circular and places it on a bat (the flat plate) on her wheel.
Then, using a good bit of water and a very fast spinning wheel, she uses her hands and her body weight to lean over the wheel and center the clay into the middle.

You can see how fast the wheel is spinning by the amount of water being sprayed out in this shot. It can take a few minutes to get the clay centered, but it's so important to make sure the bowl comes out round : ) And as I've found in my few attempts, it can be the most frustrating and time consuming part of the process : )
Next, she uses a thumb and two fingers to gently press down and form the center. The wheel is spinning about a medium speed or whatever she feels comfortable with.

After the center is large enough, she takes a flat edged tool to smooth the bottom and compress the clay.

Now she's ready for the first "pull." Using the sponge on top for counter pressure, she "digs in" with her thumb at the bottom of the outside edge, and gradually pulls up the clay from the bottom.
You can see her thumb working really well in this shot.

After that first pull using the thumb, she changes her grip and uses her forefinger on the outside and middle fingers for balance on the inside. This continues to draw up clay from the bottom toward the top.
She can continue to pull the clay several times until she feels she's done enough and it's no longer thick at the bottom.

Then she uses a thin metal tool to smooth the inside and out, removing the slip (or the wet clay that can cause the bowl to sag). This smooths it and gets it ready for the next step.

That same metal tool, along with counter pressure from the sponge, allows her to continue to shape the bowl by pushing out the sides as the wheel spins.
Once it is flared out far enough, she can use the sponge to smooth out the rim and give it its final shape.
The final step at this point is to use a thin wire and slice the bowl at the base to loosen it from the bat. You leave it resting on the bat to dry, but slicing it free at this point makes sure it comes loose later. The bat can be removed from the wheel and left to rest and she can put on another bat and start all over. The bowl is allowed to air dry slowly to be "leather hard." Usually this takes over night.

Next step will be trimming, carving, and the first firing....stay tuned.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Behind the Wheel: The Studio

We thought it was about time for a look at the backstage side of Stone Lotus Pottery -a true behind the wheel experience if you'll pardon the pun. Working with my mom certainly gave me an education in exactly how a piece of clay becomes a glazed piece of art.

Over the next few posts, we thought it would be fun to show you the many steps from clay to art, but first we thought you should see the studio where much of it happens. (To be fair, much also happens in my mom's garage, but you'll see more of that in the next few posts.)

Sunset River Gallery
the studio that is also a very cool eclectic gallery! all of our pottery is fired here while we are working on getting our own kiln to go with mom's wheel in the garage : )
love the inspiration wall in the studio

tools, stamps, odds and ends

after a piece is thrown (more on all these stages in the next few posts), the first step is to air dry and become "green ware"

once dry, it gets fired once to become "bisque ware"

then it is glazed

here are all the glaze samples hanging in the studio

and in buckets

and here are a few pieces glazed (some people dip like the samples shown here, but mom is a sprayer and we'll have pictures of all that to come)

and finally it gets fired a second and last time (at several 1000 degrees) to become beautiful glazed pottery

Ready for the final product? Check out our shop and stay tuned for more sneak peeks into our process!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Berry Bowls and Beach Pottery

We may have been on vacation this week, but it doesn't stop us from listing a few new pieces to tide you all over. Check out the latest added to the shop that will have you ready for summer.

We're very excited about adding berry bowls to the summer line! Mom gave me one for my birthday two years ago and it sits on our counter to this day. These little cuties are definitely a part of the story of how we started Stone Lotus Pottery....enjoy!

your first taste of a little purple (grape)

spring green ruffle bowl
forest green and castile serving bowl

We are packing up to head home, but first need to stop at the studio to pick up the latest items coming out of the kiln.....a sneak peek at some jewelry that should be in the mix. I know it's unglazed and sitting on boards while it's drying, but I can't help it...just a little too excited about introducing rings into our line.