How ceramics are made

Ceramics is very much like life – you’re always wondering what it’s going to be like.It may not be as you imagined, but it will still be beautiful. These words were uttered last week by the headmaster of an American school in the small town at a ceremony to launch a new pottery kiln. It was installed with a grant from a regional public education fund. Now children will be able to try their hand at one of the oldest occupations of mankind – creating real ceramics.

In Tomsk schools they do not yet put kilns for ceramics, but to learn this craft, if desired, you can still – from time to time in the city are held various master classes, teach its basics and art schools. Well, for those who are not yet ready to learn about the process of creating a pottery live.

Clay Dough

The first stage in the manufacture of any ceramic product is the extraction of raw materials, in this case – clay. In fact, the clay that has just been extracted from the quarry is just a pile of mud, so it has to be properly prepared before you start working.

There are not many traditional ways to process the material. For example, in ancient times, clay was soaked in water and thoroughly disposed of, choosing garbage. Already purified clay was immersed in a barrel of water, where it stood for some time.

In the course of this procedure, some of the mud came to the surface, some settled on the bottom, and in the middle there was a layer that could be used for work. In the barrel, in those places where the right mass was located, the hole was made, the clay was collected and dried in the sun to get rid of excess moisture. The dried out material was re-mixed and then it became finally fit for work.

Potter’s Wheel

Before working with clay, it is necessary to wet your hands properly, and water should always be at hand during the work. The main thing is not to overdo it. If the clay products turn out to be too wet, they can easily crack during drying. Therefore, during the work craftsmen keep a sponge at hand, which is convenient to collect excess moisture.

Also before you start working with the clay you should “communicate”: feel it, work with your hands. If there is a desire to give the product a special shape, it is enough to press harder on the clay from both sides, and it will easily give in.

The idea of the future vessel is often born during the work, in improvisation. But if there is an idea – what should eventually work out – then the sketch should be thought out in advance.

Making a simple pottery in 5 minutes is quite a real thing. When you make several identical forms in a row, the hands get used to it and work much faster.

When the form is ready, you can let your imagination go and decorate the pot or jug as you want. On not yet dried up clay it is possible to draw: for this purpose various wooden sticks with which as on a paper it is possible to deduce patterns – flowers, animals, ornaments are used. Although, according to experienced masters, it happens that the form is so interesting that no decoration is required.

Drying and Strengthening

The next important stage in the work on earthenware is strengthening and drying. During drying, any ceramic product becomes much smaller in size – a good pottery shape gives at least 10% shrinkage. That the vessel was strong, it is burnt in a special furnace, at a temperature of about 1 250 degrees. Though some beginners do without firing at all – they dry pots in the sun.

After the kiln, the dishes get a completely different color. Before the kiln the clay can have absolutely stunning colors: green, blue and black. And after firing it becomes white, yellow or red-brown.

But firing isn’t everything. The clay product must not let moisture pass, so it needs special treatment. There are different technologies, one of them is glaze treatment, as a result of which pots and jars acquire vitreous coating.

However, now the most common types of glazing are beginning to be abandoned because of the presence of lead in the irrigation (a mixture of quartz, feldspar, metal oxides and some other components). Its presence can have a negative impact both on glazers and on those who will then use dishes.

After such firing, the pot gets very dark, so it must be cleaned. Once it was done with sand or burnt cornflakes, nowadays, as a rule, simple sandpaper is used. Already after cleaning the vessel is processed with hot wax – at this stage the work can be considered completed.