Simon Leach: Learning The Art Of Ceramics

In this ceramic tutorial Simon Leach travels to Connecticut to learn from professional ceramicist Guy Wolff.

The ceramics demonstration encases the art of how to successfully make a 25 pound pot or vase using masterful techniques developed over the ages. Guy Wolff begins by taking a large weighty lump of clay and drops it to the wheel head of the potter’s wheel which is already in motion. He places a thin amount of clay to the wheel head beforehand and douses it with a liberal amount of water, this helps the fresh 25 pound lump of clay used for this demonstration to adhere better at the base which is a vital element in pottery to stop the clay sloping off to the edges of the pottery wheel.

Using the tray of water to the side of him Wolff wets his hands and his arms thoroughly to enable him to get straight into molding the clay without any risk of friction. He uses his hands firstly to mold the clay into an upward cone shape and then explains his method of using the inside of his arm to drape over the clay to begin flattening and ‘warming it up’. This takes unnecessary tension away from your joints and alleviates any discomfort which can be caused from working with cold clay.

With the initial 12 pound lump of clay spinning on the potter’s wheel he throws on a second 12 pound lump to quickly fuse the clay together. The clay he has used is locally sourced from a dealer so is very consistent in texture and malleability. It is a very bad idea to use two different types of pottery clay or even mixing old clay with new clay as there will always be inconsistencies as you work, possibly leaving you with a less than desirable result.

He wraps his hands and arm around the clay forcing it to grow in height and then in a second flattens the clay back town to a crude dome. This encourages heat within the clay making it much more pliable and effective to work with.

When working on the potter’s wheel to produce ceramic vases there is always going to be the stage of ‘opening’ which basically put means you have to form a hole in your clay which throughout the process becomes bigger and gives you your general vase shape. He learned his method of creating an opening whilst attending a tutorial by master potters in Portugal where they dig their thumbs directly into the centre of the clay slowly opening it up using careful placement and rhythm. The secret is to cut the floor of the clay making sure to keep at least half an inch up from the base and not to directly force the clay into position.

The result of the vase by the end of this pottery tutorial is remarkable and it makes you wonder just how Wolff achieved the vase’ final height. If you have ever wondered how to make a vase using masterful traditional techniques then this video would certainly be a great source to study.

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