Ceramics is very in right now isn’t it? I’m obsessed and signed up for a 4 week beginner’s course at The Kiln Rooms in Peckham Rye. It’s not long enough to get stuck into a project, but it does give you a taste of all the different stages of ceramics. Perfect for seeing wether you like it enough to invest in an open-access membership.
If you’re also interested in getting your hands a little dirty but want to know what to expect—read on.
Week one began with the essential stage of wedging clay. This gives the clay a uniform consistency, and removes any trapped air bubbles. Once everyone had the hang of it, half learnt how to throw on the wheel and the other half learnt how to slab build. Keen to try throwing first, I nabbed a spot on one of the wheels.
Throwing is a lot harder than it looks! After one collapsed attempt, and desperate to come away with something I’d thrown, I managed to throw a small bowl after a slower second try.
In week two I learnt how to turn. Having let the bowl become leather hard, I popped my pot upside down on the wheel, trimming off all the excess clay from the bottom. Turing is SO satisfying. It gets rid of all the lumps bits, and you end up with something that looks a bit more finished.
The groups had also switched over this week. But instead of learning to slab build, we learnt coiling instead. Starting with a flat base, you build up the walls of your piece by layering rolls of clay on top of each other. But I wasn’t a huge fan. In hindsight, I didn’t smooth the surface of the clay whilst I was building, which is probably why it looked like a high school art project.
Week three was unproductive. The other half were turning on the wheels, and my group had the choice of continuing with our coil pieces (um, no) or learning how to slab build. Because rolling out clay to slab build seemed to take forever per person, I ended up waiting around impatiently. In the end I didn’t slab build, but jumped onto one of the wheels once someone had decided they’d had enough. No luck though. Everything collapsed!
On the other hand, the bowl I’d thrown in the previous week had been bisque fired and would now be ready to glaze the following week.
Week four is all about that glaze. The Kiln Rooms has a selection of glazes to choose from, which you can see on the test tiles hanging off the buckets. Glazing involved dipping the bisque fired pieces into the buckets of glaze, which then absorbed into the clay within seconds. To avoid damaging the kiln, anything that touched the shelf, needed to be wiped clear of any glaze. Easily done with a damp sponge.
I ended up going with blue and green crackle glazes for my coil pot. My bowl was originally meant to be oatmeal outside and green crackle on the inside. That didn’t go to plan when I dripped the inner glaze back over the outer, so I just half dipped the bowl into the green glaze again to hide the drips.
As you can see, the colour of the glaze makes it difficult to see what you’re going to end up with after the second firing. But I quite like the unpredictable nature of the whole process.
Two weeks after the course ended, I get an email telling me my work is ready to be collected. I carried them home like newborn babies, and have popped them on my bookshelf. Of course they’re nowhere near as good as work by pro potters. But they’ll always be pretty to me!