Archive for the ‘History’ Category
There is so much work involved in making pottery. Pieces are modeled, moulded, cast or pressed, fettled, bisqued, glazed, fired again, decalled and packed ready to go. To give you an idea of what goes on, I thought it might be nice to show you the early stages of production for our lovely pie dish. We have been making this particular dish in Australia for the past 20 years. Production methods have remained the same over this time.
We use locally sourced clay, cut into long square lengths. The exact size used for the pie is measured and cut.
Donny hard at work, cutting the clay.
The clay piece is placed in the die. The male and female parts join, ‘squashing’ the clay to form the shape.
Excess clay is removed. Air releases the piece onto a board, held by Don.
Ready to be placed on a trolley, dried, fettled, bisque fired, glazed, gloss fired…. and finally
sent to you as this-
The ancient art of pottery probably owes its existence to the even more ancient art of basketry.
Basket weaving was one of the first crafts practiced by man. The earliest carry-bags were made from animal hides, but while they worked well as bags, replacing them usually involved waiting for an animal to die.
Grasses and reeds grew naturally pretty much everywhere people lived and roamed, and once the weaving of grasses to create containers and baskets became understood, the craft spread rapidly. Man had invented a cheap, easily replaceable container.
Woven baskets had a drawback, however. They were poor at storing liquids. They were great for carrying the kids, spears and leftovers from last night’s dinner, but no matter how tightly woven, water found a way out.
The need for a watertight container continued to be a problem until about 25,000 years ago when it was discovered that another material found pretty everywhere could be moulded into useful shapes and hardened with heat.
The material was clay, and with that discovery man had taken a big step forward by being able to carry water safely.
The next Members’ Exhibition of the Australian Ceramics Association will be held from April 28 to May 2, 2010. It will be held in Gulgong, New South Wales, and will be called “340 grams”. That mysterious title will be explained in a moment.
The unusual title of the 2010 exhibition, “340 grams”, is taken from the weight of a normal issue of The Journal of Australian Ceramics. The challenge is to use 340 grams of wet clay to make a bowl or a sculpture.
You can find an on-line entry form here or contact the The Australian Ceramics Association (by phone on 1300 720 124 or by email at email@example.com) and they will post or email you one.
Members can submit one or two works — just remember that each completed work must weigh less than 340 grams. TACA will charge 20 per cent commission on sales. Entries close February 15, 2010.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines pottery as articles made of fired clay. But what exactly is clay, and what is involved in “firing” it?
Clay is a natural material. The picture at left shows cliffs on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, US, made almost entirely of clay. Clay deposits are found around the world, but their characteristics can vary a lot. In fact, no two deposits of clay have exactly the same characteristics, and often samples from the same deposit differ.
All clay, however, has one unusual attribute, a natural plasticity which changes by varying the water content. Heating clay lowers the water content and makes it harder. Heat it a lot, and it becomes very hard. Make it into a nice shape first, and then heat it to harden it, and you have created pottery.
Raw clay consists of clay particles and feldspar, usually combined with quartz, mica, iron-oxides and other materials. Naturally occurring clay like this can be used to make coarse earthenware pottery, but high-grade pottery involves the selection of special clays and the addition of other ingredients.
Heating (or firing, or baking) of clay was first practiced 25,000, and possibly 30,000, years ago, meaning pottery was invented about the same time as paper. It is truly an ancient art form.
Initially, firing was done over open bonfires, but today it is done in sophisticated kilns — insulated chambers, or ovens, used to harden or dry materials by constant exposure to temperatures well above 1,000 degrees Centigrade.
The earliest firing techniques have always remained in use, however, because the soot and ash of a wood fire gives pottery a unique finish. A second reason for the popularity of wood-fired pottery kilns is that anyone can build one in a couple of hours with a few inexpensive materials.