Ever since I stumbled across time lapse videos of pottery, I’ve really wanted to take some classes and try it for myself. I knew that it would be way harder than the videos made it seem, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how much I would enjoy it!
- Supplies as provided by the Art Gallery of St. Albert (i.e., clay, kiln, glaze, wheel, pottery tools, etc.)
I ended up taking a five-week sampler class with the Art Gallery of St. Albert, and this was the best decision I could have made! At first, I was hesitant about signing up since I had failed to convince my friends to join me, but I think I am slowly learning that I should try the things I want without worrying if I’ll have company.
My instructor, Heather Shepherd, was absolutely lovely. She was knowledgeable and so supportive whenever my self-confidence faltered. She has her own website, so here is a friendly plug to check her out here!
The first thing we were asked to try make was a cylinder shape. Needless to say, mine was very wobbly and uneven, but playing with the clay is strangely soothing. The picture below shows the very first things I ever made on the wheel! I wasn’t expecting to use the wheel on the first class, much less have two items come out of it. It was definitely way harder than Heather made it look, especially in getting those sides even and smooth.
After the clay items come off the wheel, they get to dry before they get trimmed. Sadly, the bowl-like creation in the first picture didn’t make it through the trimming process, as I poked a hole through the wall. Many items that came off the wheel were lost before the end, but it was all part of the journey! Trimming is basically the process of adding a little rim on the bottom. This helps to thin out some of the thickness on the bottom of the clay, and is also an opportunity to shape how the item will “stand” on a surface, so to speak. After trimming, the item goes in the kiln for a first firing. Look at how much the clay changes just from that first heating!
Hands-down, my favourite part of pottery is the glazing process though. There are so many beautiful colours to choose from, but at the same time, there’s a lot of faith and blind-guessing in how the glaze and heat will interact with the clay! For instance, there’s this glaze that finishes to a beautiful blue, but in the bucket, the glaze is bright red! The chemistry nerd in me was so fascinated by the concept of the interplay between the chemicals and heat, and the aesthetic side of me was fascinated by the options, so all around, this was a fun time for me. Glaze also has the added benefit of making everything look infinitely better. Case in point, my lumpy “cup” cylinder looks much prettier with this coat of rich yellow! The black speckles, while not intentional, also add a lot of interest to the cup! I think the speckles are a result of the heat, which is super neat.
By the end of the class, my skills on the wheel had improved a lot, and my favourite thing that I made over the course of the five weeks was this bowl! I surprised myself with how even and smooth the sides were. I’m still not sure if that was a fluke or not, but I’ll take it.
I also got to try a cool glaze technique with this bowl, as I dipped half in one colour, and the other half in another! The little overlap stripe makes this bowl look strangely modern, and I really like it. I wish that I had been able to make the walls a little higher so that this bowl could be deeper, but that’s still a weakness of mine.
In addition to our time with the wheel, we also got to try handbuilding! I felt like I had a lot more control with handbuilding, and we got to work with textures as well! For example, in the coaster below, I pressed a lace doily into the clay so that it could have a light pattern in it. I also used the same half-half dip technique for this.
Here are all the items that survived! I honestly can’t say enough nice things about these classes, and I would 100% recommend them to anyone who has been wanting to give pottery a try. You get to experience so many different techniques, and for a pretty reasonable price. I hope that I’ll be able to fit more classes into 2018, as I can’t wait to refine and develop my fledgling pottery skills.
Until next time, happy crafting!