Ceramics can be a very relaxing and rewarding hobby. You don’t need to be an artist to indulge in this ancient invention. All you need is the determination, the desire, and a few dollars to lie down for the cause.
In order for you to become good at this art form you can’t be afraid of getting dirty. Clay is not the ‘neatest’ medium to work with, and by the time you are done with one sculpting session you will be covered from your forearms down with clay. However, clay is an organic substance and will not cause any undue rashes or allergic reactions. You can choose “White” clay or “Red” clay to work with. The actual appearance of these two types of clay does not exactly resemble their names. White clay is a grayish color when you are working with the wet forms of it. However, when you fire white clay it will indeed come out as a very white colored piece of pottery. Red clay looks orangeier in both the initial moist form and the finished look. The advantage to using white clay over red clay is that it is easier to paint on or glaze and will have a ‘cleaner’ appearance. Otherwise either type is great to learn with as far as the sculpting is concerned.
Working with pottery wheels isn’t as complicated as it may seem. The momentum of the wheel is controllable and the speed will help you craft symmetrical pots without the agonizing manual work. When you first use a wheel, it can be tricky not to make your pot collapse into your fingers. But as you use it more and more you will learn how to obtain a gentler touch and grow to love how relaxing it can be. Other tools are available to you at arts and crafts stores. You can find scraping tools for making fine details, but you don’t have to purchase a set of pottery tools if you have some old silverware. The backs of spoons make a great finish to the sides of any ceramic piece. Spoons will smooth out the outside and inside of a pot with wonderfully even results. And your fingers, of course, are your best assets in modeling the initial forms.
As far as colors are concerned you have many options. Glazes are available to you in all sorts of shades and even textures. Some glazes have little ‘beads’ of color that will melt into a spotted look in the kiln. The problem with colored glazes, however, is that you will not know exactly what your pot will look like until after it is fired. The very nature of glazing is mysterious to beginners and may even “ruin” an otherwise well-crafted pot. If you feel uncertain about your color coordinating abilities in the beginning, than you can try some other techniques. The easiest technique is to use red and white clay on the same pot to create a two-toned design. Combine zig-zagged white and red motifs with other geometric shapes, or use floral and vine themes for a softer look. Whatever your choice, combining these two clays will make it unnecessary to glaze your finished piece with a color. All you need is a clear coat of glossy finish and you have a great ceramic creation.
The firing of your piece is actually the most ‘scary’ part of the entire process-anything can happen. If you are not careful in the steps you take to make your pot, there may be air bubbles trapped inside. These air bubbles will cause your piece to explode in the heat of the kiln, destroying it. It is impossible to see the air bubbles, so you must knead your clay thoroughly before using, and pat down the clay you add onto the main whole with careful precision. However, this isn’t the only danger in firing. When you are taking a ceramics class, there will be other students’ ceramics in the same kiln firing as yours. If someone else’s piece explodes in the kiln and a piece of it hits yours, this can also damage your piece. There is no telling what will happen, so you take this risk every time you place it in the kiln for its final firing. But don’t let this faze you, even the best potter’s will have this happen once in a while-it’s just part of the experience. When you see your successful ceramic pieces it will more than make up for the ones you may have lost along the way.
So, if you think pottery sounds like the hobby for you, sign up for a college ceramics class in your city or town. Many times you can find local groups that will teach you the trade for a lower fee than a college course, but either way you’ll have a blast.