Potential investment of pottery supplies

Finding a good art supplier takes a lot of research. Prices can look quite reasonable online but once you’ve spent a good hour or so navigating a website, creating a cart of potential purchases, the freight charges can change the investment from a creative hobby to a financial risk pretty fast.

It felt like Christmas the day my first order of clay and glazes arrived from Decopots. A momentous day.

I had decided on 20 bags of clay. 10 wood brown stoneware and 10 cream stoneware. Both great for sculptural and wheel work. If you commit to 20 bags the price is reduced. I topped up the pallet with a couple of glazes and a brush, making the most of the freight charges.

Now that we have relocated to Whanganui, I am only an hour away from Palmerston North, the home of Decopots. While my mother (also a potter) was visiting, we thought it would be fun to have a little shop.

What I didn’t realise was that they aren’t open to the public, however they kindly showed us around their factory. This was such a treat. A behind the scenes experience.

We watched as clay was pressed through a rather large industrial pugmill.

We watched as ceramic blanks were reproduced in moulds and set to dry on shelves before heading to the kiln for firing.

Although we left empty handed, we would soon be putting our orders in.

Testing the kiln

Studio, clay and a kiln, it was time to get creating. I set to work making Christmas ornaments in star, fish and heart shapes. After a week of drying, I was ready for my first fire. Unfortunately the kiln’s automatic cone firing schedules did not work, and instead of stopping at 1040oC for a bisque fire, the kiln when all the way to it’s top temperature of 1280oC. This meant my ornaments could not have a second firing with glaze applied.

It took a couple of firings for me to realise that I was going to have to find schedules for bisque and glaze firing of stoneware clay and to enter the program manually.

With the firing under control I could now start testing my glazes. Having my own kiln gave me the freedom to experiment without fear of failure.

A studio is born

So that our house functioned better for our rather large family, we decided to put a kitchen in our lounge (much to the disgust of an electrician who had come to quote the job)

The existing kitchen, complete with groovy Formica bench top and pale blue cupboards was located at the other end of the L shape building. This meant there was quite a hike from the dining table to the dishwasher.

We plumbed in the dishwasher and set up a trestle table as a make shift kitchen, while we went about searching for an affordable yet attractive kitset kitchen.

I stumbled upon Kitset Kitchen, a local kitchen manufacturer, who offer a huge range of cabinets, handles and bench tops. They can also install the kitset if required. The layout was easy to decide on, with plenty of options. The only down fall would be the sample size. When my bench arrived I was shocked to see white ‘quartz’ streaks through the grey laminate. These lines weren’t evident on the small card given to compare styles.

And a follow up call would have been nice.

The old kitchen was carpeted, painted and converted into our daughters bedroom and the old cabinets were moved out to the garage, creating a studio for all my creative efforts.

Lulus Studio
whanganui wanganui open studio okoia artist art AOS lulu

 

Throwing a Clay Bowl

I am inspired by creative people. I love finding one of these gems. The best ones go about their day, working their completely unrelated job, itching to get home so that they can dabble. If you are a creative person, you will know, it’s just so important to find time to unleash this need. Whether it makes you money, or costs you money, it’s benefits are rewarding.

My mother, Julia, is one of those gems.

She has recently reignited her passion for the wheel.

These creative tendencies are often very private and quiet, almost meditative for the artist. However, with their cover blown, they are often very animated and expressive when sharing their passion with a fellow dabbler of art. These people are often extremely humble and modest, and are wonderful people to know and to be around.

My mother shared with me her talent. Making a bowl on a potters wheel from clay.

Throwing a clay bowl
The clay is placed in the centre of the bat
Throwing a clay bowl
The wheel spins slowly while she gets the clay into position, and creates a cone like shape. She presses down in the centre with her thumbs to form a well.
Throwing a clay bowl
She slowly brings the clay out and up to form desired bowl size and thickness
Throwing a clay bowl
Water is keep nearby to keep her hands and the bowl damp.

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Throwing a clay bowl
Using a wire she trims and evens the edge of the bowl, which is removed.

Throwing a clay bowl

Throwing a clay bowl
She gently pinched the bowls edge to form a tidy rounded lip

Throwing a clay bowl

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Throwing a clay bowl
She runs a damp sponge along the inside and the outside of the spinning bowl to get a smooth finish
Throwing a clay bowl
With the wheel stopped, she runs a wire underneath the bowl to remove it from the bat

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She leaves the bowl over night to dry a little.

Then she places it upside down on the wheel to trim the and shape the outside of the  bowl and its base.

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The clay is put into a kiln twice. It is first biscuit fired at 800 C, then a glaze is applied and it is baked again, at over 1000 C.

Julia is a member of the local pottery club where she has access to a kiln, glazing and most importantly, other amazing creative potters!

She works from her studio in Whangapoua. Her bowls can be found at Luke’s Kitchen in Kuaotunu, on the Coromandel Pennisula and via her website juliapots.