Making clay pottery

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hands shaping a clay pot
Create and display your own unique clay artwork
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Make your own home decor with clay pottery accessories

Imagine taking a ball or slab of clay and slowly shaping it with your hands into a one-of-a-kind work of art. Your hands would work the clay until pliable enough to start forming the final ceramic piece that you envision. As with sculpting, there is no limit to your imagination! Whether it be earthenware sundials or porcelain tableware, making  pottery with sculpting clay brings a sense of satisfaction and fills your home with unique decor.

Making clay pottery is one of the oldest art forms known in human history and is still a vibrant industry today. Depending on your desired outcome, there are three major pottery types in use today.  

Earthenware - is fired in the kiln at lower temperatures and is not watertight. Earthenware must be glazed to ensure the pottery is waterproof. Typically used for tableware and decorative pieces, it is the most cost efficient of the three potteries. The clay is also pliable and easy to work with.

Stoneware - literally means man-made stone. Durable and strong, stoneware is fired at higher kiln temperatures than earthenware.

Porcelain - has many more uses than one might think. Not only is the finer china made of porcelain, but fine art pieces as well. Because porcelain is fired at the highest temperature and is extremely strong and versatile, it is used for more than just decorative ceramic ware. Porcelain is found in insulators for electricity and in dental offices. Porcelain crowns anyone?

How it all starts...

Making clay pottery starts with a clay ball, clay slab or coils of clay. (Coils may be easier to work with). You can work additives into the clay at this point to give added texture or color variations to the clay before the pottery is fired in the kiln. Working the clay with your hands not only makes it soft and pliable, but also removes excess air. Once this is complete than the clay is ready to take shape.

You can create your pottery pieces in a few different ways. I have already mentioned that clay can be formed by hand, which is the potters main tool throughout the process. Many potters find that shaping clay by hand gives them a high degree of control over the desired outcome of the piece. Once the pottery air drys it is ready to be fired in the kiln. For individuals or schools without kilns, there are self-hardening clays that can also be used. Left to air dry, these self-hardening clays will also provide excellent results.

The potter's wheel is the second method to forming your clay into pottery. A ball of clay is placed in the middle of the turntable and as it rotates, the potter begins to hollow out the clay, pull it outwards and upwards to the height of the pot desired. This method is quicker than by hand for making clay pottery. 
Glazes are the finishing touch. They add a glassy shine and make your pottery pieces waterproof. Glazes can be applied to the pottery by using a powdered dust, spraying, dipping or brushing. Glazes can let you get as creative as you want for your finished ceramic ware.

Pottery is an expression of your imagination. You can create functional tableware pieces or design decor accessories for your home or outside patio area. And it all starts with a simple, earth-friendly material - clay.

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