Your opinion might be different, but I really do think that (mini) pottery is Art as well. Let me tell you all about it in my newest blog post of this week.
But First: What Is Pottery?
Pottery is an art form where crockery is made by ceramists. It actually is baked clay and that is why we call it ceramic. The objects made can be pots, but also bowls, cups, etc. The word “ceramic” comes from the Greek word ‘Keramos’, which means drinking vessel or earthenware vessel.
Originally, the word was referring to objects made of baked clay. Therefore, traditionally, ceramics are based on clay (or silicates). They are made from a large variety of clays, various additives, and all kinds of processes (different temperatures of the oven for example).
Now a potter or ceramist is someone who makes ceramics from clay that has been shaped on a pottery wheel.
Artisanal Ceramics: More Than Meets The Eye.
As the title of this article said: miniature pottery is Art as well. So it takes some time to make.
Crafting ceramics, like other crafts, are making a comeback, especially during a Covid19 epidemic. There is a growing interest in the work of people with a passion for the materials, learning for the old techniques, and the stories behind them. It is a great thing that the tradition is kept alive by modern artisans and their customers.
So, the traditional process is being appreciated, but what people don’t seem to realize that it is also very labor-intensive. Most customers realize this, but not everybody does….
Some people are surprised when they see the prices of ceramics when they see somebody spinning pots on a pottery wheel and ask: ” how can you ask so much money for work that is going so fast?”
But turning the clay on the wheel is only a small part of the whole process. According to ceramic artists, it is only a fifth of the total work! So what are they doing the rest of the time?
The 3 parts of the job!
1. The ceramics process.
– Develop designs / get ideas
– Make and test the glaze
– Shaping the clay: kneading and twisting
– Turning and finishing the shape (cutting it out)
– The first firing (biscuit)
– Glazing / decorating
– The second firing (end product)
2. The workshop process.
The first thing you need to know when working with clay is that things can get messy, so you need to keep your working space clean. In my opinion, that means:
– clean up regularly
– Maintenance tools and equipment
– Inventory management
3. Administration process.
Last but not least is the administrative part of the job. By this I mean anything that is not directly related to the production of the artwork.
– social media
– sales (Etsy)
– registry and taxes
So stop for a while and think about all the time and energy that these artists put into their work!
More into depth.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the process itself in 9 steps. This goes as well for our miniature pottery off course!
1. Think about what kind of pottery that you want to make: functional or non-functional.
If you want to make a decorative piece, then making it by hand is probably the way to go. A bowl however is best made with the help of a potter’s wheel.
2. What is the purpose, size, shape, and color of the object you want to make? Decide on that first.
Think carefully about the type of object you want to make. If you want to make small objects like miniatures, beads, and animals, they are a good start. The possibilities regarding vases, plates, pans, crockery, and wall decorations are basically endless.
3. Once you have decided on what to make, you can then choose the type of clay.
In the pottery class, all kinds of clays are being used, but as we are making small objects, the easiest one is to use Polymer clay, because it doesn’t need to be heated in a special pottery oven, just in your regular oven at home!
Real size clay objects are often pre-baked at 500-600 °C to prevent any cracks. After that, simple objects are then baked at 900°C and objects used every day in the household at 1000-1300 °C. So that would need a real pottery oven.
4. Decide on the method that works best for the objects you want to make.
There are a few methods you can choose from :
– use a pottery turntable or potter’s wheel: ideal if you want to make symmetrical and round objects. Be aware that although this method is suitable for both small and large projects, in the beginning, mistakes are easily made and then the reshaping of the clay can be difficult.
– If you want to make other small things from clay then pottery: Crafting by hand is the most suited. The process is quite simple: start with a small piece of clay that you can mold in the palms of your hand, using pressure and heat. Use a cloth to wipe the surface smooth.
– Build the project up with clay rolls. This should work the best with hollow or asymmetrical objects. There are interesting textures or patterns to create by building up layers of clay rolls and bonding them together. ( I made the ‘salad’ in the vegetable garden of my backyard shed in that way ) . You attach them by sliding over the clay rolls so that they form a mass.
If I remember correctly, I used this video from Angie Scar.
– This works best with flat objects: put slides of clay on a flat surface. As it dries, it shrinks on the surface but keeps its shape.
5. Just improvise with clay.
It all depends on you and your level of pottery. If you have a potter’s wheel: great, and go ahead. If you don’t, you can try it all out as described in the previous points.
If you are totally new to this, you can always follow a workshop or watch some videos on Youtube. But remember that it is an art that requires skill, more than you realize.
6. You could put the pottery in an electric potter’s oven.
Set the temperature at 850° C for 12 hours to bake unglazed pottery aka ‘biscuit’. This first heating removes water and chemicals from the clay so that the project can be glazed without breaking. (source)
Let the oven cool off and remove the pottery from it 48 hours after it has completely cooled off.
7. Glaze your objects.
Keep in mind that the glaze will start to spread out. If you are aiming for precise work, then it would be a good idea to paint the object first with underglaze paint and only then cover it with a transparent one.
The surface is not completely smooth? Then use sandpaper to smooth it out. After that, clean the object with a sponge, so that all the dust is gone. Only then the glaze can stick well enough to the surface.
Glazing can be done in different ways. You can completely baptize it, paint it, work with a sponge, etc. You can buy them in liquids or dry. True professionals even make their own.
8. Check the bottom of your object.
Your object could have been in a bad position on the bottom of the oven. Always smooth out the bottom beforehand. You can check it out by placing it on a table or shelf before baking. If it doesn’t wobble anymore, you can continue to bake it.
9. Heat the objects again to melt the glaze and make your object water-resistant.
Depending on the type of clay, the size of the object, and the type of glaze, you need a potter’s kiln that can reach 1150 ° C.
At night, the pottery kiln is preheated to a very low temperature. Leave it on a low temperature for 2 hours, do not increase the heat to more than 100° C per hour. After that, it takes 2 hours on a medium temperature, do not increase over more than 150°C every hour. Until the desired temperature has been reached.
There you go, admire your work! And of course, as I said before, in the miniature world a few of these steps are skipped!
How much does a good (mini) pottery wheel cost?
I will surely make reviews on the different mini pottery wheels, later on, so keep an eye on my site! But expect it to be around $200-$250 at the least. Plus for miniatures, you would need a kit to go with it as well.
Know that there are cheaper ones on the market and even suitable for kids, but that will have an impact on the quality and durability in my opinion.
UPDATE: found some cheaper ones here. Let me know how that worked out for you!
Is it easy to make pottery from clay and a pottery wheel?
I am not going to lie. When I read people’s stories, pottery baking isn’t an easy 1-2-3 thing to do! But it seems such a satisfactory thing to do that you move to a higher level rather quickly and because pottery is art for sure!
It goes something like this in a nutshell:
– Put a kneaded lump of clay onto the disc of the pottery wheel and center it. I read that it’s easier said than done 🙂
– The ball of clay is then flattened and water is poured over it. You need to think about speed, pressure, starting position, breathing, stress, and how you place your fingers.
– The disk is put on full speed and then you can make a wall with your hands to gently lift the clay. Then you need to make a ‘cup’ with your hands and press the clay back and a little bit down again. It is only when the clay wobbles no longer between our hands and when the clay is nicely centered, that you can start making an opening.
– Hold back the clay and apply extra pressure in the middle to find the right depth. Open the bottom further until you find the right size. Reduce the speed a bit and start the most difficult part: a number of ‘pull-ups’ to the right height and shape of our little pot.
– A lot of water is used because you can’t let the clay run dry! If you tend to forget once in a while and you turn the wheel to full speed, the water splashes around a lot, so that’s why it is better to put on old clothes 😉
Check out this other Youtube video :
Learning how to use a pottery wheel is like learning how to ride a bicycle. In the beginning, it is very difficult but after a while it becomes automatic and you just do it without thinking about it.
And remember: (miniature) pottery is Art as well, always! I bet you will feel like one very soon 🙂
Do you have any questions about this article, then please leave a comment below or join my Facebook group on miniatures (share whatever you like to share there please!).
I wish you happy crafting!