David Voorhees is a professional potter from North Carolina who works with porcelain. He presents an online workshop (Porcelain tips for wheel pottery) at TeachinArt online school of art and demonstrates in the e-course how to do spiral wedging.
For those of you who do not know what wedging is in clay terms, it is to remove all air bubbles or air pockets from the clay. Any air trapped in the clay, makes the centering of the clay on a potters wheel so much more difficult and if an air pocket is trapped inside clay and you fire it in the kiln, it can explode. Wedging helps to spread moisture evenly throughout the clay which helps with easier centering on the wheel. Even if you do not use a potter's wheel and only work with hand building, then wedging is just as important. Many potters have experienced the shock when they opened the electric kiln and see that one of their pots (with air trapped air inside) exploded and messed up all the surrounding pots.
The spiral wedging technique is handy when you have to wedge or knead large clay batches. It is also called the Japanese wedging or kneading. Some potters only use the spiral method. We will post later other wedging techniques.
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Centering of clay on the wheel is one of the most crucial parts of wheel throwing. This is the time to get the clay particles in the right place and to build on to the wedged clay process. If the clay is not centered correctly, then the pulling-up of the walls becomes a nightmare.
There are some potters who do not know that you can set the wheel to spin clockwise or anti-clockwise. Right handed potters should let the wheel spin anti-clockwise and left-handed throwers should switch the direction of the wheel head to a clockwise motion.
Throwing on the wheel is easier if you use technique instead of force. It is easier to get your arm locked on your upper leg and let you leg do the pushing and steadying instead of just your arms.
This is a video clip from the Understanding Porcelain e-course by Antoinette Badenhorst. TeachinArt brings ceramic workshops into the studio of potters around the world, and is the bridge between college students and hobby potters.
Other interesting links on our online school website:
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Mark Goudy was named the Emerging Artist in Ceramics Monthly magazine of May 2010. He completed two online classes at TeachinArt, Porcelain handbuilding with Antoinette Badenhorst, and Colored Clay with Curtis Benzle.
His work was selected for collections in
My formal education lies mostly in science and engineering: a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Oregon, and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from California State University in San Jose. I did take various art classes along the way, but it wasn't until much later in life that I even thought about pursuing a career in ceramics. My interest in music and my hobby of building electronic music synthesizers propelled me into the study of electrical engineering in my late 20s. I ended up working for twenty years as a logic design engineer in the computer graphics industry (including Pixar, Silicon Graphics, nVidia.)
After my mother passed away in 2004, my wife Liza had the idea for us to take a raku class at a local Bay Area adult school, an homage to my mother's creative spirit. Following a twenty-year career working as an engineer in the virtual world of computer chip design, I found the process of clay work to be a cathartic experience - resonating at some deep unconscious level.
The physical nature of handbuilding unique pieces from this plastic medium was immediately satisfying. Soon I was applying my analytical and problem-solving skills to the multivariate issues that surfaced in the clay studio, and exercising my right brain to construct forms in a totally intuitive way.
My approach to ceramics stems from the intersection of my love of the geometries of nature and abstract minimalist art. My mission as an artist is first to create a coherent visual language, and then learn to speak in that language. For me, certain forms evoke a sense of quiet stillness and mystery, and exist in a dimension apart from language. I don't fully understand it.
My current process is to handbuild ceramic forms, joining sections of curved parabolic surfaces that I create using purpose-built plaster hump molds. After a series of scraping, paddling, and shaping transformations, the models are bisque fired and used to make multipart plaster molds. The final works are slipcast, using various clay bodies that I have created.
I see slipcasting as a way to translate one clay body, which is optimized for building, into another clay body with different properties - of lightness or translucency for instance.
Sometimes I burnish earthenware forms to impart a smooth surface with a subtle grain pattern. For other works, there is a lot of wet-sanding to refine and even out the surface. I use no glazes in my work. Instead I have developed techniques for adding color and pattern through the use of metal salts, following the lead of renowned Norwegian ceramic artist Arne Åse. These compounds are the water-soluble form of the same metals used to color traditional ceramic glazes. After painting on, they soak into the bisque-fired clay, interact with each other, and become a permanent part of the surface after firing. All my work so far is low-fired, at cone 01 or below.
Many thanks to Antoinette Badenhorst and her e-course on Porcelain handbuilding to help me understand the unique qualities of this beautiful material.
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John Shirley is a ceramic artist from South Africa, who was selected as a member of the International Academy of Ceramics in 2010. Here is John in his own words.
The body has a high shrinkage and a tendency to warp in the firing and although I have tried several ways to stabilize the body in the firing with various setters, I now accept the gentle warping produced by the firing as a part of the process.
Choosing to work with bone china for my work is I feel something that has worked really well for me and the work I produce with this body is quite different to any work I would have produced using the porcelain body I was using before.
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Potters can prevent most of the S-cracks in their work if they follow her advice and tips.
Understanding porcelain online class with Antoinette Badenhorst
Porcelain handbuilding with Antoinette Badenhorst
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TeachinArt is an online art school with professional artists as instructors who educate, enridge and promote art.