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Chris Campbell

What Pottery "Rules" do you break all the time | Sept. 19, 2011

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Chris Campbell    1,088

Put ten potters in a room and ask about "Rules" for pottery making and you will get a hundred opinions. The Rule one potter lives by, another considers to be totally bogus.

Many of us were taught "Rules" that ended up being merely the teacher's opinion. So, with that in mind here is the question of the week.

 

Which pottery "RULES" do you break all the time?

 

This might also be a great chance to ask about something you think might not be a Rule ... or think should be ... or just sounds like it could be.

 

As always, please reply by using the reply button OUTSIDE of the message. If you hit 'Reply' within the previous message, it quotes that whole message and makes this page longer but with less new content.

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GEP    863

I don't score when I attach two pieces of clay.

 

(Solid attachments require enough moisture in both pieces, and a firm amount of pressure when you stick them together. I've seen potters scoring in ways that make their attachments weaker, obviously doing it in a dogmatic fashion without understanding their material.)

 

Mea

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JLowes    28

1. I'm with Mea, I don't always score and slip. If the pieces being joined are both fresh and the moisture content differential is small, I will wet both, make sure there is some tack and firmly push them together. I occasionally have an issue, but can usually work around it. As I start to work mostly with porcelain, I may have to change I expect.

 

2. Drying slowly. Most of the time, I lack the patience to dry slowly, so I will throw a bit of plastic loosely over a piece or pieces, let that dry overnight, then trim the next day or so, then throw the plastic back over it loosely again and let it dry out as it wants to. I will monitor some things like plates, or tall items or pieces with something hanging off, to see if there is a big difference in drying between the main body and isolated areas.

 

These are my main two.

 

John

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Guest alabamapotter   
Guest alabamapotter

Chris,

What a wonderful question.

 

I make two types of pottery, earthenware, from natural clays and cone 10 stoneware in reduction. They're at each polar end of the spectrum.

The earthenware is always coiled and the stoneware is wheel thrown. The ONLY thing in common is they're clay vessels.

 

For the stoneware, I guess, I'm more Obsessive compulsion, than a rule breaker. Generally, on 95% of the vessels, I wire them off once, and when they're leather hard

I bend the bat to release the pots and immediately palm the bottom. Anything not palmed is soaked in a bucket of water. Anything that is allowed to dry out before

trimming is soaked in the same bucket of water, and made into something else later. I don't trim anything thats bone dry, unless I'm keeping it for myself or dogs.

I pull every handle. And I slip and score every handle. If anything dries out before a handle can be added is soaked back down. (Theres been days where everything

thrown in a given period was soaked back down.) All vessels are trimmed right side up, without a Giffin Grip. Most do not receive a foot ring.... but if they require one, then I trim from the near edge to a level point in the palmed area, (5 secs most of the time) About 99% of my vessels are trimmed so they can be held upside down for dipping in a 5 or 20 gallon

bucket of glaze. Ninty nine percent are dipped by hand and not tongs. I have no abstract thoughts and so most of the vessels are made from examples in books or hand sketched.

Even after 22 years, anything made without looking at an example is usually soaked back down.

 

Now for the major rule breakers I submit the natural clay earthenware pottery. When I dig clay, I use it immediately or allow it to dry out in uncovered buckets.

I don't sieve it... A primary source of clay doesn't need cleaning, a secondary source is the type where there is rocks and roots. I just add enough sand and gravel. I know how much is in there when I slice it with a wire tool and examine the surface. The vessel being made determines how much and the size of sand. One rule I break, is determining when I fire the

vessel. I fire them on a need to have basis. If I need one soon, I fire it immediately after the steam evaporates and its bone dry. If I'm demonstrating in a few weeks, then they're allowed to dry out. Even though its called pit fired pottery, there isn't a pit. That could be considered a rule breaker. Digging a pit for greenware should increase the failure rate from about 25% to 100%. And of course you'll always have that partial spall from the part of the vessel closest to the ground. I fire greenware in all kinds of weather exept pouring rain.

A light rain is ok since it evaporates on the greenware before soaking in. I can tell the temperature of the vessel from appearances on the surface, so guess work is nominal.

I know what the vessel is going to look like before its made,, and that eliminates any guess work or disappointments. In the beginning, I didn't know I was breaking any rules for

almost 2 years... That's when I was talking to others who were saying, "Hey, you can't fire pottery without a pit, in the wind, whenever you want, etc."

But I learned more than usual by breaking all the rules.... its what I learned from along with reading everything I could find in countries that made traditional fired pottery.

See you later.

Alabama Potter

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Lucille Oka    16

After 37 years I have developed my 'own ways' not 'rules' of doing things. I change 'the way' I do something when the process or technique doesn't work for the project. I will try something else or put the project on hold while I muddle through it. I try to always have alternative methods of construction to 'get the pot' so to speak.

 

 

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Chris Campbell    1,088

I was taught that the RULES of firing clay was to bisque at 04 then fire to maturity ... No options, everything must be bisque fired. You could never switch to 06 or 08 ... Don't even dream of once firing ... I guess the known world would end.

Now I know that you can fire in the order that suits your work as often or as little as you need to get the results you want ... But those in between years when I believed this Rule was valid were filled with many failures that did not have to be.

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azjoe    3

Wow... there are so many... I never wedge 100 times, score/slip every joint, brush three coats of glaze, mix anything to the consistency of cream, compress every bottom and rim, etc.

 

Over the years I've heard so many "rules" about so many things. Even when they make logical sense, I've never taken these "rules" to be strict mandates. To me, they're just guidance... an "if the show fits wear it" type of thing. As we gain experience most of us just seem to know, for example, whether we need to score and slip based on what we're doing and the condition of clay. OTOH, some "rules" do seem to be almost universal... captive air pockets are, in fact, usually a bad thing.:P

 

If one never violates the "rules", how can one ever "push the envelope" to achieve something unique and special. My father had some sayings I pretty much live by when potting...

 

  1. "can't never did anything",
  2. "sometimes accidents are intentional", and
  3. "sometimes you win, sometimes you lose... and sometimes, you're rained out".

 

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Idaho Potter    62

Really? There are rules? I've always treated stuff mentioned above as "suggestions". Maybe because I spent the first twenty years of being a potter in (more or less) isolation, I just kept making and firing. If something didn't work, I'd try again, and again until it did work or put the project aside until something clicked in my brain. If there are rules, I'm probably breaking them daily, but what the heck! I'll keep reading and following these forums (many different takes on many different subjects by many different potters) and making and firing.

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Pres    896

Put ten potters in a room and ask about "Rules" for pottery making and you will get a hundred opinions. The Rule one potter lives by, another considers to be totally bogus.

Many of us were taught "Rules" that ended up being merely the teacher's opinion. So, with that in mind here is the question of the week.

 

Which pottery "RULES" do you break all the time?

 

This might also be a great chance to ask about something you think might not be a Rule ... or think should be ... or just sounds like it could be.

 

As always, please reply by using the reply button OUTSIDE of the message. If you hit 'Reply' within the previous message, it quotes that whole message and makes this page longer but with less new content.

 

 

Thought provoking, but I would have to agree-What rules? On the other hand, I have noticed that a lot of people love a lot of water when throwing. I am quite opposite, and use very little after centered and opened up. I also bisque to 06, I use magic water instead of slip, I water smoke for 4 hrs instead of 2, I guess I could go on and on, but those are all part of my luck in working-it works for me.

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Marcia Selsor    1,301

maybe not a rule so much but I have repaired bisqued pieces with paper clay and re-bisqued them. I have done this for students "prized" work where they picked up a piece by the handle and on my own sculptural pieces.

I tried it and it worked.

 

Marcia

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OffCenter    82

I almost never set a pot aside to dry so that it can be trimmed or parts added later. I like to follow the pot (even pots with lots of parts like a teapot) all the way from ball of clay to finished pot without stopping. For me, it destroys the spontaneity of the pot to stop work on it and come back later.

 

Jim

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phill    17

i used to think you had to have pots completely dry to bisque them. however, after working with steve rolf for a while, i noticed he puts in VERY wet pieces (as in just thrown that day) in his gas kiln (thats the key btw) and bisques them just fine in there, no cracks. he says the key is air movement...electric kilns have no good air movement that allows this. i think he may candle for a half day too.

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OffCenter    82

i used to think you had to have pots completely dry to bisque them. however, after working with steve rolf for a while, i noticed he puts in VERY wet pieces (as in just thrown that day) in his gas kiln (thats the key btw) and bisques them just fine in there, no cracks. he says the key is air movement...electric kilns have no good air movement that allows this. i think he may candle for a half day too.

 

 

Interesting point about air movement in a gas kiln. Obviously, that would speed up the drying process a lot, but he's just drying the pots in the kiln before taking the temp up instead of letting them dry in the studio. Could do the same thing in an electric kiln (without the air movement) if you candled twice as long. (BTW, I'm not trying to be argumentative here. I think your post is very interesting and just wanted to comment.)

 

Jim

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Denice    243

Put ten potters in a room and ask about "Rules" for pottery making and you will get a hundred opinions. The Rule one potter lives by, another considers to be totally bogus.

Many of us were taught "Rules" that ended up being merely the teacher's opinion. So, with that in mind here is the question of the week.

 

Which pottery "RULES" do you break all the time?

 

This might also be a great chance to ask about something you think might not be a Rule ... or think should be ... or just sounds like it could be.

 

As always, please reply by using the reply button OUTSIDE of the message. If you hit 'Reply' within the previous message, it quotes that whole message and makes this page longer but with less new content.

 

Great question! I had forgotten that there was rules, now thanks to members answers my memory has been reprogrammed. Denice

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azjoe    3

i used to think you had to have pots completely dry to bisque them.

 

 

As offcenter said, it's just drying. Accelerated drying can work successfully for "pots" which are relatively uniform in cross section and moisture content. Whether it's in the kiln, in the kiln room, outdoors, etc. makes little difference provided you can control the rate of drying so the moisture gradient between the interior and exterior is small enough so that the shrinkage difference doesn't cause cracks. That's relatively controllable for the production potter who often has an entire kiln load of relatively similar thickness plates, bowls, cups, etc. It might not be as easy, however, when your kiln load consists of a varied lot of hand-built pieces, items with odd thickness as appended decorations, some sculptural pieces, etc. Most of us have mastered how to dry varied pieces successfully... some go under loose plastic, some under tightly wrapped plastic, some get thin appendages sprayed and rewrapped for weeks until the moisture content evens out, etc. Here in Arizona, it's often more of a chore to slow the drying process, not accelerate it... especially when it's 115 outdoors or the relative humidity has dropped to 4%. Personally, I don't use the kiln to force dry unless I'm really really pressed for time... and then only if the pieces are almost dry. I do, however, put pieces on shelves in the kiln room to accelerate their drying when I think they can take it... may as well put the heat that escapes the kilns to some use.

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PuraVida    2

The rule that I have the most trouble following is probably , as is the case this week, speed drying I currently have 3 fans on my green ware that I am hoping to bisque asap for a festival this Saturday. I find that I am always breaking "rules" some times I win some times not so much but either way I learn from it all so it cant be that bad I have a graveyard of pieces that were rule breakers that did not work out. But how satisfying it is when you intentionally break the rules and it all works out fine. So to all the clay rebels out there I say keep on breaking them you never know what you'll discover.

 

Anthony

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JBaymore    1,432

One "rule" that I seem to break all the time is that, as a teacher, I don't teach students that there ARE rules. wink.gif

 

There are many ways to accomplish a given task. If you understand what is BEHIND the ways that people work to obtain their successes, then you can invent your own ways and/or evalaute others approaches.

 

It is like the old, "Give a person a fish and they eat for a day. Teach a person HOW to fish, and they eat for a lifetime."

 

If you understand what bisque firing is trying to accomplish, you can create appropriate approaches to firing your work.

 

If you understand how and why various raw materials work in a glaze, then you can adjust or formulate glazes.

 

If you understand how clay dries, then you can use a kiln like ceramic industry uses dryer units.

 

If you understand how water flows along clay and glaze surfaces, you can work toward making a decent spout.

 

And so on.

 

best,

 

...............john

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Mark C.    1,807

For me there are no rules-Those are subjects taught in schools which later in life prove to be wrong

I'll use a few examples that i learned in school and are bogus

Apply wax with a brush

real life-use a cut sponge its 100 times faster

cannot bisque the same day its made

real life -throw trim put in sun to dry- fire porcelain same day for more years than i can recall-especially small bowls or small pots without handles

Forgot to put cones in glaze fire-must turn off kiln cool and start over

nonsense-you can introduce cones via the larger spy plug with a steel rod and plate-the trick is slowly over time so as not to blow them up-I pre dry all cone pads all the time anyway.

Rules are for things other than clay

Mark

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SShirley    9

I do not wedge anymore. Use it straight from the bag after slapping it around a little -dropping the bag on the floor a few times - to wake it up. My wrists are bad enough already.

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