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Books, Advice, Where To Start.

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#1 JesterDev



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Posted 28 July 2010 - 04:17 AM

I've been sculpting with air dry clay, and well I would really like to move on to something that allows me more freedom. After reading posts, articles, and watching ton of videos I think
I'm more lost then ever. I really just need to start with the basics because what I have now is a smattering of information but no way to apply it.

Why does one fire? I thought it was to cook the clay, but now I understand that you dry the clay first, then fire it. <-- an example of the basics that I would like to know. :)

I was thinking of building my own kiln but after reading "Homemade Kiln Plans", I was inspired. Firing from a grill??? That thought did cross my mind... Found a few electric kilns
on craigslist that I will attempt to convert to gas powered ($40! Bad cord, so it's perfect!)

Anyway, I'm no longer sure where this post is going, but I had a purpose in mind, I really did. So any advice would be greatly appreciated!

#2 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 07:46 AM

There are many sources of info...forums like this, adult ed. classes, DVDs, magazines. Look around your community for classes. I think you should experience working with clay and firings before you decide to do it on your own. Sculpture can be thick, has special firing needs as in slower firings to avoid blow ups. Ceramic Arts Daily offer videos, explanations. Check You tube videos. If you can afford it, go take a workshop from someone offering those skills you want to learn. Ceramics is such a range of technology that there are no simple answers.
Marcia Selsor, Professor Emerita,Montana State University-Billings

#3 Chris Campbell

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    clay stained since 1988

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 10:05 AM

You are in for a fabulous adventure!
Clay is addictive and there are no limits to what you can do.

The reason we fire the clay is to turn it from a unstable crumbly substance into a
hard permanent ceramic. It becomes an item you can eat from, put in a dishwasher,
leave outside in all weathers or put in a shower to protect walls or to wash your hands in.

We fire to different temperatures depending on the type of clay we are using.
We choose clays for color, texture, workability and end use.
We glaze it and color it.

Don't even think of spending money until you get to the library and check out some books.
Most have sections on clay and pottery and there are lots of good books.

Your towns rec centers might offer clay beginners courses.

The last thing you need to do is to start with the kiln ... You don't even know what you
want to do yet ... It would be a shame to waste all the effort only to find out something
else interests you more.
Chris Campbell Pottery
Contemporary Fine Colored Porcelain


" If a sufficient number of people are different, no one has to be normal "

Fredrick Bachman

#4 ArtView


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Posted 28 July 2010 - 11:56 AM

I agree...clay is super addictive. It sounds like you caught the fever and you are ready to put together a path to acheive your ceramic goals.

I remember reading the intro books....the "Intro's to Pottery" that you find at the bookstore or on here with a discount if you are a member, Robin Hopper's collection was invaluable in learning a design aesthetic, and get the dictonary of pottery terms, the Pottery Making Illustrated, Clay Times, and Ceramics Monthly - back issues or current and read every chance you can. I would read every morning, sometimes the same chapters over and over, before I hit the studio. I would also check-out YouTube videos by doing searches (i.e. faceting, paper clay, handbuilding) and then immediately practice what I saw...over and over. All of this helped while I was studying with every available potter and class and workshop that fit my goal (even though my goal was a generic "learn clay.")

And following the firing process, the drying and the entire process from start to finish will help you. I really think a structured studio will unlock the missing links in your understanding.

Best wishes....it is a fun and creatively-exploding world of clay. The amount of knowledge is neverending...and that is what makes it so, so much fun!
Lee Ann Harrison
Student Board Member - Potters Council

Artview Studio, Inc.
and one last website:

#5 JesterDev



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Posted 29 July 2010 - 12:29 AM

Thanks everyone for the advice. I've wanted to try my hand at sculpture since I was young, but never had the chance. Now, after being a artist (Pastel, watercolor etc) for many years I am finally ready to take the plunge - I want to take my art to the next level. I've actually been watching tons of videos on youtube, and kept avoiding Raku, but turns out that seems the most interesting after seeing some of the results. However, I have looked around and there isn't much in the way of classes in my town. There is an art gallery around every corner, and artists everywhere but few of them know anything other then a canvas.

However, there are sculptures about, so somebody has to know something.

So tomorrow when I finish up at the gallery I'm heading to the library, seems they don't have much from an internet search, but I'm sure I can find something.

Anyway, I got a little ahead of myself. I always jump in head first and never look back. I'll just have to slow down and do some research first.

So I assume self drying clay then, has some sort of property that allows it to become stable without firing. Well at least now I know why one fires the
clay. I guess I'll have to look up the chemical reaction of clay when being fired - I'm just to curious about it and want to know exactly what happens.

#6 Stephen Robison

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 09:46 AM

If you have no experience firing a kiln then I would suggest taking some course work up at a local cc that has a ceramics program.
Head of Ceramics, Central Washington University
Ellensburg WA


CWU offers; BA, BFA, and MFA Degrees, (Post Baccalaureate also available). Images of CWU Ceramics studio can be seen at


#7 Chris Campbell

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 11:14 AM

I am going to recommend this site :


It is all of the clayart discussions sorted by subject.

You might even want to join clayart ... it is a clay listserv with participation from
potters all over the world. There is a quick link on the right side of the PC page.


I recommend getting it in the daily digest if you don't want your mailbox deluged with
100 e-mails a day.
Chris Campbell Pottery
Contemporary Fine Colored Porcelain


" If a sufficient number of people are different, no one has to be normal "

Fredrick Bachman

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