Pres -good lord I have a Bernard Leach book first published in 1940 and I didn't make the connection that Simon was in the family chain, I thought it was just a coincidence. Also I thought he was Australian.
I consider myself an oil painter and I've done quite a lot of it, however my main talent probably lies in drawing. At one time I was successful enough as a botanical watercolorist to trade them to my dentist in lieu of paying my bill. Also I've written a few unpublished short stories, design houses and gardens strictly as a hobby, and have gotten rather good at landscape photography merely as an adjunct to building a file of things to paint. My artistic interest tends toward science fiction and using my experiences and imagination to depict the future in various artistic media. Also, at the moment I'm focused on art jewelry with strong post-apocalyptic themes, using "permanent" materials including pottery.
I like Magnolia's ideas, they are probably a lot easier than what I've been doing:
I'm a more or less beginner doing small work like you are dAO, and on a steep learning curve. So far I have only used wax resist, usually painted in the hole as you described. I've had issues getting too much wax resist around the outside of the hole which is not the look I want. From what I've read on the forums the only way to get wax resist off clay is to bisque fire it again. Since I don't have a kiln of my own yet this is a big problem for me. Recently, I had to use a plastic knife to carve the dry wax resist off the threads of the jar to get the jar open. I had the idea to roll the dry wax into little plugs and insert them into the jewelry holes. This stuff really stinks in a chemical way, so I'd wear gloves. anyway I left the plugs in, but you could probably push it out and it would leave enough wax to resist the glaze easily. The dryish wax was easier to handle this way, and I like the idea of reusing as much of it as possible.
I'm thinking about trying little paper pulp plugs, maybe coated or mixed with a little wax or white glue? They should just dry out quickly and shrink, and burn out quickly, but so far untested idea.
The only thing worse than putting clay down your drains is maybe aquarium gravel. Don't ask how I know. But clay pretty much immediately forms a sediment that builds quickly with each little bit that goes down the pipes. You don't want to have to replace those pipes, from what I understand they can't really be cleaned out with any standard plumbing equipment because the sediment gets rock hard.
You and I may have one idea about a piece of ceramic, while trust me, the oil painters in the gallery/art school/art faire may have another. (Personally, if it's non-utilitarian IMO it's art. But some utilitarian work is so artistic it crosses the line into Art as well. Also, it's a bit like defining God, I feel a bit full of myself just trying. Your opinion may differ.)
Is there a genre of ceramics that you hate?
Hopefully no one will get offended. You'll notice I didn't give an opinion.
Do you tend to end up using the same general color schemes in your glaze work intentionally or unintentionally? (I do. It's various whites over dark clays, usually with the speckles coming through.)
(I'm sure I can come up with a few more questions of the noobish sort, just can't think of them right now.)
I know I've mentioned my obsession with my workbench before but, seriously, I can wedge clay right on it's thick masonite surface and clean it up with water and never have to use a cloth unless I want to. Also it's just the right size to fit in my one room house, meaning not too wide but just wide enough to wedge clay and keep a row of tools in jars at the back, and long, and has storage underneath, for about $80 bucks:
The only drawback is it's a little wobbly when wedging clay, but a few blocks stored on the shelf underneath fixes that, as would firmly attaching the legs to the shelf instead of leaving them loose as they are meant to fold up.
Other than that, I use both standard wooden tools for shaping clay and a few metal ones. I punch holes in my jewelry pieces a lot, and to do that I've collected drinking straws of various sizes and things to pop the clay out of them after making the hole, mainly bamboo skewers, toothpicks and thin round wood dowels.
Also a relative newbie but I believe this may be an issue called "Short" clay, which is a condition of the clay when it has gotten a little dry, upon reworking it hasn't properly absorbed water into it's structure. Even though it may be almost entirely pure Kaolin it can still happen, in fact I'm trying to work with some white porcelain I bought recently and it tends to get "short" worse than any other clay I've used yet. It's fine right out of the bag but when trying to reuse the scraps, even though it seems fairly wet, it cracks and fusses. Folks with more experience may know further solutions, but the only one I know of is to let the clay sit bathed in a little (not much) water for about 24 hours. To do this, put the block of clay in a bucket. Poke holes about 1" apart right through the block with a long knitting needle while it's still in the bag, don't puncture the bag if you can avoid it, and pour in about a cup to a cup and a half of water for a whole block. Pour it over the holes. Hold the top of the bag closed, and fill it with water so the water covers the top of the block but doesn't get inside the bag. The water on the outside squeezes all the air out of the inside of the bag and clay. let It sit about 24 hours.
If you want to see videos of this there are a handful on Youtube, it's where I learned it and it works really well. Some poke holes, some don't. I like this one from Simon Leach:
There is a steady market for pottery utensils if that's what you're really into. Just make sure you're really into it because it's a serious artisan-craft just like woodworking or metalworking, and should make you happy while doing it, at least some of the time, or you won't have the patience and determination to learn it successfully.
FYI I'm also basically a newbie and largely self-taught hand builder. I'm not trying to brag but I've found making simple vessels doable right from the start using coils and rolled slabs and slump molds (now I know what all those plastic containers at the Dollar Tree are really for.
It can be both as simple and as complicated as you want to make it. I try my hand at sculpture, I also make marbles, etc.
Youtube, Youtube, Youtube. There is nothing like seeing it being done even if the info is spotty at times. It's also encouraging to realize there are other people actually doing this for a living with your own eyes. For what you can't find on Youtube, -browser searches. You'll simply have to make time to do your research. I have a few old books but use them infrequently. Instead I make notes from internet research and reference my note collection a lot.
Discover your limitations whatever they are and work within them until you can do better over time.
For example some of mine are space: don't have any; so I bought a substantial workbench and focus my ceramics around it. The bench and supplies are in my face every day and there is no simple way to avoid it.
Here's a List of the things needed if I was only making plates and vessels:
Place to work: A sturdy heavy flat surface with a large enough area to roll out clay and keep tools nearby. Mine is usually a mess while I work. It has some storage underneath.
Place to dry and store your unfired work. I have a large metal rack from home depot.
Place to keep your clay, glaze, and miscellany. I keep some under my work bench and the rest in two deep-shelved waist-high bookcases.
Place to fire your work. You'll want to visit the place, ask some questions, and make sure you can work with the people running it. Or- buy your own kiln and learn how to use it.
Clay: You probably want a mid-range (cone 6) pale clay that has a little grog in it. I use a clay called BC 6 a lot, it's available online. It fires off-white and works easily. Nice backdrop for glazes. Some version of it should be easy to find and not expensive.
Place to store both your bisque-fired, glazed, and finished work.
Rolling pin, the typical heavy hardwood type for making pies.
A 'classroom' set of wooden clay tools. You can reference this online and see pictures of what they look like easier than I can list them. Wood tools are easier to work with for the most part for most things especially in the beginning.
A sturdy metal needle tool.
A wire tool/cutter.
A piece of cotton duck/canvas -same thing as denim used for heavy duty jeans like Levi's. To roll your clay out on. (Honestly I just use my bench surface but I got lucky, it's nicely thick masonite and works great for clay, and I just keep forgetting to buy the damn canvas
A big cheap sponge for cleaning your work area, smaller sponges for smoothing leather-hard clay and dry clay.
Plastic buckets, I have some of those and also some plastic wastebaskets. Also I have a few plastic basins that I put in the sink to wash my hands in. DO NOT let clay go down your drains.
Dust mask for sanding dry clay or if your work area is dusty.
There is surely more but it's hard to figure out what you need until you start working, there are a few 'standard' tools I bought that I hardly ever use, others I had to make myself that I use constantly.
Chris probably made all of the major points, but just another voice in the din.....
I have used paperclay for bust sculpture. My first bust took me months to complete and simply would not have been possible with regular clay - clay here can dry up very quickly. Paperclay re-wets easily with no side effects. I fired that bust in Saggar with no problems.
The mold it often grows is easily controlled with a bit of Hydrogen Peroxide in your water spray bottle, or some rubbing alcohol.
It is very easy to re-use if you don't like your piece - turn it into a slurry and dry it to your preferred level of moisture. You can do this over and over and....
I'm not sure why anyone would want to throw with it, but I have a couple of friends who throw with nothing else, quite successfully.
It tends to be a bit pricier than other clays, but there are plenty of recipes for making it yourself with toilet paper.
The advantage to firing it is that it is waterproof, otherwise, you can just leave it if you want.
The only thing I *don't* like about it is making coils - it does not stretch well, due to the fibers.
There is an artist in Australia who uses nothing else for his sculptures (article: https://www.yumpu.co...ters-graham-hay) He and others describe being set free of some of the limitations of clay with this substance, opening doors to their creativity.
Fun stuff, really!
Thank you for the link, I love his stuff and would like to do similar type sculpture, although not quite as delicate as his, still, it does open up possibilities I wasn't sure how I'd overcome.