Home Up Gallery Studio Artist Statement Artist Information


Welcome to my Pottery Studio where it all begins.
Most of my work is hand built and thrown. 
I have been using the same clay recipe since 
about 1984 which I make myself.  
I also make about 99% of the glazes that I use.
Experimenting with new glaze recipes is very
challenging and sometimes worthwhile!


 Wedging is the first step in making a piece of pottery.  Spiral wedging takes a bit longer to get the hang of but is worth the time and effort to learn to do it efficiently.  Wedging done properly will take the air bubbles out of the clay.  With coiled projects, I like the clay to be a little on the sticky side so I do not use a pug mill to de-air the clay.  It dries out too fast and makes joining coils too difficult. 

Make a pinch pot and let it set up to a leather hard consistency.  Roll out a coil.  It's like rolling out those 
 snakes when you played with Playdough as a kid.  It may take a little practice to get the coil round instead of
 flat but by rolling the clay between the fingers and palm consistently it will eventually work.  Score the 
 top of the coil with a fork or needle tool.

Score the top of the pinch pot and brush slip on the top of the scoring.  Take the coil and place the scored side on top of the pinch pot.  Gently press the edges of the coil onto the pinch pot on the inside and the outside of the pot.  Where you place the coil will determine the shape of the pot.  If the coil is placed on the outside rim, the pot will turn out like a bowl.  The coil placed directly on the top will result in a 
 cylinder shape and if the coil is placed just a little to the inside of the pot, the shape will go inward.  At 
 this point my coil is placed right on the top.

With the fingers, join the coil to the inside of the pot and the outside.  To smooth, use a rubber rib on the 
 inside and a thin metal rib on the outside.  Generally, the inside of the pot determines the shape of the
 pot.  After one coil, I place the piece on a wooden bat and cover with a dry cleaning bag.  The coil must 
 set and harden before another coil can be added.  Adding coils too fast will cause the pot to slump.








Continue putting coils on the piece until it is the desired shape.  The last coil I place on is thrown on the wheel to make the top smooth and even.  I use a stand up kick wheel for all of my coiled vessels.  Cover the piece again and wait until the top is leather hard before finishing.  I generally wait about a week or two before the carving process.

When the piece is ready, I draw on the pattern with a needle tool.  Then I start taking away the parts that are not necessary.  I keep most of the pot covered in dry cleaning plastic as I work so the pot doesn't dry out to quickly. To carve, I use a pierce mosaic tip tool and I use a paint brush to keep the crumbs of clay out of the way.  After the piece is finished carving, I wrap it up again loosely for a couple of days to start the drying process.  After the piece is uncovered, I allow it to dry for at least a month to insure consistent drying.  Then the piece is bisque fired.  I spray multiple glazes on the bisque piece and fire to Cone 6 in oxidation.


Finished piece measures approx. 5" X 9 1/2"

Denise's Clay Recipe

2 parts Hawthorne Fireclay
1 part Goldart
1 part Kentucky Ball Clay (KT4)
1/4 part Nepheline Syenite
add grog to taste

What is clay?

clay (Kla) n.  1. A fine grained, firm earth that is pliable when wet and hardens when heated, 
used in making bricks, tiles and pottery.  2. Moist sticky earth.  3. The mortal human body.
This definition of clay barely touches the surface of the meaning of clay.  From animal and fertility figurines, to slabs for documenting writing, for burial and religious purposes, to vessels for domestic use, clay continues to record time.  The miracle of clay began thousands of years ago but began forming as a substance long before.
The formation of clay is largely the result of two things: the melting and movement of the ice cover during the glacial ages and the organic acids released by the decay of vegetation.  Clay is formed when granite and other feldspathic rocks decompose over time by erosion.  For the potter, clay is characterized as either "primary" or "secondary" (residual).  
"Primary" clays are found in the spot where the rock actually decomposed.  Generally, primary clays are considered pure.  A prime example is kaolin.  These clays are less plastic and have a larger particle size than "secondary" clays.  "Secondary" or "residual" clays are formed by wind and running water; i.e. erosion.  These clays are found near streams, rivers, lakes, etc.  Because "secondary" clays are found so far from the parent rock, there are many impurities contained in them.  The particle size is smaller making "secondary" clays very plastic.  Ball clay and fire clay are good examples of "secondary" clays.  It is possible to unearth clay in a form that is already usable but, generally a combination of "primary" and "secondary" clays are needed to make a good clay to for the potter to work with.
Clay is a universal substance which has transcended time and place.  Clay links all of us to the past, present and the future.  It is one of the earth's substances which when fired to maturity, is very hard to dispose of.  Today's society recreates past societies by digging up old artifacts.   I wonder what future generations will think of our clay residue?



Copyright 2011 Denise Brown.
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