Spotlight on – Studio Pottery

Spotlight on – Studio Pottery

Highlighting some of the techniques of studio pottery that elevate ceramic pieces from functional to art!

Several years learning how to throw pottery on a wheel has made studio pottery of my favorite pieces to hunt for at estate sales. Being able to recognize the quality pieces from the class projects and recognizing the skill required to create certain forms or glaze designs makes my years on the potter’s wheel well worth it!

an artful hand painted glaze was skillfully applied to this narrow neck vase hand excised details are cut from the leather hard piece before final firing to allow this piece to be illuminated from within illusion of simplicity – a two piece form is elevated with carved and glazed details, and precise drying and firing requires experience for pieces to shrink at same rate to fit this well once finished.


For those unfamiliar with the process of creating a hand thrown piece of ceramic – clay is kneaded to remove air bubbles and placed on the center of a potters wheel. Water and pressure is applied to allow the clay to be shaped. While this appears a smooth process it takes incredible skill and experience. The clay must be evenly distributed and free of air bubbles or it will crack during first firing.


The piece must then be removed from the wheel and allowed to air dry – once it has reached “leather hard” phase it can still be softened with water to attach handles or form spouts. The piece can also be handled to be trimmed before a first firing. It is also at this stage where a piece may be carved or excised to create cut outs or grooves within the piece. And finally, it is before firing where a stamp or potter’s signature can be carved into a piece.

This piece was shaped during the leather hard phase cutout were made and the rim manipulated into handles before first firing the leather hard phase is when handles like this are applied to a piece. It’s also at this stage when spouts are formed this piece is exceptional example of clay art in the hands of a skilled ceramicist- intricate carvings and excised portions were done before firing


After first firing a piece is hard, and the texture of an unfinished piece is similar to terracotta you might find at a plant shop. At this point an artist will apply glazes. Glazes are made of fine mix of silica/glass that melt upon firing and are applied to form after first firing. Pieces with multiple glaze colors must be done with knowledge of flow rates of those glazes or else they will blend or create puddles if applied to heavily that harden

this piece is an example of how two glazes were applied so that no drips and movement occurred during firing. The finished result is three distinct and separate color zones. the ceramicist who made this likely understood how these two glazes interact and used that to create this movement/blend. The whole piece was dipped in lighter glaze and a second dip was used to apply yellow color to the piece’s lip/outer edge only and then that color drips and blends with base color during firing the interior glaze and exterior glaze on this piece are different. Typically this is done by coating the interior and then precisely dipping exterior so liquid glaze does not enter the center of piece. Wax resist is used where lid and body will meet to prevent glaze from interfering with the fit


Hope you learned something new about the art of wheel thrown studio pottery and hope to cover other techniques like coil and slab built pottery in future articles! Make sure to check out some of the stunning studio pottery pieces available in the shop

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