It never hurts to start with a few basic ideas and expand from there. Like my clay work, this page is a "work in progress".


First, the little ceramics history lesson. Once upon a time..(?) In the earliest times, earthenware clay was dug from riverbed deposits ready to use: in the plastic state. It was then "fired," or baked into a stone-like state in a camp-fire. Probably the next development was the addition of ground-up, previously fired clay (grog) added to a clay body, a slurry (slip) painted over the raw clay surface, and modifications to the construction of the fire pit. Many clay objects were sculpted by modeling, carving (excise), stamping, (impress). Hand-formed pinch-pots, or coiled vessels, some using paddle and anvil with interiors thinned, were and are still made world-wide. Depending on geography, sometimes higher-firing stoneware clays were used; some traditions multi-colored slips called polychrome were applied. Clay was being dug, dried, ground, melted (slaked), precipitated, evaporation dried, and then kneaded (wedged).A transition from coil-formed to wheel-thrown pottery began. When sides were added to the fire-pit it became the "kiln", and when the fire box was located to one side, the kiln became directional. Hillsides aided in the making of directional kilns, in fact such kilns were so hot that the iron slips and ash from the fire often formed glazes over the surface of the wares. In Asia, such methods were applied to abundant natural white clays, resulting in the development of high-fired porcelain. Also, the action of iron changing from ferric (red) oxide to ferrous (black) oxide, and other colorants as well, was controlled and manipulated. Bricks were invented. Soon clay molds were used to make multiple impressions, and in some cases, molten bronze replaced the clays formerly pressed into these molds. Bronze age. Clay sculpture then, as today, is either small, or hollow, or both (with some exceptions). Eventually liquid clay was poured into molds, called slip-casting. All these methods of making define what clay is: a suspension of hydrous alumina silicate with additions of sodium, calcium, lithium, "free" or raw silica, feldspars, grog, and other additives necessary for the particular method employed, and in a ratio with water to achieve a desired consistency. *******

Just like human blood having a chemical similarity to sea water, red clay is the blood of the earth, and scientific analysis has shown it is a fairly representative cross-section of the earth in percentages. Is it any wonder then.....

General suggestions for projects:

(You teachers should print this out, and if there are terms you don't understand, get thee to a library; this section is loaded with years, no, lifetimes of potential lessons) Make your stuff by hand forming? first try to write an 10,000 word essay about your observations of a teaspoon of rice. (just joking about the 10,000 part, the essay is real) Better yet, make a few wooden "feelies" Use kinesthetic memory, "kaizen", ergonomics. Try: pinch pot; coil, w/ incised and/or roped paddle, burnish, polish, mishima, incise, modeling, drawing, painting, stenciling, hand prints, slip trail and cast, botanical impress or stencil, impress; wood/potato/bisque stamp. Pictoral techniques: benday dot, screens, cross hatching, doodle, graffiti, montage, designs from fabrics, baskets, etc. Glazes: ash glazes, slip glaze, iron saturates, adventurines, rutile orange, feldspars, slips, engobes, underglazes, stains, terra sigilatta, crackle, crater glaze, majolica, celadons. Firings: wood-fired, salt-fired, soda, gas, electric, propane, pit-fired, what? Algorithms: test tiles, ceramic materials, methods, textures, textiles, colors, impressions, methods, species; know what I mean? Pit/saggar fire: grass, hay, sawdust, wood, leaves, chips, hedge apples, salt-soaked cloth, magazine pages, newspapers, shredded paper, metals, oxides, stannous chloride, iron chloride, sodium chloride, (chlorides, phosphates, sulfides, sulphates). Want to savor the moment? Apply the concepts of Tea terminology: cha no yu - harmony, respect, purity, tranquility; Sabi - retiscent and lacking in assertivness of the new; Wabi - quiet simplicity; Shibui - astringent, austere, roughness; Mono no aware - melancholy spirituality. ******* Remember the "Saws of the Boston Scrod": (1) Every Dog Has His Day (2) Never Confuse Effort with Results (3) Talk's Cheap. ****** My personal philosophy on creating on the potter's wheel: think small, use kinesthetic memory, use slop instead of water. Work with initial conditions: wedging, forming ball, centering; the faster I go, the behinder I get. Do less, accomplish more. Go slow, keep it dry, throw from the inside: every pot has it's own soul. Keep it thin, reduce trim. Keep it simple, stupid; you can only please yourself. Practice kaizen, utilize ergonomics, switch stance. ******** Processes used to work in clay: pinch pot, coil, also incised and/or roped paddle, slab, rolling pin slab, slab roller, "thrown" slab, throwing, jigger, jolley, hump mold, bisque mold, press mold, slip cast, extruders of all types, relief, burnish, polish, mishima, majolica, wax resist, carve, modeling, drawing, painting, illustration, printing - photo process, silk & litho, transfer, decal; stenciling, taping, silhouettes, cut out stenciled leaf prints, Tamba (Rhodes) mulberry leaf & slip glaze, sprayer, airbrush, incise, excise, sgraffito, slip trail, impress, wood/potato/bisque stamp, collage montage, frottage, sand cast, sawdust filler, cloth on slab, canvas, burlap, cheese cloth, netting, wire mesh, clay lined basket, sand blasting, hand prints, fossil fish, plants, animal tracks, skeletons, death masks, body casts. ******** The nature thing that makes clay way cool: Fire clouds, native clays, burnished and blackened, burnished blood red, pit-fired, raku crackle, metallic flashing in raku or saggar (hedgeapples), reduction earthenware, overfired earthenware, saggar-fired, pit-fired porcelain, low-fire salt, residual salt, salt glaze, slip trail, slip engobes, slip glaze, fly ash, ash glaze, mishima, shino, carbon trap, crater glaze, granite grog. ********* Okay, maybe it's all just notes to myself, but I don't mind sharing Eric Hansen, Lawrence, Kansas.