Pottery Course

I started this year with a desire and intention to try more new things, to learn different skills, to be creative in different ways, and to start saying yes to more opportunities. That's how I ended up signed up for a 10 week Pottery beginners course at my local Adult Education Centre.

Being completely honest, I was pretty terrified turning up for the first session, but it worked out well for my introverted self as the group was small - only five of us - so it meant the room wasn't crowded or noisy, we had more attention from the tutor, and we all had space to work on our own things and talk or stay quiet as it suited us.

The first few weeks we tried out a variety of techniques, with the lessons basically following the pattern of a demonstration and then time for us to play around and experiment - some attempts worked out better than others! We used other items as moulds, joined slabs together, and worked with coils to make different shapes and sizes, as well as painting with slips and underglazes.

We had a few weeks of just working on creating our pots as we had to wait for things to be first or bisque fired before we could get on to glazing. This is quite messy, good fun, and a total mystery until you see the finished item after its second firing!

My first triumph was this moulded bowl with a dandelion design that I scratched into the clay before painting (the technique is called sgraffito) in turquoise slip and then adding a clear glaze on top - I'm really pleased with it!

I also had a bit of a struggle with this sunflower dish - I had decided to mould the clay in a fluted pie dish but apparently rolled it too thin before scratching in the petal design because when I tried to get the semi-dry clay out of the mould the following week it fell to pieces! I was able to rescue it by sticking the first layer onto another base layer to add stability. I used underglaze for the colour, and again clear glaze on top. I love this piece!

What I had really been waiting for was a chance to have a go on the pottery wheel. We'd been advised to watch YouTube videos to get an idea of the technique, but in practice it's much harder than it looks - and incredibly messy! Getting the speed of the wheel right is tricky, as is keeping an even pressure so that your clay doesn't go flying off to one side. My first few attempts came out pretty wonky, although the principle of a usable bowl was almost there, and I did manage to get one pot to lift into a nice shape - more by luck than judgement I think! The second phase with the wheel thrown pots is to turn or trim them to get rid of any excess clay and smooth out the shape - this really helped with my wonky ones! I only had time to get these bisque fired before the end of the course but I don't mind, I'm just pleased I made them myself!

(Click on photos to expand)