Thursday, 23 July 2009

Pottery and ceramics find so many uses in our homes!

In these days of credit crunch blues, recent events have made it clear to me that the pottery making in the UK is still alive and well and doing fine. Unique designs and small scale production and customer service seem to be order of the day as the larger producers have been hit hardest by the downturn in the hotel and gift markets.

The term 'Pottery' is uniquely used by the general public to describe anything ceramic and we should not underestimate the impact these forms of ceramic have in our daily lives. Ceramics are evident in our homes in so many areas. Drink tea made with water purified with a ceramic filter in a bone china cup. Cook your evening meal on your ceramic cooker hob. Keep warm by sitting by your gasfire with its insulating ceramic bricks, and ceramic logs or pebbles. Take a shower in your bathroom lined with decorative ceramic wall and floor tiles, and your bespoke table top washbasin. Relax and read a book under the light from a sculpted ceramic lamp. You might even want to watch your TV with its many ceramic parts!

Even outside, ceramic pots of all shapes and sizes as well as other unique ceramic animals, toadstools, fairies, wind chimes, sun dials, coloured glass gravel and BBQ chimneys add individuality to our gardens.

Clearly many of these items are still made in the UK and provide employment and job satisfaction for many.

It is comforting to know that virtually all of these items are reusable in some way and should not find their way back to landfill sites. Keep selling the message 'ceramic is green' ! (Avid potters -sorry for the pun!)

I often wonder what the most unusual or surprising use for ceramic there is out there?

Please let me know if you find something interesting! For more ceramic information visit the Potters Friend's website


  1. Hi,
    Is it difficult to make your own pottery? I made a vase in art class at school, but they had a kiln and all sorts of equipment which I don't have (and it looks expensive!)

  2. Hi Phil,
    Making and decorating pottery can be a very satisfying hobby. It allows you to develop both your creative and practical skills. Many people start out first by decorating biscuit ware with non firing colours (essentally paints).
    Biscuit ware is pottery that has been fired once to a low temperature but is not glazed. It is therefore porous and not very strong. You can buy biscuit pieces, and paint them with acrylic paints and sealer. This will allow decoration skills such as hand painting of designs or banding to be to be learned before moving on to fired pottery where greater loss is expected on firing. This type of decoration can be used only for artistic pieces. Under no circumstances should they be used for storage or contact with foodstuffs. Books are available if you wish to copy designs before progressing to your own designs.

    Once skilled you could progress to using ceramic glazes or colours which will be fired, and thus permanent. This will bring a whole series of challenges. For example colours may change on firing or that small patch of unglazed biscuit will become more apparent.

    Firing requires that you buy a kiln or rent space in a kiln to get your pieces fired.It is worth finding out if there is a local pottery club or potter nearby who can fire your pieces for a small fee. A small electric kiln can be purchased inexpensively second hand and only requires an electric supply and ventilation. You also have the benefit of total control over when and how you fire your pieces.

    For the more adventurous and those who want to produce their own shapes there are a number of types of clay available. Firstly there are
    a)Oven bake, air dry, or polymer clays.
    These do not require firing in a high temperature kiln. They either air dry or are baked in a standard oven. Due to expense, they are best used for small items such as jewellery, ornaments, etc. The oven and air dry clays are similar in look and feel to normal clay. Polymer clay comes in many bright colors and can be made into beautiful designs which become plastic-like when baked.

    Secondly there are b) Hand building clay bodies
    which come in a whole range of colours from white to red. Handbuilding with clay is carried out by building shapes by hand. The design possibilities are only limited by your imagination. However, as the clay body needs to be fired it requires the use of a kiln . Clay body itself is relatively inexpensive and can be bought in approx 10KG bags.

    More detail about clay bodies can be found by reading the Potters friend's article 'Clay and body'. A good pair of hands, a rolling pin, newspapers or cloth, plastic sheet and other ordinary household items are all that are required. In only a few short hours you can have made some pieces of your own.

    Thirdly c) a number of Wheel throwing clay bodies are available depending on the type and colour of ware you wish to make.In the beginning I would recommend you join a pottery throwing class.You could learn to throw from books or videotapes, and some people do. But it is more difficult than it looks . It takes a while to learn the art of throwing, and can therefore become frustrating unless you have the support of an instructor. Seeing other students also struggling also provides some comfort! A class will not only offer you instruction, but also provide a kiln, glazes and other materials. Your only investment will be the cost of the class, and perhaps some materials costs such as clay and a basic tool set.

    Once you have learned the basics and have the confidence to work on your own you should consider getting your own wheel and kiln (unless you have access to someone else's kiln). Tip -if things dont go as planned dont worry its all part of the fun and its possible to recycle the clay before firing!

    I hope that this information helps. Happy Potting- The potters Friend.


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Happpy Potting
The Potters Friend