The process of making
Questions I get asked – ‘how do you get those lines in the pots?’ ‘Do you put them on afterwards?’ ‘Is it difficult?’
The answer to the above is, ‘with lots of practice’, ‘no’, and ‘yes it can be’.
The technique I use is a variation on theme of agateware. This is described by Wikipedia as “Agateware is pottery decorated with a combination of contrasting colored clays. The name agateware is derived from the agate stone, which when sliced shows multicolored layers. This pottery technique allows for both precise and thought out patterns, and free random effects”. I was particularly inspired by a book ‘colouring clay’ by Jo Connell which lays out techniques for incorporating coloured clay into your work.
It is fairly simple. First I mix in some of the colour (in this case the soil or samples I have collected from my travels. It requires a squirt of water in order not to dry out the clay and is then kneaded so that the colour is evenly mixed in.
The next step is to sandwich the coloured layer between two non coloured layers and form into a ball. The trick is not to get any air bubbles sandwiched at the same time as this can cause issues later. It is also important to get the coloured clay and the non coloured clay to the same consistency otherwise it can put you off balance whilst throwing.
I am fairly ad hoc about the positioning of the colour – extra sprinkles can add to the effect. The way that you position the colour within the ball and the amount of coloured clay you use can make a huge difference and is dependant on your throwing style. I adore the way in which I can begin each piece of work in the same way and it can turn out different every time. I think that this element of the unknown is one of the factors that drives me to keep creating.
This ball of clay is then thrown as normal, into whatever shape you are aiming for. It is often impossible to see the pattern emerging during throwing due to slip (liquid clay) coating the walls. The thrown work is then carefully and slowly dried (this is the part that is fraught with potential disaster – in Western Australia, the summer is hot and the clay dries fast and unevenly putting stress on the structure!) The pot is then trimmed and it is only at this stage that the pattern is revealed. The bowl below was dried too fast and cracked.
Thankfully with practise, my success rate has increased from less than 50% a year ago to about 90% today. I have become very good at recycling!