Course Title – Pottery

Course Title:
Course description:
This is a course that introduces students to making functional pieces on the wheel and by
handbuilding. The goal is to make the pieces light, beautiful, and functional. Students
will also draw to illustrate their ideas. The composition and application of glazes will be
taught, as well as how ware is loaded and fired in the kiln. Throughout the course there
will be aesthetic and practical concerns fostering an investigation of how form follows
function. There will also be a discussion of opposites in pottery: inside/outside; wet/dry;
strength/delicacy, and how those opposites need to be reconciled to be successful.
The two most important class rules:
1. All pieces must be signed with the student’s last name.
Untrimmed and unsigned pieces will be considered abandoned
and will thus be recycled.
2. For any pieces to be fired they must be approved as kiln
worthy and put in the kiln room when they are completed.
Students will learn how to:
 Make vessels that are light, beautiful, and functional
 Center, open, raise, form, and trim pottery
 Make carefully constructed coil and slab vessels
 Recycle and wedge clay
 Use underglaze to sign their last name on the bottom of their ware
 Express their visual ideas by drawing
 Research glaze formulae
 Learn about alternative methods of firing
 Stir and apply glazes
 Learn about loading the kiln
To meet objectives listed above and to create a series of products.
Summary of products:
1st Quarter – 1 decorated slab jewelry box with a handle and lid, and to develop the
ability to make wheel-thrown pieces from among bowls, vases, or plates, assignments to
do drawings, research on examples of required projects, take-home clay projects, and
quizzes that assess student knowledge.
2nd Quarter – 1 large slab-strip vase and to continue throwing bowls, vases, plates, and/or
mugs, covered jars, pitchers, or a chips and dip bowl, assignments to do drawings,
research on examples of required pieces, take-home clay projects, and quizzes that assess
student knowledge. Alternatives to the basic required pieces are negotiable, including
independent projects that retain the spirit of the course, i.e., to make well-crafted
functional ceramic vessels.
Forming and finishing vessels on the wheel
Recycling – Students will need to learn progressive stages of clay (mud, plastic, leather
hard, greenware, bisqueware, glazeware) and that only pre-bisqueware clay can be
recycled. Students will recycle all clay products that are not suitable for firing. Recycled
clay will be placed in a large dry scrap bin. Students will take turns maintaining the area
around the wedging boards.
Wedging – Students will learn various methods of making the moisture content and
texture of the clay homogeneous. Spiral wedging enables the students to prepare without
trapping air pockets. “Rip and slap” wedging enables students to prepare the clay if there
is not enough room at the wedging table, or to continue to wedge at the potter’s wheel.
Clay can also be put through the extruder to eliminate any dry knots of clay which can
disrupt throwing on the wheel. Lastly, the clay should be gently tapped on the wedging
board to create a workable, cone-like shape that will be more easily centered.
Throwing – Centering, opening, raising, and forming will be demonstrated extensively to
provide students with the technique and motivation to create pottery.
Storing Freshly Thrown Pots – Students will place plastic squares on the rims of the pots
or cover the pots with buckets, depending on time limitations.
Trimming – Once wheel thrown pots are leather-hard they can be trimmed by centering
the clay, then using clay buttresses that will keep the pot secured enough to withstand
pressure from the trimming tools.
Cleaning Bats – Students will clean their bats after their pieces are trimmed.
Score and Slip
By scoring and applying slip, students will learn to add clay to plastic or leather-hard clay
for making handles, pedestals, or for any other add-on.
Firing Bisqueware
Students will learn about how the kiln is stacked with greenware to be fired at cone 06.
Pieces need to be loaded carefully, although they may touch in the firing.
Formulae - Students will learn the composition of glaze recipes with the minerals at our
disposal. Either through library research or the Internet, students will provide glaze
formulae that we may add to our selection.
Stirring glazes – Glazes must be in a homogeneous state of suspension by thoroughly
mixing the fluid with ladles. Glazing must occur immediately after stirring before the
minerals and the water have a chance to separate.
Maintaining Glaze Integrity – The glaze from one bucket should never go into the bucket
of another. The glaze formulae will be altered causing unpredictable effects.
Painting – Students will learn how to apply glaze with a brush. Bamboo brushes will be
used for banding and decorative effects, while mop brushes will be used to apply wide
swatches of overlapping glaze.
Pouring and Dipping – Students will learn to deftly apply glaze by dipping pieces in 5
gallon buckets and using a ladle when necessary to reach areas that cannot be dipped.
Layering Glaze – Students will understand that glazes can be layered only when the top
glaze is completely dry.
Drawing with Glaze – Students may use a variety of underglaze pencils and pastels with
which to decorate their ware. Clear glaze is applied over the underglaze dry media.
Kiln Firing – After students glaze their bisque-fired pieces with glazes the pieces will be
fired in the kiln at cone 6. Pieces may not touch each other or the kiln shelves during
glaze firing. All glaze fired pieces need a coating of wax resist on the bottom, wiped
clean after glazing, shave down excess glaze, and placed on stilts.
Post Firing Concerns
Stilts that keep the ware from fusing to the shelves must be removed. Safety measures
should be observed to prevent getting cut. Gloves may be awkward, so care must be
taken when removing stilts barehanded. Spurs that form around the sharp metal prongs
of the stilts must be ground down to prevent getting cut. This may be done with
sandpaper or an electric, table-mounted grinder. Students will also learn how to pack
glazeware to prevent it from breaking when moved.
Teacher examples, in process and product, will provide valuable modeling and
inspiration. Frequent demonstrations will enable the students to see the variety of ways
problems are dealt with through experience. Some teacher examples are included on the
next page, while many more will be available in the classroom:
Internet – Now an indispensable visual tool, the Internet provides a wealth of information
from when man first discovered the potential of fired clay to contemporary pottery.
Countless visual examples are available as well as technical information, including glaze
formulae and firing techniques, culled from instructional and production websites.
Postings of excellent examples of different wheel thrown pieces are now available on the
art department “Assignments” link for student reference. Virtual tours of Ceramics
holdings from museums around the world are also available.
Books – A small, but comprehensive library of books on pottery is available for student
use within the classroom.
Magazines – Our subscription to Ceramics Monthly provides us with information and
excellent visuals resources concerning current approaches in pottery.
Practice – By far the best resource is trial and error, good old fashioned practice. It is
easy to get frustrated in pottery, but persistence will pay off. Your first 50 tries may end
in failure, but keep the faith. You will eventually get better!
Suggested Strategies:
Teacher demonstrations with lecture
Class critiques
Individual critiques
Aesthetic development through drawing
Continual practice – trial and error
Written self critiques
In-class projects will be counted as double grades. Quizzes and homework will be
counted as single grades. Students may earn extra-credit beyond the minimum
requirements of the course.
Quality of pottery will be based on the following criteria:
Symmetry (development of throwing skill)
Weight (the lighter the better)
Beauty of contour
Relationship of form following function
Finesse of glazing techniques
Homework will be critiqued and graded every Monday. Late homework losses value the
later it is.
Class participation carries a double grade and is based on willingness to join critiques,
adhering to class maintenance procedures, and level of interpersonal cooperation.
Suggested Pottery homework assignments –
10 homework assignments total
Study for a quiz on the name and function of ceramics tools.
Three sketches of a bowl, with ¾, side, and cross-section profile views.
Drawing of finished slab box in perspective, with surface decorations.
Slab, coil, or combination pencil/brush holder.
Study for comprehensive ceramics vocabulary test
Form a hand built mug with stoneware, begun in class.
Sushi set –slab for sushi combined with a soy/wasabi bowl.
Study for quiz on alternative methods of firing
Drawing of finished vase with surface decorations, both sides
Glaze formulae research
No assignment during Christmas/Easter vacations
No assignment at the end of the semester. This is a time to catch up on glazing
and firing your pieces.