Jeremy Foy
Visual Arts
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Interactive
High School, Community College / Lower Division, College / Upper Division
  • 3D Art
  • Art Studio
  • Ceramics
  • Clay
  • Illinois Art
  • Open Illinois
  • Pottery
  • Sculpture
  • Stoneware
  • Studio Art
  • illinois-art
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution

    Technique to Style

    Technique to Style


    A begging guide for a studio Ceramics course with breakdowns of studio equpment, methods of making, imagry and text breakdowns and demonstrations, and assignments. 


    Table of Contents

    Table of contents-

    Part One Introduction-

    • Technique to style
    • The Material
    • Learning the studio
    • Clean air

    Part Two Preparation-

    • Mixing clay
    • Wedging
    • Reclaiming

    Part Three Hand building

    • Pinch pot
    • Coil pot
    • Slab work
      • Tossing a slab
      • Slab roller
      • Soft slab/Hard slab
        • Georgia Schwender
        • Hump Mold
      •  Fixing Cracks

    Part Four Wheel Throwing

    • Steps and hand positioning
    • Forms
      • Bowl
        • Throwing a large bowl
      • Cylinder
        • Textured cylinder
      • Off the hump


    • Introductions to more advanced forms
      • Stacked forms


    Part Five Trimming

    • Trimming a foot


    Part Six Attaching and Decorations

    • Attach a handle
    • Sgrafitto
    • Mishima


    Part Seven Drying work

    • Importance of drying work 
      • Prevent cracking
      • Prevent warping
      • Prepping for bisque
      • Greenware

    Part Eight Kiln


    • Kiln introduction
      • Electric kiln
      • Loading a kiln
      • Loading a bisque
    • Bone dry
    • Temperature
    • Bisqueware
    • Loading a glaze


    Part Nine Making a glaze

    • Steps of making a glaze
    • Test glaze


    Part Ten Glazing


    • Preparation of bisquware
    • How many layers
      • Glaze Chart
      • Loading a glaze
    • Pinholes and other impurities


    Part Eleven Documenting work

    • Photo Booth


    Part Twelve Displaying finished work

    • Making a wooden wall display


    Part Thirteen Personal studio

    • Setting up an at home garage studio


    Part Fourteen Assignments or challenges

    • Projects


    Part Fifteen Cone 6 Glaze recipes

    • Recipe chart

    Part 1 Introduction

    Technique to Style, is intended to introduce clay as an artistic medium, familiarizing you with the studio environment, equipment, and tools necessary for creating ceramic art. It will guide you into diverse ways to use and manipulate clay with step-by-step processes from a handful of working artists. Promoting to explore to continue to find your voice and style in your work. Throughout this text, you will gain valuable insight on how to use a ceramics studio and become more self-guided in learning and exploring clay while providing studio techniques on becoming a proficient studio artist.



    Working with clay demands a gentle touch along with patience. Clay is a tricky material, treat it as delicately as you would with a toddler. Clay does not like to be forced but can be guided. Clay has memory, and the molecules of clay are shaped like small plates, if these plates get altered or kinked at a leather hard, or leather soft, the interior structure will be compromised. Even if the form is guided back and smoothed out to its original form, the altered interior could shift back when heated in the kiln. Think of it as balling up a piece of paper to throw it out and instantly regretting it, trying to flatten it back out but the paper still holds the creases of the crumple. Clay has a similar memory, so manage it with increased care the dryer it gets.



    A Ceramics Studio should feel welcoming with great lighting, leg room, and open tables, shelves, and carts. Everything should feel and be accessible. A studio could be a personal space in the corner of a room in your house or a shared space at a university. Both should be treated with care and cleanliness to provide a space that is inviting for creation. After working in a ceramic studio, it is essential to clean and put away to allow the next artist to have the warm welcome you experienced.


    After working in a ceramic studio, it is particularly important to clean and put away individual projects, tools, and anything communal that may have been used. It is allowing the next artist or even yourself to have the warm welcome you experienced with a clean studio. When cleaning keeps dust down, so cut out vacuuming and sweeping, try always to clean wet to weigh down the dust.


    Storage is a necessity in any art studio, especially in a ceramic studio. The accessibility of working with clay could be controlled to hours, weeks, or even months. This means that keeping the clay at the project's perfect consistency is necessary. In the development of each project, work may need to be stored in their own bags to trap the amount of moisture necessary. Individual wrapped projects will need more room.



    Clay is a very forgiving material when wet, allowing endless reworking. However, clay can also be very harmful to the ones who use it and those near the ceramic studio. One of the clay's ingredients is silica, which helps clay vitrify when brought to elevated temperatures. Silica is an extremely fine material that can linger in the air for hours which can form lung scarring making it difficult to breathe. Therefore, cleanliness is essential for your own and others' well-being.

    Air Filter
    Air Filter

    The studio should reduce use of brooms to sweep up bone dry clay or piles of clay dust. These areas should be mist with water from a spray bottle and scrapped up or mopped clean. This will contain the dust from becoming airborne by becoming hydrated and weighted down to prevent particles to spread and sit in the air. Vacuums that are not HEPA filtered/ small particle certified will blow too much air around that can stir up more clay dust. Make sure that you keep the particles down with wet sponges and mops and attempt to reduce the use of brooms and vacuums.

    Ceramics studios of any size should feature a recycling air filtration system that captures silica dust and other fine clay dust particles, providing a safe and healthy environment for every artist in the studio.  



    Ensure you have the following health and safety equipment before mixing clay: Cartridge respirator, sponge, bucket, water, and air ventilation system.

                                    Clay Mixer     Clean Mixer

    Begin by opening the lid to the clay mixer and inspect for any hard clumps from previous use. Ideally, the mixer should be clean, if not, please remove these hard/dry pieces as they might contaminate the consistency and recipe of the new batch. The solid chunks of clay could also get wedged in between the mixer blades and the wall, which could strain the machine and potentially burn out the motor if rotation is obstructed.


    Reclaim Bucket  Transfer reclaim into mixer

    Scoop and transfer class reclaim into the bottom of the mixer. When transferring reclaim make sure to investigate each handful to remove any tools or other impurities that may have ended up in the reclaim. Also look for any hard piece of clay that may have recently been dumped into the bin. Remove these if found. Utilizing reclaim will recycle previous material and will provide the moister needed for the dry clay. 

                                    Add dry material         too dry?

    When the reclaim is transferred into the barrel, scoop dry class blend into the clay mixer. Try to minimize the dust clouds that will be created during mixing clay when scooping or pouring in the bag of dry clay. Close the mixer, lock the latch, and press the green start button on the back panel. Allow the clay to mix for about 10 minutes, this will give the materials enough time to absorb the water to create a workable clay body. After 10 minutes, open the lid and grab a small chunk of clay. If it is crumbly add water, if it is too slimy add a little scoop of dry clay to soak up extra water. Allow the mixer to run, check consistency occasionally. When the clay sticks to itself and rolls around the mixer, grab a small piece and knead it in your hands. It should not be tacky or stick to your skin. Run the mixer until clay is a little softer than you like, to offer enough moisture for the clay bin not to dry out when open and in use. It is easier to dry clay out than it is to rehydrate it.


    Continue to run mixer if any clay dust is visible, this will combine the dust into the clay body. If clay still looks dry spray a little water onto the clay. Do not spray the walls as the clay will slide around and not mix well. Spray a little at a time and allow clay to absorb the water, do not soak it or you will need to add more powder.

    • When mixing clay make sure to keep your attention to the sounds that the clay mixer is making. If it sounds too loud, shifting weight aggressively, or sounds or strain, stop the motor and look inside to see what is going on.

    good mix   toss into new clay bin

    When clay is consistent and soft, turn off the mixer and transfer all clay into your clay storage, you may need a putty knife to scrap clay off the sides.

    clean    clean 2    clean 3

    When the clay is removed from mixer, fill up a bucket with water and grab a large sponge. The more clay you took out the faster it will be to clean. If close to a hose and a drain, spray down machine and then dump the water out into the drain. Be careful not to spray any dry material as the powder will become clumpy. Cleaning takes multiple efforts since dirty clay water leaves residue streaks when dry. Everything will still look dirty until it is cleaned with fresh water and a clean sponge.



    Wedged Balls

    In prepping your material wedging has its benefits, it homogenizes the clay creating one solid piece rather than separated clumps or balled up scraps which will have air pockets which will be removed while wedging. It can expose and reveal impurities that can be picked out. These could be small non clay materials that could have been mixed in with the clay overtime such as twist ties, plastic, small rocks, etc. Lastly it can become the perfect consistency for whichever method of making from hand building to wheel throwing.


    Wedging should be done on a porous material, allowing the moisture in the clay to be absorbed as the clay is wedged. These materials would be a wood board, plaster slab, or a slab of concrete.



    The most ordinary form of wedging is, Rams head wedging, which requires stability and momentum. The use of rocking front to back will create momentum to use as strength, rather than relying on just arm strength. A wedging table should be about waist height to prevent strain on the back. The steps to Rams Head Wedging starts with tucking your elbows in and tighten up your arms to your’ side. Place thumbs side by side and open your hands to make your fingers into wings. Lean your palms into the clay, placing pressure to indent the clay. Do not smear it into the table. Use your fingertips to grab the clay at the furthest part from you and roll it up until it is pointing at your eyes and lean in with your palms again. Repeat until the clay feels as one. To finish your wedging, with every push apply less and less pressure while cupping your fingers around the sides to cup and press out the side spirals. To check the successfulness of your wedging, cut into quarters to check for any air pockets. These are not wanted. Ball up your piece of clay and re-wedge into one.

    Wedging 2
    Wedging. Photograph by Jake Stellick

    Spiral wedging is a technique to aid on conserving energy by concentrating on a third of the lump of clay instead of moving the entire amount of clay. First rotate the entire piece of clay around a middle pivot point at the bottom of the ball of clay, using a pivot point will allow the clay to slightly rotate after every wedge. Right hand dominant wedging place right at 10pm of a chunk of clay and left hand on the side with your thumbs touching. Your hands should look like you have your right hand on the top of the box and left on the left side. Opposite for lefties at 2 pm, where left is on top, and right is on the right side of a box.

    Compress the clay with your dominant hand, pressing your palm into the clay making an indent. Start to totter the clay up towards you and rotate to your dominant side a few degrees and repeat the process. This will allow the entire piece of clay to be wedged even with concentrating on a small, lighter part of the ball of clay. To complete the wedge, slowly spread-out hands with every push. Your finished wedge should look like a solid cone shape already to throw on the wheel.



    Reclaiming Clay

    Clay has an unusual ability that most other materials do not own. Clay could be reclaimed and reused like new. This can happen at any stage of the materials dryness. Even if bone dry and sitting on a shelf for years. This clay is still reclaimable. Just place clay into a bucket with water and the clay will rehydrate and gain back its malleability. When throwing on the wheel or hand building, if you mess up, and the clay has enough moisture. You can take it over to the wedging table and wedge it back up. The clay that cannot be reclaimed is the clay that has been fired and vitrified to become a ceramic.




    The pinch pot is a method to create a convex shape. Ball up a small amount of clay, .25-.5 pounds and place it between your fingers and your thumb. Find the middle of the ball with your thumb and gently press making a small indent in the clay. Rotate the ball slightly and repeat. This repetition will slowly thin out all walls creating a bowl-shaped form. If your thumb is vertical out of the center of the ball of clay the bowl shape will be taller and narrower, if your thumb and fingers are on an angle, the more open your bowl will become but the shallower the walls for its height.  This can be utilized to make small bowls or cups to larger items (pots, pitchers) where pinching the forms to thin out walls are required.



    A coil pot is the stacking of round coils attached on top of one another that have the ability to create large forms. Coil can be produced by hand or with a clay extruder. By hand squish a lump of clay into a longer corn on the cob form. With this form, place on the table and use your forearm to put a little pressure on the clay. When touching the clay move your shoulder to sway your arm back and forth. This coil should roll from wrist to elbow to create an even coil. When coil is complete remember to slip and score it onto the other coil. When attaching a form to go inward to enclose the top to place top coil onto inner shoulder of previous coil. Do the opposite to come out.



    Soft slab work is the manipulation of a slab to create organic forms and arched forms. When creating a cylinder form the slab needs to be soft to allow bending and arching of the slab to create a cylinder.



    When tossing a slab, your table or surface needs to be a little absorbent. If it is not your clay will stick to the table and will not pick up easily ruining your slab. First wedge your clay and pat it into a thick pancake. You can slap it into form or take a wooden mallet. The slapping creates a compression to the clay, forming a stronger stiffer consistency to help hold up its out form when becoming a structure.


    Take your large pancake and start tossing it away from you on a slight angle. Have the closest end hit the table fist to allow the momentum of your toss to stretch the clay. If you slam it down vertically your middle will be thick, and all your perimeter will be thinning. When the slab starts to thin out, pick it up at opposite end at ten and two as you would for a steering wheel, lift to vertical and swing bottom out away from you. When the bottom starts to fall and swing back pull the top towards you to allow the clay to hit the table as a stone would hit the water when skipping rocks.  Remember to hold the clay with your fingers together, separated fingers can become knifes and can split and cut your clay when it thins out and you are flipping it.



    The slab roller is a huge help in hand building, it helps create even slabs that will allow your walls to be consistent on every side of your project. One thing to know is that the slab roller helps, it doesn’t do everything for you and just like any machine there are rules and tips.

    Slab rollers are made with two permanent canvases attached to the top of a board and a thick heavy canvas attached to the foot of the roller. These are to be kept clean to prevent any wear and tear.

    To prep your clay, you can start to flatten it out like a thick pancake which will relieve the amount of stress placed on the roller. When your clay is flattened to an even thickness it is ready to be rolled out. Make sure your slab is not thicker than two inches as this could be too much height for the roller.

    Place a piece of lose canvas on the table and place your clay towards the back end of the lose sheet of canvas. This will allow your slab to extend the length of the canvas and not just half if placed in the middle.  When clay is on the canvas, place another lose canvas over your clay, sandwiching your clay to not have clay touch the permanent canvas.

    Make sure canvas is flat and not wrinkled, to make for a successful slab. When wrinkled the canvas will create a slash into your clay which could cut the clay and it will split when transporting, lifting, or flipping over. Start rolling the slab roller and squish the clay into a nice slab. Make sure that the clay doesn’t squeeze out of the loose canvas and stick to the machine. If at any point the slab roller is fighting you when rolling, please stop to check if anything is stuck or looks out of the ordinary. Do not stress yourself when rolling a slab because the canvas might be stuck or there is too much tension on the roller.

    Roll back, flip over large canvas, and pick up your slab and transfer it to a table. You can use the bottom canvas as support and after you flip, peel off the canvas from your slab. Wait until the slab is at the prefect consistency of when you need it before working. When you flip the clay off the canvas you need to commit to your flip, do not hold it vertical because the slab might fall off and will need to be re wedged and rerolled.




    Hard slab work is allowing the slab to stiffen before cutting out the forms needed to create the piece. Allowing the slab to sit out will stiffen up the slab to allow crisp edge cuts in making geometric forms such as containers, boxes, and lids. These pieces cannot be manipulated because the harder slabs are less malleable because they have the stability to hold their own form.











    1. Gather your tools templates, wire cutter, wooden rib, and needle tool.









    2. Use the wire cutter and slice 1-inch-thick piece of clay to roll out. Make sure your surface is clear and place your slab down.









    3. Use the wooden rib to smooth both sides of the slab for a clean surface.









    4. Using your templates, cut out your shapes using the needle tool.










    5. Make any surface decorations that you choose. I have chosen a carved textured sphere that I bisque fired.


    Utilizing textures can provide nice decorations on your work. Finding textures is nice because they are already made and easy to transfer but might be noticeable to others on what the object is. If you make your own textures the visuals are just as successful but could become more beautiful because of their uniqueness and unmanufactured look, giving it personality, and individualizing your piece. 

    8           9

    Score when the clay has set up for a while where it is flexible but not soft. Apply slip to the scored areas and assemble. As I create these vessels I measure out where I am going to cut my holes so each one looks symmetrical. I will then slip and score the top and place it on the vessel.  Once everything is together and set up to become stiff but still cold, I use a metal rib and a sheer form tool to refine the form and edges.










    Take a look at the shrinkage rate from leather hard to cone 6 fire. 

    Final image for portfolio

    Half Moon Vase


    In the creation of a slump mold your slab will need be malleable to form over an arch form. A hump mold is when the clay slab is placed on top of a convex mold. This plaster mold will absorb the moisture from the bottom of the slab as the air will dry out the top. From this stage, you may cut the slab to your desired shape and even start to attach a foot after you have decorated. A slump mold is the opposite of a hump mold. When the slab of clay is dropped and formed to the interior of a form that is a slump mold. The slumping of the clay inside a bowl and to form itself to the interior shape.




        This can become a nightmare. Cracks in a final piece may make it look broken and highlights a mistake even if you did everything you were supposed to do. Sometimes cracks just happen.

        When just starting to work with clay, cracks will happen. Sometimes with early projects it might be more effective and efficient to make another one. Fixing a crack is not always successful and can take time to fix. This provides an instructor or mentor to have you start over and learn from it. Whereas the more you learn the more detailed your projects get and when you are weeks into a project, that is a different story. These cracks need to be attended to because of the mass amount of work put into the project.

        The consistency of your clay is important to fixing a crack. If soft, it may just be an outside crack. Smear some clay into the cracks and smoothed flat to blend in. If it is a crack on a leather hard piece this could be because of a few reasons i.e., connection my need help, drying is uneven and one attachment is pulling itself away from the joint, or pieces were too dry when attaching. Score the crack and insert some slip with some leather hard scraps from the project. This will provide even shrinkage when drying.

    Wheel Throwing


                Throwing is a practiced skill; it is not a follow the steps and you will get it. You may understand the steps, but practice is needed to successfully apply them. Remember that when throwing on the wheel, your body and movements are all slow and even. Always keep wet hands to prevent the clay from sticking and tearing off the wheel.

    With your elbows tucked in and resting in your waistline or locked into your sides, lock your hands with dominate hand on top of the clay making a fist with your thumb up. This will center the height of your clay. Your other hand will be on the side wall of the clay centering the width. When the clay is not fighting you anymore, use fingers to press down into the center of the clay. Do not press too much to prevent pushing all the way through the clay. Slowly open the clay, making a flat bottom. Collar the exterior walls in with slowly cupping your hands around the clay. With dominate hand on the outside and other on the inside. Slowly smear the thick clay from the bottom into the wall of the clay. Thin about pinching the clay just a little and keeping that same pressure all the way to the rim. When you are pulling up do not keep squeezing more and more as you will squeeze right through the clay and rip it in half. Every pull should have an even amount of pressure.





    Set up your wheel, with tools, sponge, water. Ball up your clay and toss it into the center of the bat.

    Center with even pressure from both hands. Remember to lock your hands into a position and slowly allow the clay to form to your hand shape.

    Open the center using both your hands. Keep your hands together and elbows down to create the most support to your movements.

    With your dominant hand on the outside, make a small compression at the bottom of the form and raise to your inside hand. Continue to raise the form with an even amount of compression all the way to the lip. Compress lip after each pull to strengthen the clay at the rim.

    Continue to pull until desired height and witch. When you have a rough form, use a metal or rubber rib to help finalize the shape of your large bowl.

    If needed, when the rim has a slight wobble to it, use a needle tool to slowly cut into the clay allowing you to cut through and pull of the uneven rim. Soften rim with fingers after removing the small strip of clay.

    Attend to perfect for form inside and out. Trim a small channel into the foot of your form to allow for a better wire cut off the bat.




    When first learning how to throw on the wheel, one can get caught up in thinking that what they made is a finished product or a final form. The pottery wheel is a great tool to get a symmetrical form from, but this doesn’t mean one cannot manipulate more. These examples of textured cylinders show that the wheel can also be used as a tool to help create a step in the processes and not the final step. 


    When throwing a cylinder, wrap a cylinder form with a paper towel and place the hard form into your thrown piece. This will allow you to press textures into the exterior walls of your thrown piece without smashing your form.


    When your exterior texture is applied and transferred to the clay, you can only touch the inside of the pot to bow out the form as touching the outside will destroy the texture added.




                A vase is just a large cylinder that has been collared in a little towards the top. Remember to keep hands wet when collaring in the clay form. This application of texture using the wheel is a rolling texture. As the wheel is spinning this texture spins in between your fingers to transfer its texture.




                When in production mode, centering each small individual piece of clay is tough and time consuming. Throwing off the hump could take more time at first but can save a lot of time later. At this point you should already be skilled in centering clay. Start by taking your large piece to the wheel and start by patting it to center. When spinning concentrate on getting the large form to 90% center if it is hard to get past that. When clay is close just find a little top portion of the clay and center that small piece. This is what you will throw to make your small cup or bowl. When you have completed your piece take a needle tool or a wire tool, cut it off and place it on table to stiffen. Now center the small top part of the hump and repeat the process. This will save time on re centering a bunch of small pieces and save space with taking them off the hump and not leaving them on the bat.



    Throw the forms needed to make one larger assembled form. Here are three separate pieces all thrown with bottoms. Each piece was measured to fit its counterpart for better construction.

    The left piece or the bottom will be attached upside-down to the large pot, this will provide a wider foot for stability for the taller completed form. The middle form is the body, this will stand as shown allowing the form to taper in towards the connection with the foot. The right form will have to be cut from the bottom to create a hollow form from the rim to the bottom of the body form. Then all are attached and cleaned.

    Slip and score the bottom section and the body and the bottom of the foot. flip the body upright onto of the foot that remains inverted from how it was thrown on the wheel and connect.  Repeat to the neck and attach to the top of the body.

    Slip and score the top lip of the main body and the cut off part of the top neck piece. This will allow for a clean attachment of the inside of the form.  A long tool can be used to clean the connection on the inside of the pot. This will allow for a smooth visual transition and smooth inside for cleaning to prevent cuts or getting caught on cloths. You will not need to add water to your connections. At times, too much water is applied to smooth out areas, but the water rehydrates the clay making it weaker.




    Aesthetically a foot can be trimmed many ways, you will find yours. Things to remember is to have your foot be the only part of the bottom that touches the surface. You want to allow your piece to be balanced and sit evenly on the surface. If foot is not trimmed out properly the piece may have a wobble to it after fired. 


    Center your piece, wedge it in place to hold position when spinning, mark locations of foot or feet, trim clay away from bottom to raise the foot or feet. Make sure when you are placing pressure on your piece that clay is coming off and through your trim tool. If not, you are pushing the bottom down and making a bulge on the inside of your piece. This will thin out the clay too much to make it brittle and will not look aesthetically pleasing looking at the inside of the pot.


    When finished, smooth out foot with your finger, this will press the sand or grog that is in your clay body back into the clay to help prevent roughness that may scratch tables.

    Attachments and Decorations


    There are many ways of creating and designing a handle but when you find your design the attachment to the pot is important to have a strong connection to your cup.

    Find your two connection points and slip and score both your pot and the parts of your handle that will attach to create your mug.

    Make sure you stabilize the wall with having your inside hand stabilize your wall when compressing your handle on. Make sure that this is a very strong connection. Let the handle naturally fall into place towards the bottom of your mug. Slip and score the bottom and compress with a finger. You can use a tool or a sponge to clean up any extra slip that squeezed out from in between the wall and handle.




    Sgraffito means to scratch. This decoration technique will provide a contrasting visual between the color of the slip or underglaze and the fired color of the clay. Using the color of the slip these bisque pieces could easily just be dipped into a clear gloss glaze to allow the detail and design carved in to really show and stand out as the main composition.


    For this orange underglaze application, the pot was placed in the center of the wheel and slowly turned to apply even coats of the underglaze. It was also used to create perfect horizontal line design to make the height of the bricks in the carved pattern.


    Mold, needle tool, brush, underglaze, clay. First toss the clay to make a slab and place slab on the form.

    Coat underglaze and let is dry where it will turn matte. Mark foot location and score.

    Carve into the leather hard clay removing the underglaze color. Roll out a coil and slip and score it to the slab to create a foot.




                For this design, at leather hard stage, coat your piece in wax and let dry. When the wax is dry use a carving tool to carve out your design. Discard all scraps as wax is mixed in with the clay. Take underglaze and apply it to the line you cut out, the underglaze will adhere and stick to the exposed leather hard clay and not to the wax. Take a clean damp sponge and wipe away any excess underglaze on the wax. This will leave you with colored line work. If more colors are wanted coat piece again in wax and repeat process. Your work will take longer to dry as the wax will actually help retain the moisture in the clay and will seal the clay to resist the moisture from escaping to dry out the clay.

    Drying Work

    Drying your work is important to protect the structure of your piece. If your project has a lot of attachments the shrinking of your clay needs to be consistent. This can be organized with wrapping your work in plastic to avoid your work to dry out too quickly.  The air sealed plastic bag will trap the moisture from the clay and create an environment that will promote an even constancy of moisture throughout the entire project. If your work needs to dry to get to the next step, adding newspaper under your work will assist in absorbing moister and slowly drying your piece for the next step you need.

                When drying out your work make sure that a fan or a lot of air movement is not aimed to one half of your piece which could dry out too fast and can warp your piece.



    Electric kiln
    Two large oval Electric Kilns

    Electric kilns offer precise temperature control through programmable settings, making them valuable tools for artists, especially those in a production studio. With these kilns, artists can establish specific temperature ramping programs and durations, ensuring consistent and efficient firing results. The process is remarkably user-friendly. Once the artist loads the kiln, they need only input a preset number, and all the ramp information is stored and ready for fire.

    Modern electric kilns are equipped with advanced features, such as automatic adjustments for temperature variations within the kiln. If one section becomes too hot or too cold, the kiln adapts to maintain uniform firing. Additionally, these kilns provide detailed data on the firing process, including the duration of the program, the temperature profile of each layer, and even diagnostic error codes. These error codes can pinpoint issues, assisting the user in identifying and addressing potential problems. Electric kilns empower artists with the convenience of automation while offering valuable insights into the firing process.



    Electric Kiln Bisque Load

    When loading bone-dry bisque pieces without any low-fire glaze or underglaze, it's safe for them to touch each other. During the bisque firing, which occurs at around 1900 degrees Fahrenheit, the clay won't fuse together. This means that bowls, plates, and cups can be neatly stacked on top of each other and even nested inside one another.

    However, it's important to exercise care when stacking, especially because bone-dry clay is quite fragile. If a thicker and heavier piece is placed inside a thinner one, the weight of the top pieces can potentially cause the bottom ones to break. So, while it's acceptable for the pieces to touch, a little caution in stacking can prevent mishaps during the firing process.



    Cone sitter electric kiln

    Each type of clay body reaches a vitrification point at which the clay undergoes a chemical transformation, becoming a ceramic material. Once this change occurs, the ceramic behaves differently from bone-dry clay. It loses its ability to revert to its original clay form and cannot be reclaimed as such.

    However, while bisqueware cannot be converted back into clay, it still has its use. You can repurpose bisqueware by grinding it into fine, sand-like particles, effectively creating grog. Grog is a valuable addition to clay, especially for larger structural projects. It helps enhance the clay's strength and stability, making it a practical and sustainable way to recycle and reuse ceramic materials.

    Making Glaze


    Exploring and researching glazes can be a bit challenging because you often see examples of the glaze itself without considering the firing process or clay body used. The appearance of glazes can vary significantly based on the type of clay body, the type of application of glaze, and the type of kiln, and its temperature schedule. Consequently, searching for glaze recipes can be an exciting endeavor, as you anticipate the unique results that your specific kiln and application techniques will produce.

    Powder Material

    When in the powder room where all of the raw material is stored, make sure you have a proper respirator to prevent inhaling dust when working with these fine powder materials. Eye ware, dry surfaces and tools, a scale, materials and plenty of clean buckets. After calculating your grams, find each material and weigh it out distributing it into separate buckets. This will allow you to redo buckets if you forgot count or calculated wrong. If placed all in one large bucket we would not be able to make any errors. After all dry powders are measured, triple check

    Resporator and Scale

    everything before mixing powders. When placed in one large bucket, add distilled water or tap water if needed. Tap water is harder than distilled water and may, on occasion, influence your glaze because of the minerals in tap water.

    You can usually add about three gallons of water to 25 pounds of dry powder. Your constancy of your glaze should have enough mass to coat your finger nail as you dip your finger into a still but freshly mixed bucket. The water ratio will change to fit the needs and actions of your studio. There are a lot of variables in having a successful glaze. So take notes on changes that are made to provide your work with a successful and functional glaze. 

    Set Scale Weight
    Pour Powder material
    Even out scale 
    Transfer powder to bucket
    Fill large bucket
    Add Water and sift and mix


    Test Tiles Dipped
    Test Tiles Dipped
    Test Tiles glazed
    Test Tiles Glazed


    The world of glazing and decorating ceramic pieces is incredibly vast, offering almost endless combinations of techniques. The primary four methods include brushing, dipping, pouring, and spraying. When applying glazes in this order, they range from thickest to thinnest, with water used to dilute the mixtures.

    For glazing bisqueware, it's essential to create test tiles. There are variables in the application process, and glazes can behave differently from kiln to kiln. Simply relying on example pictures online or on glaze containers may not guarantee an exact match for your application. Testing glazes through various thicknesses, layering, and techniques helps minimize mistakes and ensures the best application for successful and visually appealing work. Experimenting with different approaches before committing to your final piece provides valuable insights and enhances the overall quality of your glazed creations.



    Prep bisquware

    Preparing bisqueware before glazing is necessary, this could prevent glaze crawling from dust. Evaluate out these methods before glazing. Quick dunk in clean bucket of water or whipping down with a sponge. Then place in front of a fan for a while to allow the absorbed water to evaporate and allow the exterior to become porous again. This will clean off any dust on your bisque ware to have a cleaner application of glaze. It can also reduce the amount of glaze that will be absorbed by the bisqueware to prevent overgrazing where it can jump off or run and connect to the shelf, ruining your piece. Bisqueware is at its most porous state, please manage with dry clean hands.


    Too short of a footA piece cannot have any glaze at the bottom when in the kiln. The glaze will turn into glaze and fuse your piece to the kiln shelf. Before glazing apply a coat of wax where you do not want the glaze to adhere to your piece. I recommend the entire bottom of your work and a little up the foot. This extra quarter of an inch will allow for more glaze movement in the kiln and prepare for error. When you have become more experienced with the glaze application and fire process lowering the wax line is a possibility. The example shown is a pot with too short of a foot and when the glaze expanded when at its hottest it fused to the shelf. 



    1                t             out           done

    One coat of glaze- when dipping your piece make sure that no glaze is on the bottom of the piece or an 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch of glaze on the foot, which will allow a little movement before sticking to the shelf.


    Second coat- If you want to layer glazes, you want to make sure you do not cross contaminate glazes. Contamination of glazes will discolor and chemically change the look and function of the glazes. Wait until your first application is fully dry and room temperature to the touch before applying the second coat.


    Third coat- Just remember the more glaze applied on top of each other can result in more opportunities for mistakes and nonfunctional results. Glaze is glass and the more layers the more likelihood that your glaze will drip onto the kiln shelf or to the bottom of your piece sticking it to the shelf and you will have to grind it smooth if it was not damaged in cooling process.


    This can be different for interiors. If you have a bowl that you do not like put combinations on the inside to test to see if they work out. If this experiment goes wrong and the glazes run or do not want to bind together your mistake will be collected into the bottom of the bowl saving the kiln of repairs and saving from dripping or jumping onto someone else’s work. Experimenting and executing the perfect glaze combinations can be confusing when using multiple glazes in different ways. Use glaze records to provide you with notes on individual pieces and or combinations used. Document the before and after of what your glazes looked before fired and after fired to see the stability or the movement in the glazes and how far they ran. When in production mode, you can adjust the kiln slightly to get the best products and finishes of the glazes.



    Sketch of Art piece with notes

    Glazes used

    Application process








    Be sure to carefully document your glazing process. This information is crucial for the kiln loader to determine the placement of your pieces in the kiln and identify any areas prone to running or dripping. Provide a comprehensive list of labeling options, considering that these characteristics may exist within the same piece.


    • Solid dip
    • Half and Half dip with no to little overlap
    • 2/3 dip and 2/3 dip with large overlap
    • Brushing inside/dip outside -or- Brushing inside and outside
    • Pouring inside and brushing outside
    • Brushing with overlapping or layering
    • Dripping glaze as first or second coat
    • Pouring glaze as first or second coat
    • Spraying glaze
    • Layering spray glaze
    • Wax resist on bisqueware
    • Wax resist on glaze
    • Tape resist on bisqueware
    • Second coat rim dip


    This will allow you to keep a direct log of your work to be able to reproduce a combination you or someone else made.



    Loading  glaze

    When loading pieces for a glaze firing, ensure they are spread out with a little space between them. Although this image depicts an even arrangement, pieces can end up approximately half an inch apart in the kiln. Allow room for settling, as high temperatures can soften the clay, leading to potential shifting and warping. Avoid sliding smaller items under the walls of larger bowls to prevent warping or sagging. Ensure pieces do not hang off the kiln shelves to prevent glaze drips on the brick walls or elements. It's wise to cover kiln shelves with a kiln wash to protect both the shelves and your work. This prevents pieces from sticking entirely to the shelf, ensuring they remain functional. The kiln wash, when applied, becomes brittle and breaks off with the piece, preventing glaze drips from adhering permanently.





    Engaging in experimentation and test glazing is key to minimizing pinhole occurrences. These minute openings result from air bubbles escaping the clay body as the glaze begins to set. To prevent pinholes, consider the following steps: Extend the bisque firing at its maximum temperature to extract impurities effectively. Ensure the kiln is adequately filled to retain heat during firing, as an underfilled kiln can lead to faster cooling of the pieces.


    Unwanted blemishes in ceramics can also stem from impurities. For every ceramic artist, the process of reclaiming clay becomes integral. While working with clay, it's common to inadvertently collect unwanted materials, which can be challenging to identify during the reclamation process. Some of these impurities, such as organic matter, may reveal themselves in the kiln. They can either burn out, leaving a hole, or burst, resulting in small cracks or blown-out sections of the pottery. Always be diligent in checking your hands and the clay, especially if sourced from the ground, to prevent impurities from becoming mixed in during the creative process.

    Documenting Work

    As an artist not only designs, prep material, create the work, they also must document and promote their finished work. To have a successful image one must omit any background noise. This noise is random everyday objects that will be in regular images of your work. If it is in a kitchen, dining room, art studio, everything in the room becomes a part of the background. To document finished ceramic work, the background should be covered with a neutral background allowing the piece to showcase its color, form, and beauty.

    photo booth

    Here is an example set up of a small photo booth made from PVC pipe, shower curtains and a gradient background.

    The images show the same piece with the photo booth and without. When you are documenting your work, take plenty of photos at different angles, different sides of the piece and zoom in on spots, then save them in a folder. This will allow you to have all images need in one spot at one time. Eliminating background noise is a necessity if size of the piece allows for it.

    These photos will accumulate into your portfolio, which will assist you into getting scholarships, into shows, art and craft fairs, magazines, social media or even help you get jobs in teaching or being a visiting artist. Treat your documentation with the same respect as your treat your transcripts or your resume because your work can assist you in many ways. 



    blank wall

    After creating your work, it is always nice to build a display. Shelfing for your own home intended for a few favorite pieces or a larger display to showcase a collection of work at a studio or gallery. Here is a display example made at an arts center. This wall went from an empty facade to a presentation that can hold dozens of multiple size ceramics. Great way to exhibit work for sale.


    The long lower shelfs are spacious to allow for larger pieces to be displayed. Lower display will help if there are a lot of interior decorations for large bowls.

    On the upper wall is a small cubby system that divides a group of smaller items. Having individual sections can show off a group of work or separate them as individuals. Allowing the viewer to see a group for a set or individuals for custom pieces. 

    ceramics display

    Both types of displays enhance the viewer's experience and complement the artwork more effectively than a flat table with a tablecloth.

    Personal Studio

    As you progress in your artistic journey, the need for a dedicated creative space often becomes a priority. Imagine converting your garage into a personal art studio, much like what Megan Wilson accomplished in the picture. Garages offer some unique advantages for this purpose. They have large doors that help with ventilation, crucial when working with clay that tends to get quite dusty. The garage's generous space can even accommodate your very own kiln, perfect for your artistic experiments. Just remember, if you plan to use your garage studio in all seasons, make sure it's properly heated, or consider bringing your clay inside during freezing temperatures since clay can not freeze. 


    Garage Studio