Keith Herbrand and Glenn Woods in their Studio-Showroom Pinterest photo credit unknown.
I presented the Pottery Boys to you in Monday’s Profile now let’s hear about the actual process from clay to finished product. Do settle yourself, this will be a very detailed and interesting post, but I’m sure you will agree well worth the read, it is fascinating! Here in Glenn’s words……
Clay Pinterest photo credit unknown.
“Making pottery is a multi-step process: Making and trimming the piece; altering/piercing/beading the piece; bisque firing; glazing and firing; post glaze finishing
Making and trimming the piece
Each piece starts out as a simple lump of clay – we generally start with 2 to 8 pounds of clay depending on the project. Our pieces tend to be more on the small to medium sized so 2 to 4 pounds usually does the trick. We first center the clay on the potter’s wheel – open the mound of clay to make it hollow and then thin the walls to make the walls taller and uniform in thickness. Once we have established a nice cylinder, we begin pushing the cylinder into shape. We make bottles, vases, mugs, bowls, plates, and other more decorative forms.
After arriving at a pleasing shape, the piece is allowed to dry to the point where it holds its shape and can easily be handled to trim away excess clay – this stage is called “leather hard”. It is also at this stage where I will begin altering the shape – pushing the form out of round, creating grooves, creases, folds, or spiral patterns. I also begin to carve the piece at this point. Some of the pieces are given flower-like imagery on rims of plates, the body of a pot, or the neck of a vase. I also use a squeeze bottle filled with clay the consistency of frosting (called slip) to place beads on the surface – usually in conjunction with altering and/or carving to enhance the design.
From the blank to the piece ready for firing. Photos taken by Nena in the workshop, last photo taken by Glenn.
Once the altered/pierced/beaded piece is finished it is allowed to air dry for a couple of days, making sure it does not dry out too quickly – rapid drying may lead to cracking or structural problems. After completely dry, we place the piece in a kiln and bisque fire to drive out all the chemically bound water – this renders the piece to a stable stage, no longer able to reclaim into soft pliable clay. After cool from the bisque firing, we sand the piece and wash it to remove any dust or unwanted texture.
Glazing and Firing
We sketch each bisque piece ready to be glazed, I indicate on the drawings what glazes are going to be used and in what order. I like to layer my glazes so there may be as few as 2 layers but as many as 8 layers of contrasting colored glazes. These crystalline glazes are very fluid during the firing and require a pedestal and glaze catcher – the glazed piece is mounted on a riser and then placed in the glaze catcher, which catches the glaze that flows off the piece and over the pedestal.
We firing the piece to 2350 degrees Fahrenheit to fully melt the glaze. This temperature is called “cone 10” in potters terms. Once peak temperature is reached, we quickly lower the temperature to 2000 degrees and begin a very slow cooling process to grow the crystals – this cooling cycle can take upwards of 8 hours or more. Once the crystalline growth cycle is done, the kiln is allowed to cool naturally to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit and unloading the kiln begins.
Post firing finishing
Once the pieces reach room temperature, we are able to remove the pedestal – removal of this piece leaves the bottom dangerously sharp and much care needs to be taken to remove the razor sharp edge. We use a diamond disc to grind the bottoms smooth and give a slight bevel to the outside edge of the piece. At this point, the piece is finished. However, we have been using a few specialty techniques to enhance the color and visual quality of the crystals. One such technique is referred to as “Acid Etching”. Soaking the finished piece in an acid bath (muriatic acid or sodium bisulphate) for increments of 15 minutes – washing and drying the piece after each 15-minute soak to see what has happened to the piece. We do this in 15-minute increments because you can go too far and once acid etched, the only way to reverse the effect is to refire the piece.
The other technique we use to alter color is called “post fire reduction”. We place the finished piece in a reduction chamber (basically an old kiln we use to heat the pieces up in) We use propane to heat up the reduction chamber to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit with a propane burner. Once we reach 1500 degrees, we choke off the oxygen supply to the burner, the propane needs oxygen to burn so it depletes the oxygen from the kiln chamber, once that has been depleted, it begins taking oxygen from the glaze layer, turning the titanium creams and tans to purples and pinks. It also will turn copper green glazes into copper red glazes. This color shift is permanent and can only be reversed by re-glazing and firing again.
That is the process in a nutshell.” Nena’s note, some nutshell!!!!
A finished piece photo taken by Nena with iPhone 7 on site.
A close up of a finished piece. Photo by Nena on site.
A finished piece in the Mid-century home of Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel with a close up of the detail. Photo taken by Nena.
More on pottery tomorrow in Collectiions.
I hope you can come to the demonstration and Open House to see all these gloroous pieces in person. In the meantime go to the Pottery Boys website www.potteryboys.com
Nena’s Weekly Recipe
Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil from the New York Times/Melissa Clark
(If you don’t have the New York Times Cooking App, I suggest you get it immediately, not only are there amazing recipes but you can save yours to the site as well…it is fabulous!)
- Fine sea salt
- 12 ounces dry orecchiette or farfalle (we did orecchiette)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 bunch scallions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced (keep the whites and greens separate)
- 2 large ears corn, shucked and kernels removed (2 cups kernels)
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, more for serving
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, more to taste (we did more, actually much more!)
- ⅓ cup torn basil or mint, more for garnish
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- Fresh lemon juice, as needed
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until 1 minute shy of al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat; add scallion whites and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and all but 1/4 cup corn; simmer until corn is heated through and almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, transfer to a blender, and purée mixture until smooth, adding a little extra water if needed to get a thick but pourable texture.
- Heat the same skillet over high heat. Add butter and let melt. Add reserved 1/4 cup corn and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. (It’s O.K. if the butter browns; that deepens the flavor.) Add the corn purée and cook for 30 seconds to heat and combine the flavors.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add pasta and half the reserved pasta cooking water, tossing to coat. Cook for 1 minute, then add a little more of the pasta cooking water if the mixture seems too thick. Stir in 1/4 cup of the scallion greens, the Parmesan, the herbs, the red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice to taste. Transfer to warm pasta bowls and garnish with more scallions, herbs, a drizzle of olive oil and black pepper.
We added sliced grilled chicken to it. It is truly delicious….make it you won’t be sorry! Served with my usual simple green salad and vingerette and, of course, lots of rosé or white wine! We did my Strawberries Romanoff for dessert.