A cylindrical form is the easiest to begin with. The different placings of the hands
Simple Pottery Made By Art Students Of V.W.C.A., New York.
A Group Of Simple Candlesticks.
If the shape is not quite true, start again from the bottom, and come up pressing hardest where pressure is needed, and going lightly when it is not necessary to alter the shape. The vase may be shaped with the thumbs in front and the two fingers at the back when the neck of the vase has to be formed. This requires much care, or the slender neck will be spoiled.
It is best not to attempt to make a difficult vase at first. The second high vase in the group of five is a good and easy shape for a first attempt at a potter's wheel. Another thing to bear in mind is that the walls must be of an even thickness, about a quarter of an inch thick.
When the top is reached, the edge must be cut even with one of the sharp tools. When the vase is finished it can be loosened from the wheel by a small piece of wire, which is held taut in the two hands, or by a hoe-shape tool supplied in a potter's outfit.
After an hour or two, when the vase has stiffened, it may be smoothed and rounded with an oval-edged tool of sheet steel. Turn the wheel and moisten the tool with water, and bend to fit the curves of the vase, holding the tool at right angles while the left hand supports the wrist of the right. Any roughness can be removed with this tool. Start at the bottom, and move it up gradually with each revolution of the wheel. Then take the rubber polisher, wet it with water, and pass over the surface in the same way. Remove the vase again from the wheel by drawing the wire under it to prevent its clinging to the wheel.
When making pottery, it must never be allowed to dry out, and if the piece started cannot be finished at one sitting, it must be kept covered with moistened cloths. When the greatest diameter of the vase on the wheel is reached, it must be inverted, and any irregularities on the bottom and lower sides must then be removed. It can then be placed on the wheel again, and proceed as already directed.
There are many ways of decorating pottery. Line incision is perhaps the easiest. This is done with a wooden tool shaped like finger. The illustrations show a variety of suggestions as to ornamentation, and any of these can be done with the primitive tools mentioned.
When finishing pottery, it can either be left dull and porous or the surface may have a coating of fused matter known as glaze. Whether the pottery is to be dull or glazed, it is best to use the raw colours, which come in the form of powder obtainable at any paint store. These must be mixed with liquid in order to apply them to the clay. Purchase some gum-arabic from the drug store, and mix it with water until it is the consistency of cream. Then add a small amount of dextrine powder, which can also be obtained from the drug store, in order to make it adhesive. Only a few primary colours need be purchased, as these can be mixed dry to get the desired shade.
One way of colouring pottery without the use of the glaze is to apply the colour diluted with gum-arabic, dextrine, and water to the moist surface of the clay. Then put the pottery aside for two or three hours to allow the colour to set. Before the clay is hard, the colour must be worked smooth with the back of the bowl of the spoon. This will impart a gloss to the surface, which will be unchanged by the firing.
The pottery must not be fired for several days, thus allowing the clay and colour to be perfectly dry.
Another method of colouring much in favour with some craftsmen is to mix the pigment with the body of the clay before it is worked up.
Unglazed pottery may be refined after firing, by rubbing floor-wax on the outer surface, which fills up the pores, and gives a beautiful quality to the surface.
The most successful glazed pottery requires two firings. Powders can be obtained which can be mixed with the colour, which will give the pottery a glazed finish when coloured. Another method is to buy from a potter a soft glaze which can be applied with a camel's-hair brush on the surface of a piece of pottery which has first been fired. The colour must be laid on with a flat side of the brush, going over the whole surface with a smooth, even finish. Allow the first coat to dry, after which apply a second coat in the same manner.
Many potters make a point of never making two pieces alike. If several pieces are to be made from the same pattern, moulds have to be made. As the making of these is another story, this has not been touched upon, as it is much better for the amateur to make individual pieces and not duplicate them.
If the vessel is intended to hold water, it must have an inside glaze. There are several substances obtainable for this purpose. Red lead can be bought in the form of a powder, and must be dusted upon the moist clay. It will liquefy, and cause the inside to be glazed when fired. Marsching's soft Limoges glaze can be used, if preferred.
There is no craft in which so few tools are necessary as pottery-making. In fact, a set of potter's tools is hardly necessary for the beginner, as such ordinary household things as a nail file, an orange stick for cleaning the nails, an ordinary chisel, and butcher's wooden block, a small steel crochet-hook, resemble so closely the tools made for potters that I would suggest using these for making pottery before a girl goes to the expense of buying the regulation tools. Many potters invent tools for themselves. Those resembling the fingers are the best. A very valuable tool can be made at home by making a loop from a piece of large iron wire, and twisting with a fine wire. The two ends are held together at the bottom by twists of wire, and the tool is used for scraping off superfluous clay where the thickness of the work in hand has become too great. The loop must be higher on one side than on the other.
In every town there are kindergarten supply stores, and clays suitable for potteries can be obtained from them. This should cost not more than ten cents a pound. Clays come in dry form in grey or yellowish powder. These are prepared for use by mixing them with water. Place in a basin an equal quantity of clay and water, allowing them to soak all night, after which it must be kneaded thoroughly. This must be done until air-bubbles are worked out. If any are allowed to remain in the clay, it would permit the generation of steam in the firing, causing explosion, which would spoil the work. If the clay is too wet, superfluous moisture may be worked out over a dry board, or on a bed of plaster of Paris, half an inch deep, which should be laid in the bottom of a large oiled pie-plate. If the clay is too cohesive, a little fine sand must be added.
In every large town, there are one or more kilns, and the cost is so small for firing pottery that it is best to send them away to be fired rather than make the attempt at home - at any rate, in the early stages. Most of the Art Schools possess kilns, and they are sometimes willing to do the firing for outsiders, or they will give the address of a reliable firer if requested, when a stamped envelope is enclosed for a reply.
The joy of making pottery can only be realized by those who have worked in clay. Each piece seems to rise and form itself into a marvel of beauty in an almost miraculous manner. I shall never forget my delight when, as a child of eight, I visited an exhibition, and a potter allowed me to make, under his direction, several little vases. For a very small price he promised to have them fired and sent to my address, and my childish heart was much gratified at possessing pottery made by my own little fingers.