How Does it Work For Beginners?
At MudFire we have a uniquely personalized approach based on studio membership. We teach, but not in a large class format. Instead, studio members receive one-on-one instruction. Our staff is always on hand for an in-depth lesson, last minute rescue, or help with a new form or project. It's like a gym where you can come any time and there are "personal trainers" on hand and ready to help you any time with personalized instruction.
You don't need to decide if you want to learn to throw on the wheel, handbuilding or sculpture. Try everything and see what interests you most.
Get to know your instructor, discuss personal goals and set
expectations. Tour the studio, learn about the different techniques and all
the corresponding tools available to you at MudFire. Select your clay (there
are 15 different kinds to choose from) and learn to wedge it!
Watch a demonstration by your instructor; we'll not just show you how, but explain "why" every step of the way.
Get into the clay. If you're throwing on the wheel, you'll first learn to center and open. Then you'll be pulling up the walls… and then shaping your first bowl. Your teacher will be with you the whole time, focusing on establishing good techniques and explaining why certain things are happening so that you can understand the wheels' and your hands' effect on the clay. You'll probably make two or three ice cream bowls on your first day.
For handbuilders, we'll select several projects to try out the different techniques you've just learned: coiling, pinching and slab work. If you have ideas of what you'd like to make, we'll focus on the best techniques for the specific item. Expect to make several pieces today and wrap them in plastic so that you can clean, trim or finish up during your next visit.
Many people come back the very next day, others come by once or twice per week. Regardless of your schedule, there will be plenty to do when you show up: If you're throwing on the wheel, you'll learn to trim the pieces you made last time - add feet, a handle or decorations. We'll talk about the next steps and discuss firing and glazing options. If you want, you'll get back on the wheel and practice throwing and experimenting with different shapes. For handbuilders, this is the day to continue building up any tall coil forms you started last time, adding feet or decorations to your pieces, or learning how to scraffitto. We'll also delve into combining basic handbuilding techniques to create more complex forms and start to develop your vocabulary of decorative elements.
Your pieces are probably ready for their first firing. We'll discuss kiln and firing types, and brush up on some technical pottery lingo. Pretty soon you'll be telling you friends that you prefer firing your stoneware in reduction to a soft cone 6 because of the excellent flashing this tends to give you. The studio is yours to continue practicing what you've learned so far. MudFire teachers are always around to help out. Start new pieces, finish some other ones. You're well on your way.
Your pieces may be ready for the final firing and we'll spend about an hour learning about glazing: what's in a glaze, the different methods of applying it, how your choice of firing will affect the finished look, color combinations, and alternatives to glaze like oxide washes, terra sigillata, underglazes and stains. There are many methods of decorating your work - we'll start with some basic ones and get more elaborate each week.
You're Becoming a Potter
By the end of the first two weeks you have a good overall sense of the pottery cycle and have a good handle on your basic pottery skills. You know where everything is and the studio is starting to feel like home. Your first pieces are probably ready to take home and you probably have others at different stages of dryness and completion. Sometime in the past week, you might have decided to make candleholders for everyone in your office, or mugs for all your friends, or dessert bowls for the house. You're also noticing your new friends at the studio making sculptures, menorahs, giant turkey platters, intricately carved napkin rings, goblets and dinner place settings. You talk to them about their glaze choices and set up a time to do a raku firing the following week.
And you suddenly realize hey, I think I might be becoming a potter.
We'd love to have you join our community. Visit our Membership Options page to get started.
Learn to throw pots at MudFire!