what to expect
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 many different kinds to choose from) and learn to wedge it!
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.
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 wheel and your hands' effect on the clay. You'll probably make two or three ice cream bowls on your first day.
Watch a demonstration by your instructor; we'll not just show you how, but explain "why" every step of the way.
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 sgraffito. 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 - the bisque. Pieces take 3-7 days normally to dry sufficiently for bisque firing. The firing hardens the clay and prepares it for glazing. The studio is yours to continue practicing what you've learned so far. MudFire Rangers 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 glaze firing (please note that while we are firing daily with many members using the studio the wait time can be up to two weeks for a bisque or glaze firing). We'll spend about half 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 first.
You're Becoming a Potter
By the end of the first several 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, 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 get to know how the glazes work. You interact with people who have never touched clay before and those selling their work for decades.
And you suddenly realize hey, I think I might be becoming a potter.