Big Ceramic Store Blog

Monthly Archives: August 2015

  • Did you ever try shopping for that guy who has everything? You walk around endless stores, search the web and ask all your friends for suggestions. You finally make a purchase, but most of the time, you end up settling for something that doesn't meet your expectations.

    Why not use some clay, glazes, and your talent, to do something extraordinary for him? How about a monogrammed flask? He probably won't use it the way it's intended, but I almost guarantee, it will end up in a prominent display location.

    In this post, we will show you how to make that "one of a kind" gift.

  • Glazes are a true mystery to a lot of us... even those that have been doing it for years! The biggest mystery is, why does the same glaze turn out differently, even if you do the exact same process every time?

    This post is primarily on how to use commercial glazes, however; follow our blog for additional tips, tricks and lessons learned, in upcoming articles.

  • "Nana, can I come in the studio and play with clay"? How many times have you heard something similar? And how many times is the answer "No honey, not right now"?

    With all the pieces I have in different stages of completion, I worry about the kids being kids, and breaking something. It's hard to put that worry away since so much time and effort has gone into each piece.

    Every now and again though, I loosen the reins, and let them in. One of the easiest things I do with them, is cookie cutter shapes. During the summer months, we do wind chimes with the shapes, but also prepare for the upcoming holiday season by doing ornaments and gift tags.

    Not only is this is a really easy project, but the kids love giving the ornaments as gifts, and I love seeing the artistic and creative side in each one of them. Being able to share art with children is extremley rewarding!

    Here are a few tips and examples of the shapes we use, and the different ways we decorate them.

  • In part 1 of our basic throwing series, we’ll learn how to make a cup. Enjoy the video and look below for instructions you may have missed.

    Cups are among the simplest forms you can throw on the wheel, but are excellent for practicing three of the most fundamental skills necessary for throwing: centering, opening and drawing up.

    NOTE: all instructions are for right handed throwers, using a western style (turning counter clockwise) wheel. Many left-handed potters use the same method, while other prefer to reverse their hand positions and throw on a Japanese-style (clockwise) wheel.

    Centering

    You can see an in depth guide to centering in our previous video, but here are some quick tips. Keep your feet flat on the ground. Use the heel of your left hand to push the clay from the side and push down on the top with the edge of your right hand. Cone the clay up a few times by squeezing it with both hands from the sides. Keep your left elbow tight against your hip and use your body weight, not your muscles, to center.

    Opening

    This is also covered in the centering video. Remember to open with the middle finger of your right hand, and squeeze the clay into your left hand, flatten out the rim, this will finish the centering/opening process.

    Drawing Up

    Now that your clay is centered and opened, it's time to give it height. Using your left hand on the inside and your right hand on the outside, pull clay from the base to the top. What's the best way to do that? You will have to experiment to find out what feels right for your hands, but you can use the tips of your index fingers, or middle fingers, you can also use the knuckles on your index fingers.

    It is best to minimize the surface area that contacts the clay, this will make drawing up faster and less prone to knocking the clay off center. Draw up slowly to make sure the walls are even and without spirals or ridges. Try to achieve your desired height in three pulls, too many will wear out the clay and make it harder to work with. Compress the rim after each pull.

    Finishing

    Shape your cup however you want. You can bulge it out or collar it in, smooth the outside with a rib, or use texture tools to rough it up. Once it's off the wheel you can use your hands or a paddle to give it flat sides or just add some asymmetry.

    Once your cup is dried and fired it will be your own unique drinking vessel. Try making a set of six (or more) all the same, or a mismatched set with similar colors and features but each one different.

    Do you have an idea or project you'd like to share, or would you like to try your hand at writing an article for us? Shoot us an e-mail at bcscommunity@bigceramicstore.com

  • If you read our post on Wednesday, you learned all about making and using hump molds. Today, we are going to go over, making and using slump molds.

    They both give you similar results, however; they are achieved in different methods. With a hump mold, you drape the clay over the outside of the mold to shape it, and with a slump mold, you drape it inside.

    So, how can you make a slump mold? Use your imagination and create unique and personalized molds, or go plain and simple, and use a bowl or a bowl and some plaster.

    How creative you get is up to you, but today, I'm going to show you plain and simple.

  • Did you ever see a set of square plates, platters or bowls, that were the perfect shape, but... you'd like them in a different color, the price tag was a little steeper than your budget, or you were on vacation and didn't want to haul them five hundred miles?

    You're a potter, right? So why can't you make them yourself? Oh, that's right, you haven't been able to find a hump mold that meets your needs.  You've got the clay and glazes you love, and you're pretty good at hand-building, but how do you get that shape?

    It's simple, make your own hump mold! Plaster, water, a plastic or wooden bowl, and room on the table is all you need. Follow along for instructions.

  • With the Holidays fast approaching, we have a tendency to shift our studios to "color mode." What I mean by this is, instead of doing the normal brushing/dipping of glazes, we decorate more pieces with under/overglazes .

    We make snowmen, Santa's, trees and berries. The once simple plate, now has a corncob pipe, button nose, and two eyes made out of coal. There may even be a hat, and a scarf, with vibrant colors!

    Although there are a gazillion ways to use these glazes, I personally have only begun to scratch the surface with underglaze, and I've yet to try the overglazes.

    In this post, I'll show you some of the things I've tried, and talk about some of the things that didn't work out well. I'm also encouraging you to share some tips/tricks that you use. Don't be shy... jump right in and post your ideas in the comments section!

  • Who's getting ready for fall and winter? Are you starting to gear your projects toward the holiday season by putting ghosts, pumpkins and snowmen on plates, platters and bowls?

    I know I am! I dug out the snowman slump mold I made last year, started making more molds, and did some research on what sells best for the holidays.

    For those of you that have been following our blog, you know I'm a nature buff. That part of me started thinking about our feathered friends, that weather out the cold and snow, in my backyard.

    Time to start making some bird feeders. Follow along, for the easiest way I've found, to make a lot of feeders fast!

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