VERY HIDDEN TALENT: A RAW CERAMICS WORKSHOP
Last Christmas, I was given the hugely generous present of a ‘Beginners Ceramics Course’ at Raw Ceramics Workshop in East London. Someone knew me only to well!
Raw Ceramics Workshop is run by its namesake, Matthew Raw, an amazing ceramicist in his own right and also the most encouraging tutor I’ve ever met. He runs a number of different courses, including a tempting Tile Making one, from his studio in Hoxton.
The Beginners Ceramics Course – the one I’m doing – is a three-week affair: Every Monday evening from 7 – 9pm for three consecutive weeks.
LESSON 1: LEARNING
There are 12 people in our class, including Jason (my other half) who I’ve skilfully managed to recruit for this month’s making challenge.
We’re using a deliciously squishy clay and Matt teaches us three techniques which used alone or together give you the foundations for being able to create a myriad of pieces.
We learn to pinch, make slabs, and then to my delight … roll coils! I remember being pretty good at making coil pots at primary school but it turns out my skills may have faded, it’s pretty tricky rolling a number of even looking coils… We then cross hatch and smooth the various bits together and learn to add texture using fingers and a range of tools. We’re basically equipping ourselves with the skills for next week’s lesson, where Matt explains, we’ll each be making our ‘masterpiece’…
LESSON 2: MAKING
In today’s lesson we’ll be whipping up our ‘Masterpiece’, and like all good nerds I’ve done my homework …
If only all homework was conducted on Pinterest!
With sleeves rolled up and a lump of Stoke on Trent’s finest, I plan on making something a little like this:
These look beautiful and fairly simple to make, but simple they are not!
It’s surprisingly difficult to make something so thin, or get that lovely curve on the base, and after much trial and error I end up with three fairly angular looking things … I wish I’d just tried to make one cup really well.
One thing that suddenly becomes blatantly obvious though is the amount of time and effort ceramicists must invest in honing their skills. I have a newfound admiration and want to practice, practice, practice. In fact, I’m so embarrassed by how bad my ‘cups’ are … I’m not going to show you!
LESSON 3: GLAZING
When we arrive at tonight’s workshop our fired masterpieces are waiting for us…
Mine sadly haven’t exploded in the kiln, so it’s now time to glaze them. This is something I’m pretty excited about as I’ve always been fascinated by the beautiful effects a glaze can produce. These beauties are by Studio Arhoj in Copenhagen:
The glaze comes in a powdered form. It’s a mixture of materials including pre-melted glass which is then combined with water and applied to the clay as what looks like a very thin paint.
Before we start, Matt shows how each ‘pastel coloured’ glaze will actually look after a turn in the kiln. Amazingly, something that looks like a pastel blue milkshake will actually emerge from the kiln as a stunning dark green… a pink turns red and so on. I’m already foxed by the possibilities.
We’re taught how to glaze our work. I pour the glaze into my clay cup, swirl it gently round the edges, and then pour the excess out onto a plate. Ta da! We then glaze the outsides using a paintbrush. It sounds simple enough, but there are so, so many things you can do with colour combinations, dipping, pouring, brush sizes, various brush strokes and so on. This is really fun and I’m most definitely winging it!
All I know is that my cups will probably come out of the kiln looking some sort of shade of green / blue … Here’s how they looked before firing (mine are the three dodgy looking ‘cups’ in the centre):
Unfortunately I can’t yet furnish you with a picture of the finished result (as I did a runner to Scotland after the final class) but I’ll be sure to show you the outcome as soon as I’m back.
While I’d say that my ceramics talent is on a par with my disastrous Macarons making skills, this course is brilliant! It’s opened up a whole world of clay making and glazing possibilities that I’d love to spend some more time experimenting with and getting stuck into. It’s also a great way to spend a Monday night.
If you want to have a shot at hand-built ceramics, check out the Raw Ceramics website. A beginners course costs £95 for all three lessons and materials, and makes a brilliant Christmas present!
I’m also on the look out for a lesson on a pottery wheel, so if anyone could bear to teach me, or could recommend a workshop – I’d love to know.