Have you ever picked up your favourite tea mug to observe its properties? Do you know what it’s made of? How long it underwent firing? Or the glazing process involved in its production?
It’s shocking how oblivious many people are to their surroundings. Besides the creation story that posits that we’re made from clay, many are unaware that we’re surrounded by it. Considering that our early fathers used clay for building houses, cosmetics, oral applications, excipients, gastrointestinal protectors, and pharmaceutical formulations, it’s evident that clay remains an important part of our existence.
Whether you intend taking pottery classes or enrolling your kid, there are ceramics lessons suitable for all ages. But note that kids must be monitored during studio sessions to avoid close contact with high-temperature kilns. In this article, you’ll learn what ceramics is, the equipment needed for it, and where to find ceramics lessons. Whether you’re interested in a short-term class or a bachelor of fine arts degree, here’s the article for you. Let’s begin.
“An artist is not paid for his labour but for his vision.”
What Are Ceramics?
Are you aware that without ceramics, you wouldn’t be reading this post? That’s because ceramics play a major role in the production process of electronic devices. Ceramics are clay or non-organic pieces fired at varying levels of temperature to achieve earthenware, porcelain, or stoneware products. It’s a hard but fragile material that resists heat and corrosion. To get a finished ceramic piece, the non-organic material must undergo four major production stages and they are:
- Forming stage: this is the process of harvesting the clay, mixing it, and shaping it with a pottery wheel.
- Firing stage: for this, you’d heat the kiln based on the firing temperature of the ceramic piece you wish to achieve.
- Glazing stage: this is done for stoneware and porcelain pieces.
- Refiring stage: this is the second firing stage after the glaze has been applied.
Let’s quickly discuss the pottery types and their firing temperatures.
- Earthenware: it’s the first on our list because it requires the least firing temperature. Earthenware pieces are fired at temperatures ranging from 1,000ᵒC to 1,150ᵒC. Due to its porosity, water and air pass through it unless some glaze is applied.
- Stoneware: here, clay is fired at 1,200ᵒC to enhance its density, quality, and durability. It’s waterproof and can be used for cooking and storing liquid.
- Porcelain: this is fired at the highest temperature which ranges from 1,200ᵒC to 1,450ᵒC. The materials used include kaolin clay, feldspar, glass, and granite
Have you considered the numerous functions ceramics play in your everyday life? Besides having it as tiles on your floor, bathroom or kitchen walls, it serves other uncommon functions. The electric motors present in vacuum cleaners and blenders have ceramic elements in them. Likewise, toughened ceramic materials are effective for hip replacement and dental augmentation, as well as, implants.
Are you aware that your car has some ceramic properties in it? The catalytic converter in your car which makes poisonous gas non-toxic is made with ceramics. Beginners don’t need to know the complexities involved in ceramics.
Equipment for Pottery Classes
Even though creativity is a necessity for pottery, it’s not enough. This is because ceramics making is a tool-intensive profession that saves you time and effort provided you’ve got the right equipment. Without a pottery wheel, for instance, hand-moulding a vase would take hours. Likewise, heating porcelain ware with an oven instead of a kiln would produce a poorly heated product.
Good enough, you won’t undergo the hassle of purchasing a pottery wheel or kiln if you’ve enrolled in a pottery class. But if you intend setting up a ceramics business and need pottery equipment for your studio, here are a few picks:
- Kiln: this is the device responsible for firing ceramic ware. There are intermittent kilns and continuous ones. While the intermittent is used by small scale potters, business organizations use continuous kilns to fire large quantities of pottery. Some intermittent kilns include the updraft kiln, hill-climbing kiln, downdraft kiln, bottle kiln, and the top-hat kiln. If you cannot afford any of these, you can build a home-made kiln.
- Storage shelf: this is where newly thrown wares are stored before they undergo glazing or firing. If your studio space is small, install a wall shelf rather than a wooden one.
- Pottery wheel: although the pinching method can be applied if you don’t have a pottery wheel, it’s time and effort consuming. This is the tool used in throwing round clayware. Before purchasing a pottery wheel, practise with different makes in a pottery studio to know which brand works best for you. Studio sessions tend to improve your hand building, wheel throwing, and clay firing skills.
- Clay processors: large-scale businesses with large orders use these machines. These processors include Pugmills, Clay mixers, and Pugger mixers.
- Workspace: every potter needs some space to work besides storage spaces.
- Other tools include a trimming tool, sponge, ruler, paintbrush, and needle tool.
"When people say ceramics is therapeutic and seductive, I think it’s really about the wheel. Nothing I’ve done has that feeling; I feel like I’m fighting with the material the whole time. It doesn’t want to be vague. It doesn’t want to be asymmetrical. It doesn’t want to have different clays combined. It doesn’t want to do any of the things I make it do.”
Finding Ceramics Classes
From time immemorial, we’ve remained unique with our art style and sculpture. The production of pottery and brass sculpture in western Nigeria is believed to have spanned from 1100 to 1450 CE. Ife’s naturalistic art style birthed the unique art style used by the Yoruba to date. There are umpteen classes across the country for those interested in signing up for ceramic classes.
Ceramic art is a therapeutic, relaxing, and fulfilling art form everyone should try. People have various reasons for taking pottery and some include:
- Memory preservation
- Health benefits
- Improve sociability
Like any other skill, you have multiple schooling opportunities to choose from. You can take online courses, attend pottery workshops, even study pottery as a degree in the university. If you’re interested in improving a specific area, you can attend workshops. For someone looking for in-depth “introductory to pro-level” tuition, enrolling for a long-term studio course or degree programme is advisable. Here are some expertise-based courses:
|Beginner course on ceramics||Surface embossing|
Major pottery techniques
Vase and plate moulding
|Clay and glaze course||Theories of glazing|
Formulation of clay
|Class on ceramic sculpting||Surface methods|
Hand sculpting (advanced)
Wheel throwing (advanced)
|Hand building||Learn hand-building techniques|
Learn firing methods
|Mid-level ceramics class||Finishing techniques|
Wheel throwing methods
Hand forming methods
Experimenting with glaze
Some popular pottery classes near you include the following:
|Abuja||Go Woman Go|
|Lekki, Osun, & Abuja||The Nike Art Gallery|
|Ibadan||IAS Museum Shop|
|Lagos||Smartteee Pottery & Design|
"The attractions of ceramics lie partly in its contradictions. It is both difficult and easy, with an element beyond our control. It is both extremely fragile and durable. Like ‘Sumi’ ink painting, it does not lend itself to erasures and indecision."
Starting Pottery Classes
If you’re used to getting your expectations met at all times, don’t expect that with pottery. It’s usually frustrating at the beginning, but with dedication and constant practise, you would mould flawless pottery pieces eventually. Shoot for the stars but have realistic expectations. Don’t expect to perfect hand-building or clay firing in weeks or months. As a beginner, here are pottery outfit tips to help you get started in ceramics.
- Wear loose-fitting pants and a t-shirt
- Wear old boots when attending classes to protect your feet
- Have a waterproof apron to reduce staining
- Cut off long nails as they’d dig into your clay when using a pottery wheel
- Those who cannot do without their nails can use sponges
- Pack your hair to avoid hair strands disfiguring your clayware
- Use spa gloves and apply some lotion overnight if you’ve got sensitive hands
- It’s risky to use contact lenses during pottery wheel sessions. Use a recommended pair of glasses instead.
- Use a dust mask when glazing or wetting dry clay.
Here’s what to expect from taking ceramics classes:
- Learn clay chemistry
- Master wedging
- Learn wedging techniques
- Get first-hand training
Besides registering for an art class, you can make ceramics in your home. If you intend succeeding in the ceramics business, you must learn to work at home as much as you do in the studio. Have a kiln, different cone-sized clay, an affordable pottery wheel, and some glaze.