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Pottery: The joy of creation

Ever since we were babies we enjoyed sticking our hands in the mud and shaping the dirt. Forming earthenware and clay is one of mankind’s oldest crafts and consequently most evolved art forms. It's one of the few functional creative processes where there is no true right or wrong and we can let our sensibilities and instincts guide us. And there's no barrier to entry. All that is required is clay, hands, an idea, and a little time

By Eli Zwillenberg

The sensation of molding clay triggers something deep within us. The wet earth yields like flesh in our fingers, responding to our touch, almost wishing to become what we have in our thoughts. And it’s quite easy to get started. Step one is to have some idea of what you wish to create. This idea could be as vague as “a bowl” or as specific as a copy of a piece you saw in an art gallery. In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Plans are worthless but planning is everything.” You can direct the clay, you can shape it, but the clay knows what it will long before you do.

Hand molding clay

Clay is dirt. The most basic and ancient form of clay is earthenware. Earthenware can literally be the mud found on a riverbank and is often red with iron or orange and yellow with other minerals. It’s been molded into beautiful shapes since time immemorial and comprises virtually all the pottery up until 17th century. When you go to the museum and look at the stunning old Arabic, Asian and indigineous pottery of olden times it is almost always going to be earthenware you’re looking at.  There are several different methods for doing pottery. For a first timer, you need to know about molding and throwing.

Hand molding is exactly what it sounds like: You take the clay into your hands and use your fingers, hand tools such a spoon and knife, and pinch and squeeze or stretch the clay into the shape you desire. This method is the most ancient form of making pottery and to many people’s minds the most relaxing and satisfying. If you want to make more complex and challenging pieces, you have to throw your clay.

Throwing and baking clay

“Throwing” clay means to spin it on a wheel like you may have done in art class or seen in the movie Ghost with Patrick Swayze. Spinning clay on a wheel makes shaping it into symmetrical, curved, smooth shapes much easier. Tall, narrow vases are usually thrown, not hand worked. Throwing clay is fun and rewarding but you probably do not have a pottery wheel in your home. You can go to pottery studios and they will not only have a wheel you can use but also instructors to show you the finer points of breathing life into the earth.

You may or may not glaze your piece to waterproof and decorate it before baking it in a kiln, but you will need to bake your clay before it stops being wet dirt and becomes a plate, bowl, vase, sculpture or whatever else you decided to create. A pottery studio will do the baking for you and ensure it is done properly. There is nothing so satisfying in this world as seeing an idea of your own take shape in reality and become a real, physical thing. When your finished piece emerges from the womb of the kiln you will know this feeling.

Pottery courses

Poteri Clay Workshop

Tel: 02-762-7886

Sukhumvit 49

Racquet Club Bldg 3, 1st F

Bangkok, 10110

In Clay Studio Pottery

Tel: 081 785 1943

35 Sirosos Rd, T.Suthep,

Muang, Chiang Mai, 50200

Bathma Ceramic

Tel: 085 061 3790

82/454 Cement Thai Village

Soi 22, Rachadapisek Rd. Soi 52

Ladyao, Jatujak, Bangkok

Nendo Studio

Tel: 02 287-2271

247 Soi Suanploo 6,

Sathorn 3rd Road

Bangkok, 10120