Pottery Essay, Research Paper

In this semester, we spent a great deal of time on pottery and the making of clay sculptures. I learned a great deal from only the three pieces I made. All of my pieces were created by hand using only a pin-tool and a sponge. The three pieces I made were an ashtray and two feet that I will be using for bookends. I will now go into the process I used in creating each piece.

First, I created my ashtray. I decided to make this ashtray because it was a simple way to ease into pottery. I first took a large slab of clay and rolled it out. I used the three-eighth sticks to ensure that my clay would be thick enough for it s eventual firing in the kiln. I then took the pin-tool and traced a circle from a medium sized bowl. I then took a smaller bowl and traced another circle inside the bigger one. With the extra clay that was from the difference in size I made a rim for my ashtray. I used the slip and score method to attach the rim and it worked quite well. The ashtray was then left out to dry for a few days. It was fired and I am in the process of glazing it.

My second and third piece were a pair of feet that I wanted to use for bookends for my DVD collection. This idea came to me out the blue when I was playing with the clay and one piece began to resemble a foot. In seeing this I began to mold it more and more when I eventually ended up with what looked like a small child s foot. I then took another large chunk of clay and had to duplicate the shape that I had stumbled upon by accident. I eventually was able to roll and press out a similar foot the other one. I used a pin-tool to create the toes by simply cutting them out of the end of the foot. I then took a regular pen and dug holes in the tops of the feet right above where the ankle is. I did this to ensure that the feet had room for air to escape so they would not explode in the kiln. They were then dried and fired and I am in the process of firing them.

Pottery is used world wide in so many ways and is recognized by so many cultures as part of their history, livelihood, and customs. Here is an over view of pottery.

Types of Pottery

It usually falls into three main classes, porous-bodied pottery, stoneware, and porcelain. Raw clay is transformed into a porous pottery when it is heated to a temperature of about 500.C. This pottery, unlike sun-dried clay, retains a permanent shape and does not disintegrate in water. Stoneware is produced by raising the temperature, and porcelain is baked at still greater heat. In this process part of the clay becomes vitrified, or glassy, and the strength of the pottery is increased.

Methods of Production

Pottery is formed while clay is in its plastic form. Either a long piece of clay is coiled and then smoothed, or the clay is centered upon a potter’s wheel (used in Egypt before 4000 B.C.) that spins the clay while it is being shaped by the hand, or thrown. Decoration may be incised, and the piece is allowed to dry to a state of leather hardness before firing it in a kiln. The type of finish, depending on the kind or number of glazes, dictates the total number of firings. When slip and graffito are used, they are applied before the first firing. There are two types of fires reducing and oxidizing. The former removes oxygen while the latter, a smokeless fire, adds it. Reduction and oxidation change the color of the fired clay and gave early potters their palette of red, buff, and black.

Early History

Pottery is one of the most enduring materials known to humankind. In most places it is the oldest and most widespread art; primitive peoples the world over have fashioned pots and bowls of baked clay for their daily use. Prehistoric (sometimes Neolithic) remains of pottery, e.g., in Scandinavia, England, France, Italy, Greece, and North and South America, have proved of great importance in archaeology and have often supplied a means of dating and establishing an early chronology. Pottery has also been of value as historical and literary records; ancient Assyrian and Babylonian writings have been inscribed upon clay tablets. Simple geometric patterns in monochrome, polychrome, or incised work are common to pottery of prehistoric and primitive cultures.

Modern Pottery

In spite of the development of mass-production techniques and synthetic materials, the demand for hand-crafted ware of fine quality has not diminished. A variety of artisans make utilitarian objects as well as works of art using many methods of pottery production. Moreover, indigenous peoples, notably native Americans, continue to create a number of vessels adapted from traditional forms. In addition, many of the major artists of the 20th century have created exquisite ceramic works. Especially notable are those by Picasso, Matisse, and Mir .

Pottery is very important and has proved to stand the test of time as most art has. I have learned a lot from both researching and taking part in pottery. I have enjoyed it thoroughly and I will try to take an art course in college so that I can continue to do the things in art I enjoy such as pottery.

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