Saskatchewan potters work in porcelain, stoneware, earthenware and colored clay originating from all over North America, and in some cases their own backyards.
Pottery is made by forming a clay body into objects of a required shape and heating them to high temperatures in a kiln which removes all the water from the clay, which induces reactions that lead to permanent changes including increasing their strength and hardening and setting their shape. A clay body can be decorated before or after firing. Prior to some shaping processes, clay must be prepared.
Wedging helps to ensure even moisture content throughout the body. Air trapped within the clay body needs to be removed. This is called de-airing and can be accomplished by a machine called a vacuum pug or manually by wedging. Wedging can also help produce even moisture content. Once a clay body has been kneaded and de-aired or wedged, it is shaped by a variety of techniques, such as hand building or wheel throwing.
One of the most common methods potters use in creating objects out of clay is to use a potter’s wheel. Throwing is the process of shaping the lump of clay using the wheel. When people talk about throwing pottery, they generally mean the process from the time the clay touches the wheel to the time the wheel is stopped. The steps involved in throwing are, centering, opening, pulling up the walls, finalizing the form and cutting the pot loose. After shaping the piece it is dried and then fired.
Before potters had the wheel, they were creating spectacular pots and clay forms. Using clay, their hands, and a minimum of tools they brought function and artistry together. Pinch, coil and slab are common forms of producing hand built pots.
The heart of pottery is the heat of the kiln and the firing process. Without firing, clay will forever remain clay. It is through the high temperatures of firing that soft clay becomes durable ceramics. Getting ready to fire and controlling the kiln while firing can be complicated. Most pottery goes through a bisque firing to remove moisture before it is glazed and then fired again to melt the glaze and fuse it to the clay body. Bisque firing pottery is important. It allows the potter to do much more decorative work with stains, underglazes and glazes with greatly reduced risk of the pot being damaged.
Raku is a Japanese firing technique which has been adapted and modified by North American Potters. The unique effects come from placing the pots in a red hot kiln and then removing them, with the glazes melted, with metal tongs. The pot may then be buried in sawdust or leaves, paper, etc. and smoked. This turns the clay grey or black, brings out the metallic lustre, and stains craze lines in the glaze. The whole process tends to produce a somewhat porous but decorative pottery.