Don’t Panic, It’s Ceramic

This photo story follows students Gary Halverson and Darius Smith as they embark on the multi-step process of creating pottery. Using the facilities offered by the art program at Piedmont University, these two gentlemen worked to complete their pieces as part of their final grade for beginner and intermediate ceramics classes.

Darius Smith (front) molds the next layer of his stackform clay creation on the throwing wheel while Gary Halverson (back) smoothes the edges around his lifelike and life-sized set of legs.

Smith carefully uses his fingers and a wet sponge to keep the clay moist while he shapes it to the right size to fit in with the rest. Halverson uses a sponge of his own, which helps shape the veins around the foot of his creation. It is important to move slowly and smoothly to avoid making a mistake.

As the full piece comes together, Smith shapes the top of the vase with a skimming tool that makes smaller and more precise adjustments to the clay composition. Halverson continues to sponge around the body, focusing on the upper hamstring to create definition between the tendons on the side and the main pocket of the muscle on the back of the leg.

Now that the works are shaped and dried to the specifications of the artists, Halverson hits the mix room where he goes full Breaking Bad mode and creates a glaze from various minerals which he will use to cover his creation. Smith applies a previously made Raku glaze to one of his four final pieces. This is a long process due to the fact that each piece usually needs 2-3 layers of glaze. This is one of the final steps before the heating and firing process which will leave the artists with a complete work.

With the help of his classmate Pedro (right), Darius Smith sets up the raku kiln with the propane hose heating up one of his pots inside the fire resistant wool. Monitoring a PSI gauge and the air hole at the top of the contraption, Smith waits until the glaze is noticeably melted properly.

Having applied the raku kiln process to two of the four pieces, Smith admires his work and is happy with the outcome of his two favorite creations. With critique on the horizon, he is confident that at least three of these pieces will be strong enough to carry him to a good grade.

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