When you think about the background of your crockery, it’s really quite remarkable!
So here it is in a nutshell, (for Earthenware clay at least – as there are many different types of clay that get fired at different temperatures!):
- Clay gets dug up from the Earth.
- Wet clay is used to make shapes by being processed with water and poured into moulds, or by being hand-built or thrown on a wheel.
- Shape is dried to ‘bone-dry’ state.
- Each piece is fired slowly in a kiln to reach its highest firing temperature, over 1100ºC and then allowed to cool gradually. This is called Bisque at this stage and while really strong, is still a little brittle and quite porous.
- Although I sometimes do make pieces from the beginning of the process with clay, due to limited resources on space and time, I mostly buy in a carefully selected range of Bisque shapes and continue the process from that stage.
- All Bisque pieces are sanded and prepped prior to decoration to ensure a smooth surface.
- The decoration process involves hand-drawing the design on the Bisque with felt-tip (which burns away and disappears when in the kiln), sometimes using hand-made stencils for repetitive patterns and stenciled lettering. To achieve a great depth of colour, up to 4 layers or coats of glaze are applied, by hand, using a paintbrush. This process can take in excess of 3 hours for big/complex designs!
- Once the Bisque is decorated with glazes, it is then hand-dipped in a clear-glaze, and then fired again to around 1000ºC to ensure that the resulting ceramic piece is finished to a high standard, and durable enough for every day use.
- The entire firing process can take over 32 hours for each piece!
So, next time you make a cup of tea or get a plate out of the cupboard for a sandwich, you can marvel at the natural elements of earth, water and fire within it!