I have a strong interest bordering on an obsession with pottery and ceramics but it is not something I have ever tried make. That is I wandered past on Blackstock Road, Clay Time.
It's a good name which always help. Basically there are three parts to the store. First you can just buy pottery and they have some pretty nice stuff.
Secondly you can drop in, pretty much whenever you want, and either make ceramics or decorate ready made ceramics. The thing that most interested me though is that they do pottery making courses, so I signed up for five weeks beginners course on wheel throwing.
Our instructor was Mitra Mahmoodi. She was very good and over 5 weeks took us through the basics of wheel throwing. It is very difficult. It requires both patience and a lightness of touch. Neither of these are my strong point.
The first two weeks we were being taught how to knead the clay to get rid of all the air bubbles, and then centre it on the wheel. This is the scene from ghost bit where you cover yourself in water and massage the clay up and down. What they don't tell you is all this is actually quite phyiscally tough and tricky to do.
Once the clay is centred you can then open it up and pinch up the side of the pots. This is the very tricky part and the pile of ruined half pot strewn around my wheel was testament to my lack of skill in this regard. After three weeks I had three wobbly efforts below.
The next stage is turning the pot so that it changes into something actually bowl or cup shaped. It is at this stage you really appreciate having centered the whole thing properly for doing so makes thing easier. Or rather not having centered them properly makes it much more difficult and one my pots didn't make it through this process and I had to use one the instructor made.
Then they are fired, bisque firing it is called. I only fired three and they came out like this.
Finally, decorating by the application of glazes, of which they are three types. There is dip glazes, which is exactly as it sounds, you dip the whole pot in a glaze, of which there are various colours. I chose to dip one in Turkish Turquoise.
Then there are is normal glaze, which you can paint into various patterns onto the pot.
Both of the above two cannot be applied on top of each other or they will interact, but the final type, underglaze can and you can use this to paint pretty much as you would with oils. Painting around a curve is difficult. This is the stage, I have to say that I enjoyed most.
Finally they are glaze fired. 10 days later I had the final results. I was quite pleased with two them but one looks like it was made by a crazed child. I am really glad I did it though, it was a lot of fun and I recommend it. I shall probably go again.
The people there are super friendly and were kind enough to let me put up a poster for my upcoming exhibition.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.