The Studio and pottery process
The studio is the heart of the Sunset Canyon Pottery and our clay ware process. Bridget, Bill and their merry band of craftspeople can be found most days busy in the studio producing the hand made clay ware. They use very traditional methods of hand forming the clay on potter’s wheels and using hand rolled slabs in simple forms to create the pottery. They have chosen this over the more industrial techniques of slip casting, ram pressing and jiggering to preserve the human touch in the clay ware. This method ensures that each piece is unique, even within sets.
The process begins with clay that is made in east Austin by the Armadillo Clay and Supply and then combined with recycled clay from the studio. This is put through a mixer and then a pug mill so that the clay the potters use is approximately 80% new and 20% recycled. The clay is cut and wedged by the potter into what is needed for the day’s work.
The potters throw at the potter’s wheel the various forms that are used to create the clay ware.
A day later the handles and knobs are added and the forms are trimmed. Above, Steve applies handles to serving bowls.
The slab ware is a little slower and takes a very skillful touch. Above, Sally begins working a slab form into shape.
When the clayware is dry it is loaded into the kiln for its bisque firing to approximately 1850 degrees F. This bisque firing prepares the ware for glazing and decorating. It takes approximately 24hours of firing time and 36 hours of cooling time.
After the bisque firing the stoneware is sorted and prepared for glazing. Multiple glazes are applied and then the ware is decorated.
The glaze firing finishes the clay ware into the functional pottery you find in the gallery and online. Glaze firing takes approximately 4 days to complete. The large glaze kiln takes 2 days to load, anywhere from 24-28 hours to fire and and 30-36 hours to cool. The peak of the firing reaches temperatures up to 2350° F.
After unloading, Bill sorts the clay ware into orders and then begins the process of packing and shipping. Sarah replenishes the supply in the Gallery for our visitors to enjoy.