How to Make Ceramics – From clay to ceramics

This is the manufacturing process of a ceramic tea set as described by one of our potters:
Ceramics making is wonderful but time-consuming work. It brings us a lot of joy and constantly motivates us to come up with new ideas. It is a craft that will make happy those who appreciate handmade things and aren’t happy with cheap factory products without imagination and soul.

This is what it looks like at the beginning…

clay

…contrary to what some people still think, clay for making ceramics is no longer dug up in the village pond. The manufacturing of ceramic clay is a complicated process with complex technologies involved to ensure that the end result is a high-quality clay, which can be used for functional ceramics for your house or garden.

The right number of clay balls are prepared for throwing. Here we have clay balls for our teapot, lid, spout and teapot warmer, sugar pot and lid, milk jug and four cups.

And then you sit down at the pottery wheel and make everything into the correct shapes.



This for example is a thrown teapot including the edge for the lid…

…and the lid…

…the spout…

and a cup. Even after years at the pottery wheel one is still learning and getting better at working the clay.

 
And here we have all the pieces for our tea set. Now we have to wait for them to dry out a little so that they hold their shape and can be worked further. If we left them to dry out too much, they couldn’t be used for further work.

After a few days of drying out in a damp room, we can continue with our work.
We work the teapot and sugar pot lids to ensure a perfect fit.

Prepare the opening for the teapot spout…

…and cut the thrown spout to the correct angle…

…and stick it on very carefully…

…and smooth out the seam.

Then we tidy up the top of the milk jug.


We add the handles.


Then, while still damp, we carve the desired pattern.

The teapot warmer needs to be carved out to ensure adequate air supply for the tealight.





Now we can leave the set to slowly dry out.

Ceramics need to dry slowly and must be totally dry before first baking. This takes several days or weeks depending on the size and thickness of the product. Any attempts at speeding up the drying process might lead to cracks or distortion of the ceramics.


Before the first baking, the patterns have to be smoothed out and cleaned.

Then the ceramics are baked for 7-8 hours at 850 degrees Centigrade. This will make them water tight but they will still be very fragile.

After that we have to wait another six hours for the kiln to cool down before we can take the ceramics out and start glazing.

The grooves are painted with a black metal oxide so that they show through…

…any excess is sponged off.



Then everything is glazed to ensure a smooth and non-permeable surface.

Then follows the painting. One cat has seven colours.

Everything is ready for the second baking, which takes 8-9 hours at 1250 degrees Centigrade. This will ensure that the ceramics will be resilient and ready for daily use.

After the second bake the kiln has to cool down again for several hours. Only then comes the moment of truth and we can take the finished pieces out. But we can never be 100% certain that they will be without cracks or faults despite all the meticulous work  that we put into making them.

All done!