Eastnor Pottery workshop assistant Evie Banks graduates with a first class degree in Fine Art from Cardiff metropolitan University

Eastnor Pottery workshop assistant Evie Banks graduates with a first class degree in Fine Art from Cardiff metropolitan University

Huge congrats to our Evie who’s just graduated with First Class Honours in Fine Art from Cardiff Metropolitan University.

We’ve known Evie ever since she was a young’un! She used to attend our themed children’s workshops in the school holidays before spending a week with us in YR10 as her work experience. Ever since, she’s been a valuable member of the team working shifts during our busiest times and sharing the delights of working on the potter’s wheel with many of our customers.

As well as a competent potter she’s a whiz with the paint and canvas and no doubt has a sparkling career as an artist ahead of her.

Well done Evie and we’ll watch your development as a professional creative with great interest.

Herefordshire artists Jon Williams and Sarah Monk photographed in 2014 when the couple first moved to Eastnor in 1995

Herefordshire artists Jon Williams and Sarah Monk photographed in 2014 when the couple first moved to Eastnor in 1995

25 years ago to the day, two young pottery graduates from Bath arrived in Herefordshire to set up their studio on the idyllic Eastnor Castle Estate!

It’s safe to say the business has grown and developed in ways the couple could not have imagined when they took on the redundant farm building in which to make their ceramic artwork.

Not long after they arrived Jon and Sarah wrote an article for Ceramic Review:

artists Jon Williams and Sarah Monk photographed in 1995 for ceramic review

 

Aimee

Kiln technician Aimee unloading the kiln at eastnor pottery

Once visitors have left the Pottery having had a fabulous time creating their clay masterpieces, they may be interested to know what happens to their ‘makes’ left behind. Aimee is the key person responsible for the aftercare of customers work as it makes it’s journey from clay to ceramic. She describes part of the process below:

“After our customers have made their pots and decorated them, there are a few processes they will go through before customer and pot are re-united.

Clay is left to dry out until it is bone dry and there is no moisture left. This can usually take several days but we use the assistance of radiators and fan heaters during winter and the sun’s rays during summertime to speed up the process a little bit. Whilst clay dries, it shrinks by a small amount of about 5-10% so it’s also important not to expose clay to too much heat too quickly as this can cause it to crack.

Once pots are dry, they are ready to be fired. They have to be fully dry as any moisture still within a pot when being fired will evaporate, potentially creating air bubbles which may cause a pot to ‘explode due to there being nowhere for the air to be released to. This is why clay can’t be made too thick or projects such as pinch pots need an airhole. One way to tell they’re dry is how they look visually. With the grey stoneware and red terracotta clays we use, pots dry a lighter shade compared with when they are freshly thrown off the wheel. Another way is the ‘cheek test’ by placing the base of a pot to your cheek. A dry pot is usually cold and you can’t feel any moisture on you cheek.

All pots go through 2 firings. The first firing is known as a bisque where pots go through the change from clay to hard pottery. At this point, pottery is still quite porous which means it will later absorb glaze easily. A bisque firing reaches a maximum temperature of 960 degrees – very hot! This firing gives a matte, pastel-like effect and can be chalky at this point. 573 degrees is the temperature point in a bisque firing where clay changes its state to hard pottery and becomes irreversible. The term is called Quartz Inversion.

The second firing pottery goes through is a glaze firing. We use a clear glaze which is what makes pots waterproof and functional. Pots are dunked in the glaze and their bases are wiped. The reason for this is so that they don’t become stuck to the kiln shelf. A glaze firing has a maximum temperature of 1080 degrees – even hotter! Between 1000 and 1120 degrees is where the pottery changes state again from bisque to the final product. This final firing produces the final product making your pots functional, dishwasher proof and usable

Fun fact: When packing kilns, pots can touch each other in a bisque but not a glaze. The reason for this is because as the glaze melts, any pots touching will become stuck together during the cooling down process of the firing.”


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Immy Wedging

Immy Wedging

Immy is responsible for ensuring the clay is at it’s optimum condition ready for our customers to use on the potter’s wheel. Here she explains the process of clay preparation:

“Before any piece of clay is put on the potter’s wheel, we must ensure it is the correct state for our customers to throw their creations with. We do this by wedging the clay. Wedging, or kneading the clay, involves using your hands to roll the inconsistent clay in a smooth motion. By doing this we are pushing out any air bubbles that may be hidden in the clay, air bubbles can crack customers pots or be dangerous to put into the kiln.

Another reason we wedge is clay is to make sure it is the right consistency to throw with. It would be almost impossible to create a pot on the potter’s wheel with a piece of clay that is too hard or too soft!

We never waste any clay in the pottery. The bits that fly off during centering, the leftover parts from a pinch pot, the soggy stuff you find at the bottom of buckets, all unused clay is collected together and wedged back into a nice consistency for the next person to use.

If the clay becomes too hard to wedge, we do a process called slicing and dipping. As the name suggests, we slice the hard clay, dip it into a bucket of water, pull it back out and place it into a fresh bag. The clay is then for a few days to absorb the water. After that it is taken out of the bag and wedged together!”

 


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hand made pottery hedgehog on the phone

“Hello, Eastnor Pottery, Horace speaking, how can I help you?!”

This hand crafted, pottery hedgehog was created by a visitor on a team building pottery workshop held at the end of August. It was made using the simple pinch-pot technique where two little ‘pinched’ bowls are joined together to create a hollow sphere, which can be shaped into almost anything – fish, cat or even a hedgehog!