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Potters - Overview

Potters create artistic or functional objects from clay.

Potters shape, mold, and form artworks made out of clay. They usually work with clays such as:

  • Earthenware
  • Porcelain

Potters sometimes mix clays to get a certain texture or plasticity. Each type of clay gives a different appearance to pottery.

Potters form items from balls of clay that they spin on potters' wheels. Most potters use an electric wheel to throw (create) pots. Others use a treadle wheel that they pump with their feet. Potters adjust the speed of wheels as the clay responds to their movements.

Potters use their hands and fingers to shape clay into items. They also use wooden tools to shape objects so they are straight. They use pieces of wire to cut off extra clay. Potters use rubber scrapers and wet sponges to smooth the surface before removing an item from the wheel. Potters may add handles or other decorations to the outside of the vessel.

To remove finished items from wheels, potters run a wire between the base of the object and the surface of the wheel. Depending on the item, potters may apply a glaze. Some potters make their own glazes. They brush, dip, sponge, or spray the glaze to apply it.

Next, potters place the item into a kiln to be dried. Potters monitor the kiln temperature during the drying process to make sure it does not vary much. An even temperature helps diminish breakage, melting, or cracks.

Some potters use molds to form objects. Many potters build their pieces by hand. They may pinch pieces into a particular form, use slabs of clay, or build vessels from coils of clay.

Potters who work in factories and produce just one type of product, such as plates, often use molds. Other potters create pottery with their own designs. These potters may display their art at galleries. They may sell their art in gift shops or at art festivals and craft fairs. Many use their own websites to market and sell their work.

Some potters teach at universities, colleges, or in their own studio.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.