News 8 Eye Piece: Throwing Clay

Pottery has been around for centuries and many of us have pieces in our homes.

But have you ever really thought about the amount of work that goes in to one of those pieces?

In this week’s Eye Piece Photographer John Schmidt takes us to Generous Earth Pottery in downtown La Crosse to meet Studio Manager Shane Lamb and find out what it takes to spin up a work of art.

“Every pot is a new adventure. You never know what is going to happen sometimes,” Lamb says.

“You know, some people call it turning, spinning, either way to start, it’s the same no matter what it is. I find, I figure out how much clay I want to use for something, just weight wise, I guess first. You know, so I choose that much clay, I wedge it to make sure there’s no air bubbles in there. Basically center it, open it, shape it, and then set it aside and move to the next one.”

“When I first center it, the first thing you have to do is attach it to the bat so that it doesn’t fly off when you’re working with it, cause your putting quite a bit of stress on it. You know, you’re pulling up that clay, so your main thing is even pressure is what your trying to get. You want to be pressing away from you, which is towards the center and down at the same time with the same kind of evenness. You’re basically being kind of a river bed, strength wise.”

 “After I trim it and I have to wait till it’s leather hard to where it can support its own weight and it can support me kind of beating up on it with a trimming tool. Then I just kind of set it aside for a couple weeks. I let it completely dry. If it goes into the kiln early, while there’s still moisture in there, most likely it’s going to explode.

“It fires the first time for twelve and a half hours. It’s on a slow 1800 degree firing. And then, once that firing is done, it takes 18 hours to cool at a normal pace. It just kind of naturally cools.”

 “From there, pull it out, glaze it, and refire it again. I keep all the glazes fairly simple, just because, and the glazings and the firings, cause it stays consistent.”

“It all comes down to rotations and repetition. The longer you do this, the better you get as long as you’re patient. And if you’re not patient, it builds patience, you don’t really have a choice. It’s its own therapy,” explains Lamb.

If you would like to know more about the process of pottery-making or try it yourself Generous Earth Pottery offers classes to the public.