Ever wonder how long did it take me to make that pot?

I first discovered pottery in 1981, I wondered into a nice quaint pottery studio at the Heights Community Center in Albuquerque. The pottery teacher invited me in and here I am 28 years later answering questions like “How long, How much, and Why not.”

Let’s start with the pottery studio I built at my home in Rio Rancho. Counting two awesome potters wheels a super great slab-roller, custom hand built wedging table, and Skutt electric kiln, these are just a few of the tools of the trade. The electric bill, clay and glaze costs are nominal compared to the amount of time I spend creating each piece just for you.

One of the main things I had to learn is what clay body fit which glaze and exactly how much would that clay shrink to make a 9” plate! Very important to know, what temperature to fire what clay at! The clay has to be wedged (sliced and slammed down onto a canvas-covered wedging area) then kneaded to remove any air bubbles. This is done for each pot. The clay is then thrown on the wheel or rolled into a slab and a functional art piece is started. After it is made and in its leather hard state, it can be trimmed. Decorations might be added designs drawn in or cutouts done and clay additions such as handles are made separately and added on. Next, each piece gets slowly dried until it is ready for the kiln. Next, I load the kiln carefully and I warm the kiln for 4 hours to insure the pieces are completely dry so moisture in the clay won’t explode pieces in the kiln firing. Then I do what is called a bisque firing, the temperature reaches 1880 degrees F. After the work is cool, I unload it, clean up any rough edges on pots, then I have to thoroughly clean each piece to get it ready for glazing, this insures no dust particles are left on the bisqued clay so when fired the glaze will adhere nice and smooth and not crawl. Most pieces of pottery I hand brush on three to four coats of glaze, and larger pieces get dipped and then edges wiped clean so glaze will not run and stick to the kiln shelves. Some pieces have up to four different glazes hand brushed on. Once the glazing process is complete, I carry everything outside to the kiln and load it. And fire, even with all this preparation I still have the occasional glaze disaster, where the glaze will run faster and farther then I expect and stick to the kiln shelf during the firing process. I end up losing the piece and grinding the kiln shelf with a hand held grinder, another handy potter’s tool.

The glaze firing takes approximately 7 hours to fire to mid-range cone 5-6 the final firing temperature is somewhere around 2185 degrees F. Cooling takes another 24 hours. And as tempted as I am I do not peek into the kiln until the temperature has fallen below 120 degrees.
After the kiln cools, each piece has to be inventoried, priced, packed up and loaded into the car. I drive to the market/craft show and sell my work. Did I mention I am often up at 4 am to do this task?

I also put in countless advertising hours on the computer, printing brochures, signs, handouts, and business cards. I’d like to also mention all of the beautiful photography you see of my pretty little pieces of art I take myself, another job I have mastered. I have learned to be a tax accountant, web designer and superb one woman sales person. I have juried into many fine art shows, and donated more items than I can count to local charities, at 100% cost to me. This just touches on the highlights of being a potter, there are so many other costs involved including the emotional costs, and I spend so much time loving each piece of pottery I some times forget to nurture my relationships. 28 years later I am always amazed at how beautiful each piece is that leaves my studio and I am so incredibly grateful to God for giving me this passion for clay art.
So when you figure out how long, how much and why, let me know please.

Rita S. Ryan
Pretty Little Pieces of Art