It's a Process.

Clay Prepatation


The first step in working in ceramics is the finding of a plastic clay body. In the past, potters had to dig their own clay from locally available sources as there were no other options. Some potters still dig their own clay and feel a valuable connection to the earth through this process. This process is quite labor intensive and is very difficult for urban potters today. Most artists buy commercially available clay bodies.

Please see the tab called "What is Clay?" to find out how to find clay in nature.




Wedging is the process of mixing the clay by hand by rotating and pressing a clay ball on a table. The purpose is to thoroughly homogenize the clay and to remove all air bubbles. This is particularly important, as the presence of air bubbles in the clay will result in explosions in the kiln as the air pockets expand and burst. Your work is ruined, as is any piece near yours in the kiln. You will know if there is air in your clay if you see holes, like in Swiss cheese, when you slice through the clay with a wire.

Getting Your Hands Dirty


After the clay has been thoroughly wedged, it may be formed by a variety of methods: slab, wheel, coil, pinch, and mold. (Refer to the tab called Playing in the Clay on this guide.) These methods may be combined, or used singly.

Drying Process


When the clay bag is opened, the drying process begins. As clay dries, it loses water, becomes stiffer, and shrinkage begins.To avoid warping and cracking, plastic clay must be dried slowly and evenly.



After your a project has dried for a few days, it will reach of stage of partial dryness referred to as leatherhard. This stage of drying is characterized by a loss of water through evaporation that results in the clay's stiffening and losing some flexibility. This is an excellent time to refine the piece: carving excess clay, adding handles or decorative elements, trimming the footring of a bowl, etc. This is the last chance you have to change the shape of the piece! It is very important that you be able to recognize this stage. Once the clay has dried beyond this point no further shape changes can be accomplished.




When a piece of pottery has dried completely it is referred to as a piece of greenware. This means it has lost all water through evaporation and has no flexibility. Bending it will break it. You cannot add anything to it. You cannot carve anything from it. You cannot do anything to it except break it! This is purely a passive state for the clay awaiting the first firing. 

Glaze, It's Not Just For Doughnuts!

Continue on to the tab about glaze.

You're Fired!

Continue on to the tab about firing clay.

Just For Fun!