Learning About Clay

Patricia Griffin, Cambria Ceramicist

Patricia Griffin, Cambria Ceramicist

For the next three weeks, I will be studying ceramics under the guidance of Cambria based artist Patty Griffin. My essential question: What skills must a ceramic artist master distinct from those of a 2D artist, and how can some of these skills be applied to other facets of one’s life?

I have wanted to try ceramics for as long as I can remember, and I walked into Patty’s studio yesterday morning with enthusiasm enough, I hoped, to make up for my lack of experience. The process, I soon learned, begins with a pug. Not a dog—although Patty does have a very majestic poodle named May—but with a cylindrical piece of clay that has been kneaded like bread dough in a pug mill, and is ready to be used.

Patty showed me how to flatten the pug first by forcing it through a hand-cranked roller (which takes a deceptive amount of strength), then by using a rolling pin until it is about a third of an inch thick. After letting the slabs dry in the sun, I used cookie cutters to make circular forms (the project I’m working on will be slowly revealed over the course of my posts). I smoothed the rough edges with a damp sponge, poked holes in the tops of the circles with a special tool akin to a metal straw, and put the forms out in the sun to dry.

ceramic cut-outs

Not unlike baking clay cookies.

I finished making all 96 forms yesterday. Once the forms are dry, it is time to begin the decorating process. This is the most time-consuming part, and in order to leave enough time for firing in the kiln, my goal is to decorate 18 forms per day until Saturday. That is a story for another day…

Ceramics

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