Behind the Wheel

A process and inspiration gallery.   

It takes hours of love and days of patience to build a piece. This process requires water, soil, fire and air. It is meditative and precise, frustrating and surprising, all at once.

PLANNING. I take notes and plan ideas across multiple notebooks and a collection of paper scraps.  Once a project is defined on paper I am ready to get my hands dirty.

THE CLAY. Everything starts and finishes here. I choose a few types of clay that I like to work with. Now that I have my own studio I can recycle my clay. This is an important step of the process: learning about the material, adjusting the moisture. I have created my own plaster bats to recycle and wedge my clay.

WEDGING. Once the clay has the right moisture for the piece I want to create, I weigh it and wedge it for a few minutes. This removes any air bubble and gives the clay the plasticity I am looking for. 

BUILDING. I love my wheel and spend a lot of time throwing my pieces on it. By practicing, I develop my body memory always seeking the balance between equal sizing for  a set and embracing the irregularitiies that make each piece unique. I use molds that I have created for lighter pieces, pinching or coiling methods  for a more organic design.  

DRYING. Pieces dry for days before becoming 'leather-hard".  The season, the weather and the humidity in the studio all influence how quickly pieces will dry. This steps requires patience and connection to my environment - I avoid methods accelerating this step, they can also create cracks or surprising outcomes. I like to let the clay go at its own pace.

TRIMMING. Once the piece is leather-hard I finish its design by trimming it on the wheel. This removes excess clay and throwing marks, and creates a more defined bottom an softer rim. A very satisfying step. 

For molded pieces, this step is replaced by  daily smoothing with sponges or ribs to get to the finish that I like.

SIGNING. From my very fist piece, I have used the letter J as my signature. Later, I upgraded to a Julie & the wheel branded stamp. I love this final touch and gesture of the artists's hand - I personally always look at the bottom of ceramic pieces to know who made it.  

BISQUE FIRING. After another drying session that can last a few days, I wait for the piece to be "bone-dry" to go to its first fire. This is also the stage where the piece is the most delicate and can break very easily. Once fired, we called it Bisque.

GLAZING. Colors and drawings are next ! I use underglazes for detailed lines or shapes and I dip my pieces in glaze for larger splashes of colors. Layering glazes, more drying between layers, tattooing the blue lines of my drawings - this all happens at this stage.  Glazes before firing don't look the same, so this step takes a lot of guessing, testing, and documenting for future knowledge once I like a combination.  

GLAZE FIRING. The last firing is glaze firing and it is where the final piece is revealed. Such a magical moment to discover how all the above steps get to this final outcome.

DOCUMENTING. I love a good pic of the work that makes me proud so I keep a souvenir of all my pieces before their departure to their new homes. 

WRAPPING. After all this time spent together it is so important that the piece is contained in a carefully made wrap or cotton bag. I send it on its way with a branded medallion and a little  note - every piece has its own personality.  

More pictures of the process and inspirations.

Want to know about my own inspiration ? I store a lot of things here on my Pinterest board CLAYWORK; take a look !