Handmade Pottery
By John Fahnestock, Contributor

There has been a rapid evolution in the field of handmade pottery or ceramics in recent years; we might even call it a ‘revolution’. Around the middle of the twentieth century a distinction was increasingly promoted between ‘vessel-oriented ceramic objects’ (VOCO’s) and clay sculpture. Basically this represents a division between ‘functional’ and ‘non-functional’ ceramics. Naturally, the creators of clay sculpture tried to distinguish themselves from the makers of VOCO’s (potters) who produce ’craft’ as opposed to their ‘art’. They rightfully felt that they belonged in the big leagues with sculptors in more traditional, and less difficult, media.

How to Make Pottery: Materials and Techniques

The materials used in making handmade pottery or ceramics are complex and demanding. The clay itself, whether discussing stoneware pottery, earthenware, or porcelain, is fairly straight-forward to form.

Techniques include throwing on a potter’s wheel, hand-building using coils or slabs, casting in plaster molds, or a combination of the above, modified by the ingenuity of the maker. However, once formed, the work must be dried and fired, often repeatedly, to produce a finished surface and feeling to complement its intended form and/or function.

Every step that goes into the making of handmade pottery or ceramics requires a skill and patience of its own: forming, refining, decorating, glazing, and firing. Each piece must be handled multiple times. Each piece must live through the mysteries of the white-hot fire. As clay is dried and fired it shrinks, adding yet another challenge to the process.

When producing sculpture using hand-made ceramics, there are many opportunities to bypass traditional requirements of functional ware. The work can be painted with non-ceramic materials rather than glazed; it needn’t be waterproof; it can incorporate a mixture of media. This fact allows a lot of technical leeway and reveals easy avenues of free expression.

Fortunately, though, there are Colorado potters who embrace the rigors of producing hand-made ceramics for human use and edification. They recognize and provide continual proof that there is art in the creation of functional handmade pottery. Their modernization and personalization of the medium have allowed them to create work which is both functional and aesthetically pleasing (even as they might also indulge in expressive sculptural efforts).

Learn More!

Please take a moment to visit our Colorado Pottery Directory for more info on locating Colorado potters that are creating fabulous functional handmade pottery or continue on to Created In Colorado Store to see what is available to purchase.

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