Bill Van Gilder, the host of DIY Network’s Throwing Clay, introduces you to key techniques and skill building projects.
What a great book for people beginning to throw pots! This book is a compilation of projects, each with its own tool list and photos, demonstrating the throwing process, as well as the additions like handles and knobs. Bill even gives glaze combinations that would complement the piece.
Baking dishes, butter dishes, plates and garlic jars are just a few of the eleven projects that Bill shows how to complete. From throwing techniques like how to throw a low flat disk for plates or a high tall cylinder for pitchers, to putting feet on a candy dish, nothing is left out. All forming techniques in thrown ware are discussed.
This is one of my favorite books that has ever been written about clay! Art is not just about skill, it is about heart and soul, and this book addresses that from the very first paragraph.
- Covers technique from handbuilding to refined throwing
- Tons of information about glazing, firing and making
- Written with the emotional side of the artist in mind
If you are just beginning in clay, boy are you in for a treat! This book is the only clay book I have ever come across that up front deals with the idea that art is not just a bunch of techniques that we are trained to use, or an assortment of skills that we mix in some kind of a recipe.
Instead Robert Piepenburg recognizes from the first page that artists are soul driven people, looking to make what is in their heart visible.
“I now know that clay can be a fertile growing ground of the spirit. I ‘ve seen this same spiritual birthing scenario occur time and time again with students of min who were new to clay. What I didn’t know then, but have come to know now, is that you don’t actually find your self with clay…you make yourself with clay.” ~Robert Piepenburg -from introduction of The Spirit of Clay
The author is a teacher, so if you are a teacher, you will relate to the various exercises and experiments in clay. If you are just learning clay, you will have fun just plunging in and experiencing clay!
In a technical sense, you will find technique through out the book, from throwing skills, and the refinement of those skills to glazing and firing discussions. The diagrams are clear and easy to follow. He covers pit/smoke firing, glaze firing and raku firing. There is a plethora of glaze recipes for all maturity temperatures.
Pros: Everything! Seriously, the discussion here is so well rounded, not just covering the roots of creativity, nor just the facts of making, glazing and firing, but everything in between. The manner of the author is not contrived at all, but more like you were sitting in class with him each day and he is conversing with you as a student about clay and about the life of an artist.
Cons: Robert Piepenburg does some beautiful work, and there are some other artists featured who also have very colorful work. It would have been nice to see some color pictures.
If I could only have 10 clay books in my library, this one would be at the top of the list!
Long considered a handbook of raku, Raku – A Practical Approach details a myriad of topics pertaining to this method of firing.
- Glaze recipes for many different raku effects
- Extended chapter on kiln design, construction and operation
- Information on how to do raku safely in a school or workshop environment.
Raku, a ceramic process originating in Japan, involves taking a pot from the kiln with special tools at the height of the glaze firing, and putting it into a metal container filled with combustible materials.
This is a dramatic operation, requiring a team of people, all garbed safely and moving in time to the firing schedule. It results in red hot ware clutched in tongs being carried from place to place- often bursting into flame as the pots contact the combustible leaves, sawdust or shredded paper.
As you might imagine, there is much preparation that leads to this firing.
Raku – A Practical Approach details the whole process of producing raku pottery. From the making, discussing the types of clay to use, including several clay recipes, to the forming, whether it be thrown on the potters wheel, slip cast or hand built. There is a lengthy section on glazes, again including a number of glaze recipes.
The kiln and firing chapters are the longest, by far. Building a raku kiln is covered extensively, with several different kiln designs. The firing information is specific to raku, explaining how firing works, so you, the potter, can personalize your firing to your liking.
Pros – A great deal of information packed into a slim volume. The author doesn’t waste space and time on information that isn’t pertinent to the field. Lots of diagrams and how-to information are included.
Cons – The only thing that I didn’t like about this book was the lack of color pictures. Raku yields such colorful ware, I would have liked to see more color pictures.
If I was going to buy a book on raku, this one would definitely be on the list! Raku – A Practical Approach is a sound book with good information.
The Extruder Book is a delight to the clay craftsperson! Full of timely information and beautiful photographs, it brings into focus a tool that can be as valuable as the wheel or kiln.
- Expert instruction on making your own extruder dies
- Step by step photos on several demonstrations of various uses of extruder
- Comprehensive review of extruders available on the market
If you are like me, you may have viewed the extruder as one of those frills that my studio could do without. After all, I reasoned, I like to pull my own handles, and isn’t that what those extruders are for? Boy, was I wrong! The Extruder Book hooked me from the first chapter aptly entitled, “what is an extruder and why have one?”
As I went on to learn, the extruder has many uses, from architectural ceramics to dishes, bowls and cups. Baird does a wonderful job of showing a great bunch of ‘demonstrations’- step by step photos of projects made using an extruder. There are demonstrations of lidded boxes, trays, vases, even a footstool! He shows how to make tiles with an extruder and gives some time to using the extruder for sculpture.
There is a beautiful gallery chapter with awesome photographs of pots by known potters, all made with an extruder! Some of the potters featured are William Shinn, Bob Smith, Laurie Rolland, John Glick, Richard Burkett, and David Hendley, plus many more.
The Art of Firing explores building and firing a fuel kiln from top to bottom. This is a book that I would not ever be without!
- Expansive diagrams of kiln designs
- Comprehensive explanations of construction, draft, burners, and more
- Sections on wood firing, salt glazing and refractory materials
Firing a gas or wood kiln can be like a dance, causing you to stretch more than you intended sometimes, and often leaving you with sore muscles, but a glorious sense of having accomplished something incredible. However, in the midst of that dance is the serious problem of getting your kiln to fire to the top of your firing range.
There is nothing more frustrating than to have a stalled kiln! Before you are trying everything you can think of and there is nothing you can do to move that temperature up that last 100 degrees, buy this book!
The section on construction and function of kilns addresses issues that could be impeding your firings. I found out some little things that were minor adjustments but made a huge difference in the efficiency of my kiln and in how my glazes looked.
Nils has a direct writing style that addresses all facets of building and firing a kiln in simple every day language. He tackles the Minnesota Flat Top kiln with extensive diagrams and explanation. You can build one with this book! Burners are covered very well, atmospheric to power.
Pros: Comprehensive handbook of kiln building and firing information, that doesn’t leave much out.
Cons: The only thing I would like to see improved is the pictures. The majority of the color photos were from an East Creek Anagama firing.
If you are looking for a coffee table book, this isn’t it. But if you want a fantastic reference book of kiln and firing information, you will not be disappointed. Dance on!