Spirit of Clay by Robert Piepenburg

By | 21 December 08

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

Ispirit-of-clayf 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!

Read more about this book at
Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk


One thought on “Spirit of Clay by Robert Piepenburg

  1. rebecca dean

    Just returned from a high school reunion from the school, Edsel Ford, that Bob and I attended. Shared a table for dinner with Bob and his wife and granddaughter. It was extemely interesting to learn what he had done in the years since graduation, especially so since I have a seventeen year old granddaughter who has been working in ceramics since junior high. It is refreshing and exciting to see that so “nice” a man who is very low keyed and low spoken to be recognized for his work. I am looking forward to sharing all this with my granddaughter.

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