When I was in my teens we had a pottery class at my school for just one lesson. This felt quite ground breaking a the time for my strict grammar school and we were tasked with making a ceramic tile.

I made a hippopotamus rising out of the water in what I thought was a clever design. Alas, someone’s work exploded in the kiln and mine and many other pieces were caught in the crossfire so I never saw the fired tile.

My brief foray into ceramics made it into a mystery that I would one day explore so I finally took two terms of evening class (20 weeks) at local art college in 2012 and explored hand-built ceramics.

Clay is fascinating to work with, as aside from its different types, there are many stages to work with it and decorate it.

My biggest lesson was that no matter what you plan, once you put your work into the kiln you have to let go of your expectations – it doesn’t always work out how you planned. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes worse!

Here are some things I made.

1. birdbath

The best thing I made. I wanted a bird bath and like sci fi, so what better than the Millennium Falcon? It certainly made a talking point in class! It may look complicated but essential it’s just one big bowl with bits added on and lots of scoring.

2. dish


This was a spur of the moment idea. I cut out lots of circles and arranged them into a bowl mould and pressed the lettering in. After the first kiln firing I glazed it with the lovely blue/green colour and then dabbed on the darker colour.

4. feathering


With these two dished I was trying out the feathering technique. I like the effect, though getting the white to the right consistency was difficult.

5. vase

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One of the first things I made was this vase. It was supposed to have a lichen type of glaze but I didn’t put enough on so it’s just a cream colour.

Working with clay:

1. It’s raw stage where it can be shaped and moulded.

2. Roll it out and leave it a few days become leather hard. You can then cut out shapes, score and decorate it.

3. It’s first firing at a low temperature is called bisque. Once this has been done you can apply the final glaze.

4. The final firing to either earthenware or stoneware.

© Gillian Adams 2012