Hi, my name is Ronald Pothier and I live in Hemmingford, Quebec. I’d like to take you into my pottery studio and show you how to make a teapot. So, this is a stoneware clay and today… I’m going to show you how to make a teapot or two. So, the first thing we do with the clay… …is we want to get that in the middle. Stoneware clay, that I would use on the wheel like this, is quite common for dinnerware: plates, teapots — like I’m going to make today. There are other types of clay, but this is the one I like the best for functional work. It’s strong. First thing I’m going to do is I’m going to make a few lids. How this is a lid? Right now, you have to look at it and realize that it is upside-down. This is the part that will go into the teapot right here. So, this clay is a clay prepared by a company in Ontario and it would be a recipe of 9 or 10 or even more different mined clays from all over North America. For those of you who like chemistry, clay is made out of silica, which is SiO2, and alumina, which is mined from bauxite — which is the same place they get aluminum — and water. It’s really just 3 simple materials. And if you watch carefully, I run that needle right under it and pick it up with my fingers and a needle. So my clay is well prepared. It’s said that clay molecules are oblong and I try and tell this to my students –of course, we can’t see the molecules, but apparently they are oblong. Think of the shape of a piece of rice. Now why that’s important is that while I’m preparing my clay — this is part of the mixing also, this centering — the molecules are apparently lined-up in a circle. I don’t know if it’s true, but it makes sense to me because I can feel when the clay is ready. When the clay is ready, it’s very easy to work with. In pottery, there’s many, many stages and no stage is more important than another. So, this is going to be a spout on a teapot. I like my spouts quitethin. I like my spouts quite tall. You may not understand yet how this is going to be a spout, but you will. I’m basically going to cut much of this later. As I close it up smaller, it also forces the clay into an upward position. If you’ve ever done pottery, you’ll know that teapot spouts are one of the more difficult small items because the teapot spout is so important. A good teapot has to pour well. If that spout flares at the tip, that will spread your tea in different directions. If you’ve got a nice taper, the weight of the water and the tea behind it will shoot the tea out in a nice stream. There we go. So, we’re going to cut that one off. Now, we’ll prepare a pad of clay. When I’m making teapots, bean pots, vases, or coffee mugs… that first little bit of clay is here like just for my teapot body and this is the clay I’m going to make the teapot with. Once it’s centered, we can start the teapot. Push down in the middle. Exactly in the middle. Adjust my speed a little bit. When I was a kid and I started making pottery, I did have access to some electric wheels at my summer job; but when I learned at school, I learned on an old kick wheel. I turned the wheel with my feet and I’d work with my hands, and it’s kind of like a great, big Lazy Susan. So I’ve made a flat bottom here. The hole doesn’t go all the way to the bottom of the bat. It stops short, so I’ve got about 3/8ths of an inch of clay left on the bottom. And now I’ll start making it taller. This is called pulling the clay up. That’s one pull. To make a thin piece, it’s quite important to make it tall first. This is going to be a round-bellied teapot. So, that’s a third pull. And that’s not going to get a lot taller, but I think I’m going to try one more time to make that just a little bit thinner. Couple inches taller, if I can. Now, I’ve left a fair amount of clay on the top and that’s going to make my seat. Seat is the part that holds the lid. A little bit of water. Make that clay a little bit more slippery. And I’m going to start bulging the teapot outwards now. Once I start putting the belly in the teapot, it will be too late to make the teapot any taller. In fact, if you watch carefully, as I put a belly in it the teapot will get shorter. If you don’t know what I mean by a belly, just watch. Now of course the lid is not going to be this big. I’m gonna close that up in a bit, but first I’m going to make that belly a little bigger. And a little bigger again. It’s very important to not have any water pooling at the bottom of your teapot. That’s another reason why I don’t use a lot of water when I’m throwing. Throwing is what potters call this. It means making pottery on a wheel. En français, c’est «tournassage». I turn this in to make the seat. Little bit harder to reach in, my hands are not small enough. You can see I have quite a strong bit of clay up here on the top. That’s the most important part for me about a teapot: it’s got to be beautiful, but it’s got to pour well and it’s got to be easy to use. Going to wire under that, it’s kind of like a guitar string, and it’s cut for later, so that when I need to finish I don’t have to ruin the teapot with finger marks. And I do like teapots that are different. I find it very hard to make one style of teapot. This teapot is a little bit wider. It’s going to be with a wider bottom. This is the kind of teapot that I like to have a — what I call — an overhead handle on it. It’s a teapot that is very easy to handle, if you’re not too strong because there’s lots of room for two hands. A lot of potters don’t consider themselves artists. They call themselves craftsmen — craftspeople. I do consider myself an artist. I have the artist spirit. I like to work with a lot of different materials. I look for solutions where a lot of people would give up. Stubborn, I guess. My grandfather was an artist. I have numerous aunts that have made beautiful paintings. My grandfather loved to build things and he loved to paint. My grandfather was quite a talented man. He was a fisherman by trade, but when he needed something — he made it. My father is a pianist. Growing up, I thought he was a great artist because he taught me to draw horses and trees. Pretty good with pencil. His real talent lies in the performing arts. I think a lot of people today don’t discover their inner artist as much as people have in the past. There was a time, if you wanted something, you had to make it. It’s certainly a form of satisfaction from pouring a cup of tea from a teapot you can say you made. We don’t necessarily have to show that to people. Reach inside carefully, change the shape a wee bit…. A lot of my students ask me: How do you make each of them so much the same? And if you watch carefully and look carefully, they are not. Each teapot has its own character. Okay, here we are back the following day. My teapots are a lot harder. They are no longer soft. This clay is going to be used again for something else. It doesn’t go to waste. And I’m going to remove some of this clay. I’m doing a couple of things: I’m making it a little lighter, improving the shape and of course, this is an area we haven’t worked on yet. A visit underneath. And a teapot — a round-bodied teapot like this with a smaller bottom gives it an elegant look. I’ll take some of the middle out there. This part here that I’m not going to trim, this is what we call a foot. If you look under your dishes at home you’ll find that most of them are made this way too. There is a space here, and that is where I will sign my name and where the piece was made. There are collectors who will not buy your work if it is not properly signed. There we go. It looks a little messy right now, but when the pot dries completely I’ll brush away these crumbs and it will be very legible. I’m just going to round the edges. I don’t want the entire bottom to go into the kiln without any glaze. So what I like to do with this type of teapot is to put feet on them, four feet. These feet will not stick if they are not attached well. And I’m leaving it a little bit wet with slippery clay, and you’d think slippery would be bad but the scratches will hold the pieces of clay that I’ll add to this. I will shape these feet, and try to blend them in to make it look like they come out naturally. I wish I had dated all my pieces along the way. I started making pottery in 1973 and I don’t believe I have a single piece with 1973 marked on it. I want this teapot to sit flat. I don’t want it to rock, and when you have three legs a piece doesn’t rock but it’s not as stable. When you have four legs you have to make sure it’s just right. So I’m going to put it on this batt and leave it there for it to stiffen up. So now that we have a trimmed teapot with a foot and a name it’s time to add a spout. The first thing we do with a spout is cut it, so that it fits on the teapot. I’ve done quite a few of these over the years. You can see how thin the spout is, it’s not terribly thick. We don’t want it too thick, that only adds weight. It doesn’t really add a lot of strength. The strength is in the construction and the shape, round shapes are very strong. Speaking of shapes, I’m going to shape this one a little more. When I fill my teapot, I don’t want the water being able to spill out just sitting on the counter. So this spout has to be as high as — well even if I overfilled it. Now you’d think we’d just make a big hole, but that actually leaves the teapot weaker. In case people like to use loose tea, I like to leave numerous small holes. It’s important for that first hole to be at the bottom so it doesn’t leave half a spout full of tea. A little thing that every potter should know. I don’t know how important it is to have the holes in a pattern, but I kind of like a pattern of some sort. Now the teapot, like we said before was made yesterday. By putting it under plastic I kept the spout a little softer. And that way I can reach in without denting it. With just a little bit of water, or a little bit of slip, I’m going to blend that teapot spout in. Now when that stiffens a bit more, I’ll be able to come back with a wet finger and make it a little more perfect. There is a real fine line here between having this too sharp and too fragile and not having it sharp enough so that it won’t catch that last drip. There are many methods to making handles, I’ve tried most of them as far as I know. I think this came from the Brits although they probably got it from the Chinese or the Japanese. So that’s where the top of the handle will go. This is where the handle will attach at the bottom. And… attach it. Finish attaching it… Now I can clean it up a little better later but right now I just want to make sure it’s going to hold. Now I can see my spout and handle in line. I can see that they’re directly across from each other. Choose an amount of handle that I want. If I were to put down the teapot right side up, it’s going to sag a little. So we’re going to put this aside to set up a little bit, then we’ll clean that teapot handle up. I’ll make it a little neater, after. Spouts going to go right there. Somewhere in the studio I have a tool that is made exactly for this but in a pinch a drill bit will work very well. Now this is a different style of handle. A handle that is a little bit higher. I cut a little bit off there. I want a nice big handle out of this one. These handles I don’t blend in. I allow them to look like additions. I like to balance the look with an appendage on the opposite side of the teapot spout. We can take advantage of the fact that this clay is still fairly soft. With a bit of moisture, I’m going to give this a bit of a squeeze. We know this is firmly attached because it was made yesterday. It’s not an attachment actually it’s part of the piece that I threw on the wheel. Like I said, I don’t want it too dainty. I’m going to put it inside the frame of my overhead handle. I like to give it a somewhat organic shape. I like the relationship between the three pieces. We have three small appendages that line up together. I think that teapot is good for now. I hope this teapot will serve somebody for many years. Okay great! This is the teapot that you saw me make a couple of weeks ago. Maybe more than a couple weeks… three weeks. Since you’ve seen it, it has been cooked once. In pottery making, we call that firing. It has been cooked the first time to 1800° F, and we call that the bisque, the biscuit. The French call it the *biscuit*. You’ll see that the clay is very absorbent if you watch that just for a minute. The water will just soak in and disappear. But it is quite strong. Very strong. The reason we do that is so we can glaze and decorate it. I’ve added glaze to this one. There’s a brown glaze here and a blue trim, this is also blue and the lid is brown, blue and blue. My painting is inspired by the Lascaux caves in France and the Altamira caves in northern Spain. So you can see that this is a stamped decoration, it’s rarely exactly the same. If you find a good art history book, and open it up right in the front of the book you’ll see probably these exact caves that I’m talking about because they’re known to be the oldest man made paintings and drawings ever found. What I find terrific is that, it’s proof that our species, homosapiens, right from our core — we want to make art! We’ll put that aside for now and we’ll load it into the kiln later. I’ll be firing these overnight and in two days you can see the finished pieces. Cones for pottery have been used for a thousand years or more. The Chinese use a similar version that are little circles. Basically they go into the kiln from where they can be seen from the inside. The first one will be bent over, and the second one which is a cone 6 will be bent nicely. The cone 7, which is a guard cone — if that goes over too much then I know my pottery is overfired. When I get here in the morning the kiln will be just warm, I’ll be able to put my hand in front of it. From there I’ll turn it up quite rapidly. This is called a pre heat. My kiln is fired and it’s been cooling for a full day. Although it’s a little warm to touch, it’s plenty cool enough to open. We’ve got a nice bowl here with the cave decoration. Here is our teapot. You can see the cave decoration and the spout you watched me put on — very similar to the one that you saw. This is my cone 5 and it’s completely bent over. This is my cone 6 in the middle. If this cone 7 was bent over more I’d say that this was overfired. That’s our finished piece. I hope you enjoyed the video. I’m just over the border from Plattsburgh. New York on the way to Montreal. I hope you’ll stop into my studio and visit. I teach every Saturday and my website is easy to find: www.lepotier.com My name is Ronald Pothier and I’m fairly easy to find on Facebook. Cheers! I hope you enjoyed it.