Adrian Tilsley

Contributor: Adrian Tilsley
The Clay End
Our pottery starts life in the "clay end", traditionally a term used in the potteries for the clay preparation and making department known individually as the slip house and the casting shop.

Phil is responsible for making all of the clay ware from mixing the clay to forming the finished pieces from plaster moulds.

Hand Throwing
Many of our larger items are entirely hand made by Bob Allen. He used a specially prepared clay to form the pieces on the throwing wheel a skill which takes many years to perfect.

Large bowls and jugs are most suited to this process along with the handles which are extruded using a device called a wad box which forms long strips of clay that are cut to size and shaped to form handles.

Sponger Fettlers
When the cast ware is dry it will require finishing by Doreen and Alison. This entails removing the seam lines left behind by the joins in the moulds which forms the shape, this is done using a very sharp tungsten blade.

After fettling the items are sponged, this is to remove imperfections and sharp edges as well as refining the shape especially on teapot spouts and jugs.

The Decorating Department
After the items are finished they require their first of two/three firings which is called the biscuit fire. This takes the ware to a temperature of around 800'C and leaves the ware hard but still porous and perfect for decorating by Juliet, Karen, and Mandy.

We use specially cut sponges to decorate our ware which is why this traditional type of pottery is known as sponge ware and has been produced in Staffordshire for over three hundred years. The process is similar to potato printing in that the sponge is dipped into ceramic colours and then carefully stamped onto the ware to form very simple or complex designs as required.

After decorating the pottery is dipped in a clear glass glaze and re-fired to 1150'C over a 24 hour period.

Tip1 Most people get in to pottery through experiencing the thrill and anticipation of opening the Kiln (oven) and seeing a lump of earth and powdered glass transform in to something amazing (or at least saleable) if you loose that feeling its time for a change of career because the rest of it just isn't worth it.
Tip2 A customer of ours once said that Pottery is a love affair between the potter and the house wife, its worth remembering.
Tip3 When designing product that needs to sell, avoid the untrodden path, its that way for a reason.
Tip4 Another bit of advise from a customer, always remember to KISS - Keep It Simple, STUPID !!!!!!!!
Tip5 If you employ people, always imagine regularly what you would do if they came to you one day and said that they were leaving. Its a good way of assessing if you are over staffed, and if you are, you need the b**ls to act immediately to keep your costs down.
Tip6 Never open a newly fired Kiln (oven) on a Monday, you risk having a bad week.
Tip7 Never open a newly fired Kiln (oven) on a Friday, you risk having a bad weekend.
Tip8 Beware of the pottery expert especially THE MANAGER who professes to know it all after a lifetimes experience, pottery factories can be very idiosyncratic places and things that seem to make sense on one factory wont necessarily work on another and their band of experience may turn out to be very narrow and costly.
Tip9 Remember that you can sell s**t once, but you can't sell it twice. The only thing you get if you rush in is a "B**tard".
Tip10 Finally the retailer is always right, but the public are never wrong (subtle but significant)
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