Drawing on his vast experience in ceramics, Vince Pitelka’s Clay: A Studio Handbook is the most practical, all-inclusive studio handbook for students, studio artists, educators and all those interested in the art of clay. The ten chapters in Clay: A Studio Handbook address the full range of ceramic processes, and bring a lifetime of ceramic knowledge directly into the hands of potters. Concerned about safe and efficient studio operation, Pitelka pays diligent attention to safety practices.
Professional potters, students, teachers—even serious weekend potters will find this book is their single best resource for gaining, retaining, and expanding a solid understanding of clay. And after that, this book helps you move your work forward, with detailed descriptions of techniques you may have tried and abandoned, or techniques you’ve been yearning to try out but didn’t have clear guidelines for.
Softcover | 380 Pages
Order code G055 | ISBN 978-1-57498-332-6
FREE SHIPPING when you order online (Applies to US orders only)
Nothing on earth is more essential, more organic, more basic than clay. Children play in the dirt. They make mudpies. Kids like that (if they’re lucky) grow up to be potters like us. We have a freedom that’s often hard to put into words—a freedom to express joy, sorrow, hope, whimsy, and more in a medium that flows beneath our fingers like a river of creativity. When it dries, we coat it in the color of our own imagination and relinquish it to another of nature’s most basic elements: fire. What comes out of the cooled kiln is a snapshot in time, a moment of history forever frozen in its place—a beautiful piece in the present that could easily become an artifact of the past in a future we may never see.
As potters, as artists, we don’t always see ourselves as playing a crucial role in history. But, then, neither did the first people who put hand to clay and made the first artistic expression of the human spirit in a form you could hold in your hand. Many of us work on instinct, on intuition beyond our time. But even with inspiration, the laws of physics still hold sway over the clay, and the more we know about its properties and potential, the farther we can take our work. There is such a vast amount of knowledge you need to excel as a ceramics artist, and no one head can hold all that information.
"Few [books] are as comprehensive, well thought-out and clearly written as this." – Ceramic Review
"Clay: A Studio Handbook by Vince Pitelka is the best there is for all around info on clay." – John Hesselberth
"Vince’s book is a great how-to book! Anyone just starting to work in clay should have a copy. It details a very wide breadth of what can be done in pottery, great pictures, clear description of each technique." – Dan & Laurel, Pfeiffer Fire Arts
"Vince’s book is the best all-around clay book that I have encountered." – Charles Moore, Sacramento, CA
If you work with clay—if you want to work with clay—you want this book. You need this book. If you’re a student enrolled in a class or someone looking for a creative outlet, this book is it. It covers everything you need to know about working with clay, from details about tools and materials to techniques for forming and firing.
FREE SHIPPING when you order online (Applies to US orders only)
And what if you’re serious, but not a professional? Clay: A Studio Handbook is like having a giant secret stash of Albany slip hidden away in your studio (see pages 5 and 146 to see why that would be an advantage). Clay: A Studio Handbook answers life’s most pressing questions in the field of clay:
- Why does my beautifully shaped bowl come out of the kiln twisted?
- How do I incorporate more color into my work without glazing my pieces to death?
- When are my pieces dry enough to fire? Can I accelerate the drying process without putting my work at risk?
- What do I do when everything I throw comes off the wheel and heads right back into the recycling pile?
- Where do I begin to set up my own studio?
- Who can help me solve the big problems and the little ones?
An Author with Authority
The author of Clay: A Studio Handbook is Vince Pitelka, himself an established ceramics artist. With more than 35 years of experience, Pitelka answers your questions about materials, studio safety, tools, equipment, clay and glaze mixes, firing processes and techniques, and more.
Pitelka’s descriptions and explanations cover every area of ceramics you can imagine, from pinch pots to studio setup to manageable marketing. Brush up (or catch up) on techniques as diverse as nerikomi (p. 118) and mishima (p. 108), or explore an unconventional approach to slab building.
This is the most practical, hands-on reference book on clay you can own. Whether you’re a seasoned professional, a teacher, a student, or a determined dabbler, Clay: A Studio Handbook is a valuable resource you don’t want to be without. You’ll go back to it again and again. There’s just no way to hold all this information in your head all the time—after all, you need some mental space to let inspiration roll around a little.
"I have read several books on pottery and technique and this book, for all-inclusive information, beats them all. One definitely that should be in everyone’s studio. I actually could visualize making forms as I read the text. It gets right down to the molecular level of events that happen in the kiln, things I didn’t know before. Wonderful work!! Take a class, then read this book. You’ll want to play with clay the rest of your life." – Sherry McIntosh, Saskatchewan, Canada
Clay: A Studio Handbook is your ideal guide, from choosing clay to setting up a studio. In ten thorough and clearly written chapters, Vince Pitelka demystifies some of the more complicated aspects of ceramics arts, and explains things in such clear detail that you’ll almost feel as if he’s in your studio with you!
"In any list of important books for the beginning potter, one would have to include Vince Pitelka’s Clay: A Studio Handbook. I use this book so very profitably almost every day. It covers such a wide range of important subjects at great depth and in great clarity. I find it indispensable." – Martin, Costa Rica
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Clay and Claybodies
What’s the nature of clay? How do different clay particles affect drying and firing? What’s going on with the clay at a molecular level and how do I affect that when I’m working with it? The first chapter of Clay: A Studio Handbook covers the basics of this basic material:
Chapter 2: Handbuilding
One of the most basic techniques of ceramic art, handbuilding connects us with some of the very first people who ever transformed clay from an amorphous lump into something with purpose and intent.
Now, for some of us, there’s no making pottery unless it’s done on a wheel. Some people hold to that opinion, and others will die happy without ever having made a notable piece on the wheel. It’s all a matter of taste. You’ve already seen how much potential there is in handbuilding. But there’s always more available to do in ceramic art; that’s part of the joy of working with clay.
Chapter 4: Plaster Working, Mold Making, and Slip Casting
“Besides being a great general read, when I occasionally mix plaster, I pull it out to check the numbers. It also came in handy when mixing colored slips.” Jim Kasper
Chapter 5: Surface Decoration on Greenware
You have a lot of options for adorning your work either while it’s still damp or once it’s dry, including decorative effects during forming, impressed decoration, subtractive methods, additive methods, and burnishing and polishing.
Chapter 6: Glazes and Glazing
Once your work is dry, then you can consider the possibilities in glazing: You can make it as easy or as intricate as you like. Vince describes glazes, ingredients, mixing, and application–it’s all there.
Chapter 8: Mixed Media in Ceramics
You have a number of options you can explore once you’re really comfortable with the clay. Clay doesn’t have to stand alone as an expression of art. If you can mount it, wrap it, tie it, tack it, fasten it, frame it—you can incorporate all sorts of things into your work. It all depends on your mood and your meaning.
Chapter 9: Studio Safety
Inspiration and imagination are meaningless; the construction of the clay form counts for nothing, the fashion of your firing will be futile—if you don’t keep safety at the forefront of your work. From preparation to finishing, you’ll want to develop and maintain good safety practices.
Chapter 10: Studio Design, Setup, and Operation
When you’re ready to create your own space, or revamp the space you have, Clay: A Studio Handbook gives you the essentials you need to make your space truly your own.
Beyond all this clear, organized, practical information, Clay: A Studio Handbook includes a useful glossary of terms and raw materials, practical advice on repairing, fastening, and mounting your work, and informative charts that you’ll turn to time and again.
One Book, One Resource
Clay: A Studio Handbook is your single best potter’s resource, whether you’re just beginning, branching out, or looking for a resource to share with students, staff, and colleagues. Buy Clay: A Studio Handbook today and be a better potter from this day forward.