We re-opened our gallery and classes on June 22. See our Covid mitigation page for more details.
For NEWS and FUN ACTIVITIES you can do at home if you prefer to “shelter at home” click here.
Things You Should All Know… which you won’t be told in class. So read this!
There are links to other important pages all students should explore farther down this page, and in a drop-down menu from the nav-bar above, but to get started, read this page.
The Flow of Pots Through the Studio
The Flow of Pots Through the Studio For New Students – Class 1: Learn the basics and make some pots. Class 2 through 7: Trim pots from the week before and make more pots. Keep learning. By week 7 you should have enough pots to begin glazing. You are in the beginner glazing group so read about it. Your instructor will work closely with you. During weeks 7 and 8 you get priority use of the glaze room. On week 8, if you are not returning you will only trim and glaze. If you are returning next term, you can make more pots on week eight. If you are not returning next term, READ THIS.
Flow for Continuing Students: As part of a community of potters that produces hundreds of pots a week, I cannot emphasize enough the need to maintain the flow of pots through the studio. They are like cars on an assembly line. Each week you need to move ALL your pots along to the next stage. Trim what you threw last week, glaze whatever was bisque, and take home any finished work. Otherwise, we have a conveyor belt breakdown, and no one’s work can move forward. We run out of shelf space and production grinds to a halt. So each week you must trim, glaze and take home finished work. Store you bisque ware in your car or at home if you choose not to glaze so you don’t jam up the studio.
Note that the flow of work is different for you than for new students. New students don’t have anything to glaze for the first five weeks of the term. You do. Therefore you should aggressively glaze during the first five weeks while new students are upstairs learning to throw. During the last three weeks your access to the glaze room may be limited because new students and ending students get priority for glazing time and kiln space.
Class 8 is the last class of the term, so if you are not returning you will only trim and glaze. If you are returning next term, you can make more pots during week eight. READ THIS if you are not returning.
Partly dry pots are called “leather hard”. They are stiff like leather. Bone dry, unfired pots are called “greenware”and are hard and brittle. Greenware will dissolve in water. The greenware gets fired to 1800 degrees F. and becomes “bisque ware”. Bisque ware has undergone a physical change and will no longer dissolve in water. It is stronger than greenware and very porous. You will wax and glaze your bisque ware. Then your glazed bisque ware goes through a second, much hotter firing, in the huge gas kiln where temperatures reach 2400 Degrees F. It takes 18 hours to reach the maximum temperature and then it cools for another 18 hours. After that firing your pots are vitrified, non-pours, food safe, and will last thousands of years. They can be used in a dishwasher, microwave, and oven.
Signing Your Pots
All student pots must be clearly identifiable at all times. Freshly made pots get a paper label with your last name, class symbol, and the date they were made (Hetrick symbol, 8-25-02, no initials or nick-names, please). After you trim your pots, sign the bottom with your last name, your class mark, and the date they were trimmed. Pots lacking legible identification will be discarded.
Wax the bottom and up a full 1/4 inch from the bottom of the pot. If your pot has a lid, see Dan for special instructions on waxing lids. Clean your brush well, close the wax jar and change the water when you are done. If you spill wax, change the paper on the workbench. Use your brush for applying wax and clean it well in hot water. Use the red wax on the bottom of your pots. The yellow wax is for lids but don’t use it without getting special instructions.
A good glaze job will improve any pot. A bad glaze job will ruin even the most beautiful creation. Glazing is critical to your success so do a good job glazing and sponging. After glazing, allow 10 to 15 minutes to clean up. Wipe tables, bucket lids, and work surfaces well and leave a clean studio. Students who have been at Fireborn for less than a year are probably still in the beginner glazing group. Read about that.
Please buy clay at the beginning of class. Clay purchases in the middle of class are disruptive. Clay sales are debit, credit, or check only – no cash.
Students will receive 25 pounds of clay on the first day of the term which was included in their tuition. Another 25 pounds of clay may be purchased for $36. After that clay costs $50 for 25 pounds. The price increase covers the added expenses associated with high volume production. Classes are designed for learning. There are limits to the size of the work you produce and the amount of clay you can purchase. Fireborn’s classes are not intended for production throwing. If you are running a business you need to be doing that out of your own studio.
Reclaiming Your Clay
If you throw a pot you are not happy with you should reclaim the clay. Squash the clay onto the plaster bat so there are no sharp edges and put your initials on it. The fan may get turned on, so don’t let your clay get too dry. Bag your scrap and wedge it before using it again.
Notebook / Journal / Sketchbook
Keeping track of where your pots are in the studio cycle and how you glazed your work is helpful. Some people photograph their pots after trimming and glazing. Some people sketch them. Some number them. Click here to see a sample journal entry. I suggest you maintain a notebook or sketchbook. You can buy one or print this Student Notebook. A sketchbook is also useful for designing new work.
I will clean the floor around them. Don’t sweep during class because it makes dust which is unhealthy to breathe.
Cleaning Up Your Wheel
Clean your wheel, especially under the wheel head and then sponge up the dribbles and clay globs on the floor around your wheel. Wash splash pans in the sink. Dump the slurry in the sink, dregs go through the screen and into the gray slop bucket. Scrape bats. Splash pans should be put back on the wheels. Foot pedal should be set up on the wheel so the floor can be easily cleaned. When removing splash pans and wiping off wheels, clay sometimes dribbles onto the floor. Please use a towel or sponge to clean the floor around your wheel.
Pottery Tools and Supplies
You can buy most tools you’ll need at Fireborn. The Clay Place, in Carnegie on Walnut Street, has a wide variety as well. You can also find sources online.
Making Large Pots
Large pots amplify. What I mean by this is if you have exactly the same pot, but you make it bigger, it makes more of a statement, is bolder, and louder. If it was a bad pot when small, it will scream horrible if made large.
Making large work is a fun challenge, but if you couldn’t make it beautiful as a small pot, you definitely won’t be able to make it beautiful as a large pot. Start small and work your way up. Beauty should be your goal, not large.
Additionally, we have practical limits (related to shelf height and storage space) which limit the size of work we can handle on our studio. There is a chart by the trim wheels showing those limits. Any oversized pots will be charged a handling fee of $20 (note, anything over our size limits if a good quality pot is quite valuablle). We are not trying to make money on large pots, but we are trying to discourage you from making them. Please don’t take this personally. If you want to make lots of large work you should find another facility.
Please bring your own towel.
Evening classes, please be cleaned up and ready to walk out the door at 9:30. Morning classes, please depart by 12:30.
To maintain studio flow: ALWAYS, every time you come to class, trim everything and glaze everything.
Links to More Information
- Sign up for next term before classes fill up.
- Make-up classes.
- Ending your term.
- Throwing help.
- Glazing help.
- Saturday Open Studio Access
- Expanding your knowledge VERY IMPORTANT.
- Reading list.
Class Cancellations Due to Foul Weather Policy
There will be class as regularly scheduled unless otherwise stated right here where the x’s are. xxxxxxxxx
If the Pittsburgh Public Schools have a 2-hour delay or are closed, Fireborn MAY close or delay also. Schools sometimes close because of cold weather, but cold weather is not a sufficient reason for us to delay or close. Delays and closings for Fireborn will be posted here by 8:30 a.m. for morning classes and 4:30 p.m. for evening classes. We will reschedule if feasible. I probably won’t be notifying you by text or email, so check here on the website.