Frequently Asked Questions
We hope this helps

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to the questions we receive the most.

However, this section is by no means a substitute for reading the “Current Student”, “Help”, and “Blog” pages of our website.

Fireborn Studios does not offer make-up classes during another regularly scheduled morning or evening class. If you wish to get in more studio time consider signing up for a Saturday Open Studio. 

Note: You must be signed-up and pay online to attend Open Studio .

Go to Open Studio page

No. You may only attend the class you signed up for. 

Fireborn Studios does not offer make-up classes during another regularly scheduled morning or evening class. If you wish/need to get in more studio time consider signing up for a Saturday Open Studio. 

Note: You must be signed up to attend.

Go to Open Studio page

For weeks 1 through 6, it takes two weeks for your pots to get bisque-fired and be ready to glaze. For weeks 7 and 8, the turnaround time for bisqueware is one week. 

We fire as soon as the glaze kiln is full. It is usually 3 to 4 weeks between glaze firings. Taped onto the door of the glaze kiln is a note showing how full the kiln is at this moment. That should help you to guesstimate. 

Also, on the wall to the right of the kiln is a calendar with the dates of previous firings circled. 

Additionally, there is a post you can read. See Post

If you recently glazed, your pots have been loaded into the glaze kiln, and are waiting to be fired. Once they are fired, they remain in the glaze room for several weeks, until the next glaze firing. After that, pots that have not been claimed are moved upstairs by the washing machine. If a really long time has passed since they were fired, they may have been discarded. We send emails and post information about firings. Read More.

We are sorry, but you can’t return during the next term to trim or glaze any of your pots. It would be a logistical problem and disruptive to the flow of work through the studio and we will be very busy meeting the needs of all our new students. However, if you plan on returning for another class in the future, you can save your bisqueware and bring it back to glaze and fire it upon returning.

Consider attending open studio during your term.

Read More

Aslo see Open Studio

We probably send you ten emails per term on subjects like: recent firings, getting ready to glaze, things you should know, time to sign up for next term, etc. If you are not getting them, you may have provided an email address that doesn’t work, or belongs to a friend who paid for your class, or the email went into your SpamBox, or you gave us your work email and your employer is filtering your mail. We really don’t know why you don’t get email, but we definetly have an email on file for you and we HAVE been sending them. You can contact us to make sure the address on file is up-to-date. 

We are considering providing services, and are assessing interest and viability. If that is what you want, please provide more information. Click Here. However currently the answer is “No.” We only fire work made with fireborn clay and made here, in class.

You may NOT use anything but Fireborn Porcelain. 

You may use Amaco Velvet Underglazes, but no other commercial glazes.

You may use decals or underglaze pencils.

Join our Facebook group, see other peoples pots and post yours. Click Here


Timing is critical. Pots need to be medium leather hard, not too stiff. If your mug is turning white on top and not wiggly like stiff leather, then your handles are unlikely to stick. Also there are issues with shrinkage and memory. Those topics are complicated. See the next two FAQ responses on this page.

If you have noticed that the giant mug you made shrunk to the size of a shot glass, you know about shrinkage. If a handle didn’t stick, that is usually because of shrinkage, too. Our clay shrinks 8% as it dries and another 8% in the glaze firing. 

When you attach a handle, the pot and the handle need to shrink together or else the handle won’t stick. They need to have approximately the same moisture level. That means the pot should be medium leather hard or wetter, and the handle should be fresh but not too soggy to medium leather hard. Soggy handles won’t hold their shape and will have excessive shrinkage because of their excessive water content. There are tight parameters here and experience is required to get it right. Beginners have difficulty making these subtle judgments. Have your instructor give you feedback.

Well, it doesn’t have a brain, but what we are talking about is the way clay warps or moves when it dries. The best analogy is bending a steel rod. When you bend it a little, it will spring back to straight again. If you want it hold the bend, you need to bend it extra far and see how much it flexes back when you release the tension. Physically, that has to do with crystals in the steel sliding and repositioning themselves. 

Clay is similar. There are lots of  microscopic flat particles aligned flat side to flat side, and held together by the surface tension of water in the clay. The particles slide against each other when you throw a pot or pull a handle. When you bend a handle and stick it to a pot, it “wants to unbend, or straighten out”. That can cause the handle to pull away from the mug at the weakest points of attachment. 

As clay dries, any stress it holds from being previously bent will make it “want to unbend”.

Please excuse the teleological explanation. Clay is mindless. 

Classes have been filling months in advance. Try doing these things.

  1. Be sure you are on our mailing list so you received emails when classes are posted. To sign up for our mailing list, Click Here.
  2. Current students should check their email regularly and sign up promptly when emails go out about new classes.
  3. If the class you want is full, please send an email to donna57@fireborn.com requesting to be put on the waiting list. 

The 1,000 (or 10,000) Rule does apply. However so does the following:

  1. Read and research. Learn everything you can from books and videos about the process and technical side of the craft/art of pottery making. The resources are readily available. There are lots of links and a reading list on our website. Probably more than you will ever use, but still just a fraction of what’s out there. 
  2. Use the suggestions on our “Help” page, and other resources on this website. Our website is searchable from the home page. 
  3. Pay attention in class. Don’t let those pearls of wisdom your instructor tosses out fall to the ground. 
  4. Attend workshops or take a private lesson. 
  5. Practice, practice practice. (the 10,000 Rule again).

Centering is more about finesse and technique, than about strength. 

First of all, you will never be able to center (or make a good pot for that matter) if your clay is not prepped well. It needs to be 1. the right firmness (which depends on what you want to make) and 2. it needs to be well wedged. 

Clay for small bowls and plates can be relatively soft. Clay for a tall vase must be relatively firm, so it is strong and won’t collapse. 

Let’s start with well prepped clay. Wedge it. Wedging does many things to prep the clay.

  1. It informs you of the condition of your clay and how best it can be used, like “this clay is too soft to make a tall vase”.
  2. It blends your clay to a homogeneous or uniform consistency, getting rid of lumps.
  3. It “loosens up” or softens the clay. Clay is thixotropic. 
  4. It removes air bubbles from the clay. This assumes you are wedging correctly. Otherwise you may be adding air bubbles. 
  5. Prolonged wedging on a plaster surface will dry out your clay because the plaster absorbs moisture from the clay.
  6. It aligns all the microscopic particles, flat side to flat side, thus increasing plasticity.
Well-wedged clay is a dream to work with. Poorly wedged or unwedged clay seems to be possessed by a devil. 
Now for technique:

Keep your elbows in. Tuck into the T-Rex position.

Sit close to the wheel. Lean into the pot. Get your nose over the center of the wheel. Use your weight, not just strength. 

Drop your left shoulder and anchor your forearm on your thigh and hip.

The clay must be adequately lubricated so it is totally slippery. Beyond that, more water serves purpose and just fills yo the splash pan.

Always spin before you tough the clay.

First center the bottom, then the middle, then the top.


Practice, practice practice!

Once you start to pull up a cylinder, use steady pressure and assend smoothy. Don’t twitch and jerk. There is a video here.

Besides the obvious “pay attention to class demonstrations”, you can use Fireborn’s help pages which can be found in the pull down menu under the “Current Student” tab of our Nav Bar. You can also explore more videos on YouTube, or schedule a private lesson. 

That said, there is a steep learning curve and initial frustration is common. Most people can get past that, but not everyone. You’ll have to decide whether you want to “throw in the towel” or persist.

No, unless it is incorporated as a minor element of a thrown piece. There are practical considerations relating to shelf space and work tables that make these techniques unworkable at Fireborn. We love hand building and encourage you to find a facility geared more to your interests. 

Because there is none that Saturday. It is not every Saturday. Check Here for availability.

Yes there are, for practical reasons. Please refer to this page.

We seldom cancel class. There will be class as regularly scheduled unless otherwise polsted right here . 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. We probably won’t be notifying you by text or email. Pe post cancelations online. Click here for the latest post on the subject. 

Water trapped inside thick walled pottery will turn to steam and rapidly expand when we fire them. The steam will cause a violent explosion. Pots must be thin enough for all the water to escape before turning to steam. Trim off excess clay and weight. When in doubt have your instructor evaluate the weight of your trimmed pots. We wont fire excessively thick pots.