I often think that pottery is a multidisciplinary art, there’s so much to learn and master – it’s always pushing you to try and make sense out of unexplained things that happen in the process. It’s part art, part science and part management which makes for a sometimes unforgiving mix of potential errors that can creep into any stage of the process.
Plates are probably the most tricky thing to make in the repertoire of the potter since there is just more to go wrong at every stage. Recently I’ve been working on a set of six dinner plates, I always make extras to compensate for the little things that go wrong.
When I took this first plate out of the kiln it was a mystery as to why it split perfectly in two but take a closer look and you’ll see where it’s gone wrong. When a plate is fired the centre point cantilevers the ledge, bending in the intense heat of the glaze kiln. The centre of the plate hasn’t been turned out enough to compensate and you can see the difference just a couple of millimetres would have made to prevent this cracking.
The shallow height of a plate can sometimes make glazing difficult with the air flow around the piece not allowing the glaze to mature in the very centre of the plate. Putting it back into the kiln has caused the piece to crack under the strain of being twice fired, sometimes when I’ve done this in the past the centre of the plate has a tendency to fall out completely.
Still it’s in these errors that you learn the lessons to make you a better potter and after all they say ‘third times a charm’.