Cheer preparing clay for her functional pottery shop update for Dirtbag Ceramics.

Studio Scenes: Clay Preparation

Production is underway for this upcoming collection! The holidays are a busy time for makers, and this year is no exception. I started production a week after getting home from my Continental Divide Trail hike in September. The ceramic process takes some time so I thought I’d hit the ground running (hiking?). From start to finish a piece takes about a month to complete, and I have multiple batches of 20 pieces being moved through the process at a time - mostly because my small kiln can hold about that many pieces.

Weighing the clay in the production of functional pottery.

It’s currently late October and I’m in the final stages of production. Some of these pieces will be on display and for sale at the Patchwork Shows in early November. If you’re a Southern California local (or if you’re visiting the area during that time) you can get more information for the shows on our “Events” page. These shows are free to attend and feature local makers! I hope to see you there. Otherwise I’ll be having a special pre-sale on our online shop here for our Dirtbag Subscribers (you can sign up at the bottom of this page or here). After the pre-sale, pieces will be available for the general public here in the shop - in late November.

On the Dirtbag Subscribers note: I’m planning to hold a random giveaway for all of our subscribers each season. To say "thank you" for following along! What do you think of that idea?

In the coming blog posts, I’ll be taking you through a step-by-step process from raw clay to finished piece! In this edition, I’ll be going over the first step: Clay Preparation.

Shopping for ceramic supplies at Laguna Clay.

Let’s start with shopping! Luckily I live near the Laguna Clay World Headquarters (where I source my clay, stains, and glazes) so I made my way over to their store and warehouse. Whenever I visit, I’m like a kid in a candy shop! In total, I was shopping for 2 hours browsing the glazes, looking at the clay wall, checking out the tools, and getting inspired.

Clay wall at Laguna Clay Company.

It helps to do some research before shopping for me, so I spent time browsing their website to see what glazes and clays would match the inspiration I got from my hiking adventures. I found so many options and wrote down a design game plan and a shopping list. For me, it’s difficult to choose 5 or so designs to focus on (because I have so many design ideas) but – for time’s sake – I have to choose only a few for each shop update. So a list really helps.

Shopping for ceramic supplies at the Laguna Clay Headquarters.

I ended up buying 16 glazes, 200 pounds of clay in 5 different varieties, one big bag of stain (red iron oxide), and some fun tools! I’m really excited to add black clay and terracotta to my repertoire, I love to work with oxides and am excited to pair with the clay, and I’m loving the tools I bought – one of which is a hole-cutter (hello berry bowls, planters, and holiday ornaments!).

The supplies Cheer bought from Laguna Clay Company, loaded into her car.

After lugging the loot back to my home studio, it was time to organize and prep the clay!

 Dirtbag Ceramics artist shops for supplies.

I unloaded and reorganized the studio a little. Since I was away for 4 months, some cleaning was also in order. Once everything was sparkly clean, I got to work.

200 pounds of clay to make functional pottery.

Weighing the clay is helpful to have a similar clay lump for certain forms, which makes it easier for throwing and easier for me to identify what the form is (loosely) going to be. After weighing, I wedge the clay – which looks like kneading dough in bread making. This works out any air bubbles in the clay. An air bubble in clay could ruin a piece while throwing and shaping on the wheel. We want to avoid that at all costs!

Wedged clay to prepare for the 2022 holiday shop update.

Once the clay is wedged, all of the prepared pieces go back into the bag to await the throwing process - which will be described in the next blog post!. Stay tuned.

And if you'd like to see video of all of this and more, check out my process YouTube video and let me know what you think in the comment section!

Love & clay,



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