A NOTE ABOUT OUR PROCESS
The process of pottery making is labor intensive. Here at W. A. Painter Pottery Works, our pottery goes through many steps before it is finished and ready to be shipped. Before the process begins, clay is mixed and prepared before it is used to make our stoneware wren houses, jugs, paperweight frogs and many other stoneware pieces.
There were two common methods for processing clay in nineteenth century potteries. Back then, clay was put into a "dry pan" or a "wet pan", which consisted of a revolving pan with holes in the bottom and two heavy steel wheels that rotated on top of the pan that crushed the clay. Once it reached the proper particle size, the clay fell through the pan to be collected below for mixing. In a wet pan, water is introduced to the clay and mixed to the proper consistency for making wares. Inside the "hammer mill", clay is dropped through a chute at the top where spinning knives quickly pulverize the clay into fine particles. Of these three processes, we use the hammer mill to process our raw clay.
Raw clay comes from several locations near our pottery and is suitable for stoneware. Working with natural clay is a long and painstaking process. Organic materials such as tree roots, rocks, and dirt are removed before it is hand turned into our unique stoneware pieces.
After clay passes through the hammer mill, it is then mixed with water and allowed to "slake" or soak in water for a few days. During this time, roots and other organic materials float to the top. The clay is then screened several times to further remove rocks and other debris and then held in containers for a time before more water is removed. Clay is laid out to harden to a workable consistency. Processing hand dug clay like this requires a lot of time and space and that is why we limit the number of pieces we make each year from it.
READY TO MAKE POTTERY
We utilize hand turning, casting, molding, and hand building to make our stoneware. After pieces are made and allowed to dry for a short time, they are trimmed and cleaned. At this stage, handles are applied to jugs and beer mugs. Stamping and glazing is the next step in the process for our Advertising Stoneware Specialties. Highly decorated pieces such as our Wren Houses and Toad Houses, which have many embellishments including applied frogs, bark texture, and flowers covering their surfaces, require more time to make and are dried much more slowly.
DECORATING AND GLAZING
As you can see, our stoneware goes through many steps before it is ready to go into the kilns. Glaze protects the surface of the clay. It is a fine layer of glass that seals the surface making clay impermeable to liquids. It's other function is surface decoration, and it also adds color to pottery. We mix our own glazes in our shop and tend to use more earth tones on our stoneware. The warm look of the matte finish on our Wren Houses really brings out the detail in them. Once in a while we will mix up some cobalt blue glaze for the Wren Houses. We have even made them with white glaze and blue sponging which gives them the vintage look of old blue and white pottery. Glazing is the last step before loading the kiln and firing our pottery!
INTO THE FIRE!
The excitement builds as the heat inside our kilns reach that bright orange color at stoneware temperature. All of the fruits of our labor will soon pay off with a load of perfectly fired stoneware. After the burning of the kiln is finished, it is allowed to cool for two days. Each Toad House, Card Holder, and many Jugs, Crocks, Butter Tubs, and other pieces both personalized and for our retail store are unloaded, inspected and are prepared to be shipped.
PACKING AND SHIPPING
Each custom piece or retail item purchased from or site is carefully checked for imperfections. We package your order carefully to ensure it arrives safely to you. All orders are shipped via UPS or USPS Priority mail. All custom orders are shipped UPS only. Thank you for your purchase! For questions, please contact us through the Contact Us link on our site. We look forward to talking with you about our pottery!