Kiln Shelf Maintenance

It’s that time of year where the weather starts getting cooler, and the hot summer days are coming to an end. This also means a lot of maintenance that needs to be completed before winter hits us and we can’t stand outside for more than ten minutes. This is the best time to do some kiln shelf preparations for the winter, more specifically cleaning up your shelves and applying a fresh coat of kiln wash.  Kiln wash basically is a layer of EPK (Kaolin) and Flint that you paint onto your shelves to protect them from run-away glaze drips. It acts as a barrier between the glaze and the kiln shelf itself, although it’s not a complete miracle worker for those disastrous moments of a runny glaze, but it does help. The things you will need are:

  • Kiln Wash
  • Mask
  • Paint Brush
  • Sand Paper/Sander

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I made my kiln wash up of basically 50% EPK and 50% Flint, and added some water. You want it to be the consistency of heavy cream. Thick enough where you can paint on a decent amount of kiln wash onto your shelves, but not too thick where it gets lumpy.


To apply the kiln wash you want to start with a clean kiln shelf. You can use a sander that’s gentle enough to remove the old kiln wash but not damage your kiln shelves. Or if you’re like me, and don’t have a sander, you can do it the old fashioned way. Any type of sand paper will do, a little elbow grease and you can just sand away.
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Make sure to wear a mask when doing this, as the old kiln wash will be extremely dusty coming off of your kiln shelves. Once you’re done, you can start painting on your kiln wash.

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A good even and fairly thick layer is all you need. Then all you need to do, is wait for it to dry. Once dry you have fresh kiln wash on your shelves and you’re ready to start firing again!

Reclaim Clay

For this blog post I’m going to be talking about how to reclaim clay. This process although tedious, is very necessary if you want to save money on clay instead of throwing it away. You would surprised on how much clay you can retain from reclaim. I don’t usually throw pieces with reclaim since it tends to be a bit harder to work with. A good use for it would be handles, small pendants, and anything decorative that can be applied to your pieces. Reclaim is not the best for repeat throwing, since the clay is being rehydrated/dried out, it can be difficult to throw to a gauge. There are several ways to reclaim clay however I’m just going to show you what has worked best for me. I’m going to talk about how to rehydrate bone dry clay using the following steps.

What you will need:

  • Bucket
  • Mallet
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Plaster Mould/Canvas Board

Step One: Break up your bone dry clay into tiny pieces, place these pieces into a deep bucket or container. Fill your bucket up about halfway with clay, you will need the extra room for the water and vinegar. You can use a mallet to break up the pieces of clay, or whatever you have laying around. Make sure your clay is bone dry, if you have to you can dry it out in the sun if it’s not completely dry yet. Bone dry clay will absorb more water and break down faster than leather hard clay will.

Step Two: Start adding water to your clay, the amount of water needed will be dependent on how much clay you have. I usually fill the bucket up about halfway with water, if you add too much you can always skim it off the top. You’ll notice the water will start bubbling and making noises. Don’t panic, this a good thing. That sound and those bubbles is the water getting reintroduced into the clay.

Step Three: Add some vinegar to the mix. Again the amount of vinegar will depend on how much clay you have. I usually just add a couple splashes (half a cup or so) to my bucket. Now you’re probably wondering why vinegar? The acid of the vinegar will help breakdown the clay and improve its plasticity. It will make the clay easier to work with once it has been rehydrated. Although this step is not crucial to reclaiming clay, it does help quiet significantly.

Step Four: Now it’s time to wait. The waiting time is also dependent on how much clay you’re working with. I find it usually takes about a week or two for the clay to break down completely. Once you see your clay turning into a thick mound, you know it’s ready to dry it out before wedging.

Step Five: Collect your clay up and lay it out in a plaster bat or mould. Whatever you have, I use an old plaster mold. Before I had the plaster mould I took a wooden board and stapled canvas to it. The canvas doesn’t work as well as the plaster but it does soak up any unnecessary moisture in the clay. You’ll have to keep an eye on the consistency of the clay at this stage. The clay can dry up very quickly and you’ll have to start all over again. I find in the winter months it doesn’t take as long for the extra moisture to leave the clay, however in the summer it takes a lot longer since it’s so humid. You’re your clay isn’t wet and sticky anymore you can start wedging. Now you have lots of extra clay to work with!

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If you’re trying to reclaim slip like clay, maybe from you wheel catch basin, you can skip step one and just add some vinegar and lay it out on your plaster mould to dry. If you have clay that’s not quiet leather hard, but too dry to throw, go ahead and roll it out flat and thick, poke some holes in it and pour water into the holes. Leave it out for a while and let the water soak into the clay, you can then wedge back into shape. I hope this post helps you with your reclaim process, again everyone does it differently I just find this way works best for me. Till next time!

Glaze Making

For my first real blog post I thought I’d just right into one of my most feared processes in pottery, the art of glaze making. Whether you want to make your own glazes at home or purchase them from a supplier, it’s always best to have an understanding of how glaze is made. The reason for this is you always want to make sure you are using food safe glazes that is if the purpose of your work is functionality as opposed to decorative. A good book for glaze making is Mastering Cone 6 Glazes – By Ron Roy. This book is excellent for those firing to cone 6.  It is clear, concise and extremely well written. If you are going to attempt to create your own glaze, it’s always best to start off making a clear and then working your way up into blues, greens and black. Since the weather has gotten a lot warmer I had time over the weekend to top up my clear glaze. I will post a step-by-step process on how I make my clear as well as the tools you will need. Firstly I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure you are being safe when making glazes. Meaning you purchase a high quality mask to protect yourself from breathing in any of the chemicals. I also recommend making glazes in a very well-ventilated area, I normally end up making my glazes outdoors on a non-windy day. The materials you will need for glaze making are as follows:

  • A #80 sieve
  • Five gallon bucket x 2
  • Stir stick
  • Measuring Cup
  • Brush
  • Paint Mixer
  • Digital Scale
  • Scoops
  • High quality dust particle mask

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The first step is to measure all your ingredients according to your recipe, and place the dry mix into a 5-gallon bucket. Always weigh your ingredients with a digital scale, it is more accurate and you will less likely make mistakes judging how much of each material you are adding to your glaze. Another good tip is to designate some scoops to glaze making only. This way you won’t mix up any other measuring cups/scoops you use with ones that are coming into contact with chemicals.

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Once you have your materials measured out you are going to want to dry mix the ingredients together before you start mixing with water. Make sure you have your mask on at all times, especially when pouring out the dry mix as it produces a cloud of dust and you do not want to breathe any of that in.

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With your second bucket, you’ll want to add at least four litres of water and carefully pour your dry mix into the bucket of water. The reason for this is you want to make sure your glaze mix will be properly mixed. This allows the mix from clumping together too much, which would make it very difficult to mix. Trust me on this, I’ve done it and it’s definitely something you would want to avoid doing.  Once you have done that you can take out your trusty paint mixer and start mixing away. While you’re mixing you’ll want to add more water to your glaze. How much water you add is dependent on the glaze you’re making.

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Every glaze is different, a good rule of thumb is to add enough water so your glaze resembles a heavy cream. A good way to test your glaze is to dip two fingers in your glaze, if the glaze is too thick it will coat your fingers entirely, if it’s too thin it will run right off. Generally based on my experiences, I find if the glaze coats your fingers well enough that it is still slightly translucent, your glaze should be at a good consistency. However everything is based on trial and error, but keep in mind it is easier to add water to a glaze then to take away. If you do end up adding too much water to your glaze and it’s not firing properly, let your glaze sit for a few days and allow the mixture to settle to the bottom. You will then be able to skim some water off the top making your glaze thicker.

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Once you’ve gotten your glaze to a good consistency it’s time to sieve. Using your #80 mesh sieve, start pouring the glazing back into the first bucket you were using and with your brush stir the glaze around to get out all the lumps. This will allow for a smooth clean glaze for your pieces.

Once you are done and you are happy with your consistency your glaze is ready for a test firing! As horrified as I was at first to make my own glazes, it’s not actually as difficult as I thought it would be.

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Once you understand the process before jumping into it, it makes the entire process a lot easier. Much like reading a difficult recipe entirely before you start cooking. I hope this post provides you with some useful tips, oh and happy glaze making!


Welcome to Blue Bird Pottery!

Hello, and welcome to Blue Bird Pottery! This website is dedicated to my love for all things ceramics. Before I get into how I fell in love with pottery, let me tell you a bit about myself. My name is Sophia Theo, I was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. During my free time I volunteer at a Hamilton Aviary, which has been one of the best experiences of my life.  I fell in love with pottery the moment I got to try my hands at wheel-throwing. A couple years ago I was going through the motions of waking up, going to work and coming home, the end. I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing, I had to try something new before I went into complete and total madness. I figured I’d try wheel-throwing, I had thought about it before plenty of times but it was just one of those things where you never get around to doing. Life gets in the way, you don’t have time, and suddenly you never get to experience anything life has to offer. Well I was at my whit’s end, and I figured now was a good time to try something new. I booked a session at a local pottery studio and from that moment I was hooked. I was actually a little upset with myself as to why I waited so long to try this, but better late than never, right?

“My first pots ever and throwing in class!”

Wheel-throwing is such an exciting experience, the idea of taking a piece of clay and turning into a pieces of functional ceramic ware is exhilarating. I had never really thought of what it takes to make ceramic wares, and how much time and effort goes into it. Since that moment I had found a new profound love and respect for the craft. There is so much to it, not just the wheel-throwing but perfecting your form, learning about glazing, decoration and firing up a kiln. I had no idea what I was doing, but within the first month of lessons I bought myself a wheel and a kiln and went to work. Besides being dubbed insane for firing a kiln with zero experience and setting up a pottery studio in my basement without knowing the first thing of proper form and functionality, I have to say it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Without getting into too much detail, I hope to use this blog as a way to share my experiences with pottery, both the good and the bad. Everything I’ve learned and the mistakes I’ve made along the way, will all be exposed. I hope to inspire people to take that little leap of faith into the unknown and try something new, you never know what the outcome will be. Most importantly, it’s NEVER too late to try something new. That being said, I hope you enjoy this site and reading about my experience just as much as I enjoy making them. I will leave you with a little inspiration from one of my favourite writers:


“Living like an empty shell is not really living, no matter how many years it may go on. The heart and flesh of an empty shell give birth to nothing more than the life of an empty shell”

  • Haruki Murakami