4 Steps to Making Terra Cotta Pottery

Lead Image
  • 2-5 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-1,000
What You'll Need
Powdered clay mix or premade clay
Cast or pottery wheel
Pottery kiln
Kiln tongs

Terra cotta is a type of material which is used a lot for sculpting decorative, useful, and creative items. It has been used since ancient times, and it is sturdy and suitable for various settings and color schemes. The techniques utilized to make pottery items are delineated below, so even if you are not a professional, you can still attempt to give it a try.

Step 1 - Acquiring Tools and Materials Required

First of all, you have to gather the necessary tools that will enable you to create your pottery. The clay you can use, especially if you are going to undertake a small scale project, can be bought as a powdered mix or in a pre-prepared solution. Kiln tongs are fairly easy to find, but other tools such as a pottery wheel and kiln are very expensive. You will either want to find someone who has them or has access to them, or make sure you're dedicated to pursuing a lot more pottery projects before making such a large purchase.

Step 2 - Preparing the Clay

Terra cotta is made from a number of elements, mainly clay and water. It is crucial to follow the powdered mix instructions to add just the right amount of water. Pour the mix into a container, cover with a lid, and shake well. Then, open the lid to allow the clay access to air so it can become well-hydrated. At this point there should be little or ideally no lumps left.

Once the clay has been composed, you have to knead it. This can be done just like you would when preparing dough. This process will eliminate any air bubbles.

Step 3 - Shaping

Once the clay has been mixed, and you are satisfied with the consistency achieved, start the shaping process. To shape the item, use your hands or utilize a cast or pottery wheel. With a small project like a pot or a birdbath, it is best to change the roundish lump of clay into a longish, rope-like form. Make sure to keep it warm to allow for easier handling. Start coiling it upwards, until you produce the height you want, little by little. To produce a smooth result, use your thumb and forefinger. Bear in mind that if the right consistency and smoothness are produced as you go along, you will have a good chance of ensuring a satisfactory outcome without having to start over. Also, be sure that you are producing dimensions that are compatible with one another. Simply put, a tall pot cannot be successfully supported with a relatively small or narrow base. Try to plan ahead.

If you have separate pieces which you would like to attach to one another, make sure that they are of a similar consistency and dampness. Keep a cup of water at hand to dampen the work as you go along if needed.

Step 4 - Firing

The final step is to fire your creation in a pottery kiln. Make sure that it has dried first. The firing time required will vary according to the temperature you apply and the size of your creation. Exercise caution when handling it after it’s been fired and use kiln tongs.