Spirit of Clay
by Robert Piepenburg
Piepenburg created this book as a textbook for pottery students so, it
start with the very basics and covers a lot of material in all aspects of
the pottery making process.
He starts with a general overview of clay, the different types of clay,
what clay is composed of, and some recipes for various types of clay. He
also includes several interesting exercises to introduce the student to
clay and the creative process.
Next is the building process, which includes handbuilding (pinching,
coiling, slabs, and general sculpture), throwing (centering, opening,
pulling, and shaping), trimming (upright, inverted, and with a chuck), and
coverage of creating a wide variety of forms (bowl, bottle, plates, and
Then comes glazes and glazing. Again he covers all aspects of what
makes up a glaze, types of glaze, and the influence of common glaze
chemicals and colorants. Many glaze application methods are covered
(brush, dipping, pouring, and spraying) There is also a considerable
section on glaze development and testing. Again there is a sample of glaze
recipes for a variety of firing ranges.
The final main section is on kilns and firing. This again includes an
overview of the various types of kilns and firing methods, including kiln
loading, stacking, and firing in oxidation and reduction, and the basics
of kiln construction. Included is a considerable focus on Raku and Pit
Throughout the book is an extensive collection of black and white
photos of an amazing variety of work. There are also many photos of the
equipment, techniques and processes covered above.
Spirit of Clay is a great overview of the many ways of working with
clay including basic methods and techniques that can be used to discover
what one enjoys in the medium. More comprehensive and focused texts can
then be used to go into depth with a certain focus or technique.