Fellow Artisan: Home Thrown Pottery by Esther Schletz

Esther will be at the Elora Handmade Market with home thrown pottery. Come check it out, along with food, live music, and 50+ other makers at the Wellington County Museum & Archives Barn on Sunday, October 23, 10am – 4pm.

(click to see larger images)

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Home Thrown Pottery by Esther Schletz

Products: Pottery

Price Range: $2 – $200

How did this all begin:
I’ve always been artsy/crafty. Trying any creative thing that I could find. Almost 3 years ago my mother in law asked me what I would want for Christmas, and all I could think of was pottery lessons. So that’s what she got me. After the very first lesson I was completely hooked. A year after starting I joined the Guelph Potters Guild, and within a year and a half I had bought my own pottery wheel and 2 kilns and started to set up my own studio in the basement of my house. Now, if you’re trying to find me, that’s the first place to look

What were your goals when you started? Did they change?
I was just looking for that next great hobby that would keep me busy for a few months. I never anticipated it turning into something to share with people outside my family. Now I can’t imagine NOT doing pottery, and my long term goal is to make this my full time career.

What inspires new products?
I am still new enough at this that everything that I come across inspires new ideas. Studying forms in nature has given me some interesting ideas. I’ve recently started incorporating actual leaves, branches, stones, etc into some of my pieces (as texture). I also love looking at what other potters have done, on Pinterest and Instagram, and try to figure out how they got the shape or glaze combinations and then try it out for myself. But as I am still fairly inexperienced in this medium, I would say that the potter’s wheel and I are still learning to dance with each other. Some times the wheel decides what a lump of clay is going to turn into, and sometimes I wrestle it into submission and actually make exactly what I had intended to from the moment I wedged the clay.

What’s the most challenging part of your work?
There are numerous challenges when working with clay. The first is making sure that I wedge (knead) the clay properly so that there are no air pockets. Bubbles in the clay can tear your piece apart at the very moment that you think you are almost done. Another challenge is finding the right glaze combinations. Each glaze reacts differently to other glazes (or even to other clay bodies). Sometimes two glazes will react where they become extremely runny. This can cause the glaze to run onto the kiln shelf and, besides ruining a perfectly good piece of pottery, can also make extra work by needing to break the piece from the kiln shelf and then having to spend hours grinding the shelf to make it usable again. The last major challenge is dealing with the Kiln gods. Each item I make has to be fired twice ( about 18 hours is spent in the electric kiln). The first time is called Bisque firing. This is where you “cook” the clay so it becomes hard and has less of a chance of breaking. Clay has a lot of water in it. And even once it’s dried for a few weeks, and feels dry to the touch, there is still a high risk of things exploding in the kiln if you don’t time temperature increases properly. And on the second firing there is, as I previously mentioned, the chance of glazes melting to the shelves or even to other items next to them.

What do you do when you are not working on your business?
I am a mother of 3 wonderful children, (aged 14 to 22 years old), a loving wife, and as my “day job” I am an Administrative Office Assistant and a Supply Secretary with the school board in our area.

Find Esther’s work on Facebook and Instagram @estherschletz.

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All images used with permission.

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