Behind the Scenes: Making Our Green Range Ceramics
14 June 2018
The Tom Raffield team head to Stoke on Trent, 'the heart of the potteries' to see where the exclusive, brand new Green Range ceramics are hand made.
Stoke on Trent is home to more than 350 ceramics-based businesses and, with a heritage dating back to the 17th century, has thoroughly earned its world renown reputation as 'the heart of the potteries'. It is, therefore, no surprise that when we started to design The Green Range and brainstorm where our ceramics could be made, the first place we thought to look was Stoke.
Now in its thirtieth year and supplying clients such as Conran, Heal's, Vivienne Westwood and Selfridges to name but a few, Karen and Andrew Key's business Keramica has firmly established itself amongst Stoke's greatest potteries.
When the time came we couldn't resist making the journey to Stoke on Trent to see first hand all of the production stages involved in creating our beautiful Green Range bowls...
"Our Green Range earthenware bowls have been slip cast from clay using a shaped mould. The method of slip casting clay not only allows the potter to create a controlled form with a 'smooth to the touch' surface, but also ensures each piece has a consistent shape that can be repeated hundreds of times."
- Danielle Raffield.
First things first
Keramica's first step in producing our Green Range bowls is to create the hand carved, moulded template that is used to shape all of our bowls. The casting template is made from dried plaster to make it incredibly hard wearing and is sealed with a shellac coating to create a watertight barrier.
Next, slip (clay and water mixed into a smooth paste-like consistency) is poured into the cavity of the mould and left to settle.
Timing is everything
Once the slip has been poured into our template it is left to set for a while. The dried plaster mould of the cast is extremely absorbent and consequently causes the slip to cling and stick to its internal walls.
A zero waste process
When the desired wall thickness has been achieved, the cast is turned upside down and any remaining wet slip in the mould is poured into a large vat ready to be reused in the next pot making process.
"All of our ceramic products are hand made using natural materials and traditional methods with very little waste".
Measured and marked
The remaining slip left inside the mould is then dried to take its final form. Once hardened and nearly dry, our slip bowl is removed from its cast and marked on either side of its rim, where our steam bent wooden component will be secured with grub screws. The marks are then hand drilled to their calculated size (as shrinkage during the firing process must be taken into account) and two round holes are created. Our bowls are then loaded into the kiln ready to be fired.
Each artisan bowl is positioned inside the kiln and fired at 540 degrees which removes any molecular water and carbon in the slip and fuses the clay particles together. The slightest change or alteration of temperature inside the kiln can impact the outcome of the pottery making this the most crucial stage in the whole process. Once fired, our bowls are left to cool and then carefully removed from the kiln.
Time to glaze
After firing, a low clay content, white engobe glaze is applied to the external ceramic body of our Green Range bowls to give them a matte, smooth finish. The inside of the bowls are painted with a clear glaze to create a silky, soil and water resistant coating. The glazed bowls are then fired one final time and the finished product revealed.