Annabelle, our third Leach Pottery apprentice funded by the Seasalt Bursary, showed us how our Leach Mugs are handmade at the pottery in St Ives.
Preparing the clay
Our stoneware clay is mixed to obtain an even consistency and remove air. It is then weighed out and formed into consistently sized balls, ready to work on the wheel.
The ball of clay is stuck down onto the wheel-head and then drawn up into a cone before being pushed back down into a smooth, cylindrical shape.
A hole is formed in the centre of the clay and pushed downwards with the fingers or thumbs, being careful not to go through to the wheel-head. The clay is then pulled towards the potter forming the base of the mug.
The clay is held between both hands and lifted upwards towards the rim. After each lift, the rim is re-formed between thumb and finger to make a nice lip for drinking from.
Using one hand on the inside and one outside of the form, the mug is shaped. A wooden throwing stick is used on the outside to remove any excess water and cut away the bevel at the foot of the mug.
The mug is allowed to dry out before a lug of clay is attached at the top. Using water, the clay is pulled between thumb and finger and drawn into a comfortable thickness for a handle. It is then looped around, attached at the bottom of the mug, and the shape adjusted by hand.
Decorating and Glazing
The mugs are dried out completely, then bisque fired at a low temperate. This drives water out of the clay but leaves the mugs porous so they are able to accept a glaze. We mix all our glazes on site, and use various kinds of brushes to decorate the mugs with different textures. The mugs are then dipped into a liquid glaze.
We load the glazed mugs into one of our three gas kilns. They are fired at 1280°C over 9-12 hours. During the firing the amount of oxygen in the kiln’s atmosphere is reduced, causing oxygen to be pulled from the clay and glazes instead and infusing the mugs with rich blue iron tones. The handmade processes and unpredictability of the firing, mean that the finished glazes vary making every Leach mug unique and distinctive.