About the Process

Most of Michelle's pottery is thrown (formed) using a kick-wheel going clockwise and trimmed with the wheel going counterclockwise. This allows the right or primary hand to be focussed on the inner space while forming and the outer shape while trimming. Michelle employs a number of different techniques for glazing and firing, including Raku, wood-firing, cone 9-10 gas-reduction stoneware and porcelain, and cone 6-7 electric fired stoneware and porcelain. The clays are carefully selected to work well in the various styles of work she does.

When clay is fired without glaze it can be subtly altered by the atmosphere in the hot kiln, which reaches temperatures as high as 2350° F. Sodium and potassium salts melt and volatilize in the hot kiln's atmosphere, to cause flashing or shine. Variations in the kilns atmosphere (more or less carbon or oxygen) cause varied colors ranging from yellow, oranges, iron reds, to cool grays and blues and diverse mottled effects. Gold-toned mottled markings can also result from ashes falling on the ware and becoming fused by the kiln's heat. Ashes can also be mixed with water and applied as a liquid glaze to produce mottled and runny effects.

History buffs and antique collectors may be familiar with the development of pottery making in the Hudson Valley, where in the 19th century Poughkeepsie potters produced salt-fired jugs and crocks slip glazed on the inside, made of clays shipped up the Hudson River from New Jersey and Delaware. Slip is liquid clay, basically just watery mud. Naturally abundant iron-bearing clays have been used for centuries to make bricks and earthenware vessels, and to glaze simple utilitarian pottery. The Hudson Valley is rich in slip clays which melt into a lovely brown or reddish glaze.

Since her return from Japan in 1979, Michelle has collected and tested local clays to use as slip glazes or to mix with other glaze materials. In 1980 she gathered and tested unprocessed clay mine samples to better understand the inherent qualities of the raw clays. The information gathered formed the basis for the clay bodies she uses today. Besides having different colors and melting temperatures, simple clays when prepared by a thorough soaking and dewatering process can be variously described as more or less silky, waxy, plastic, floppy, weak or strong. They also vary in glaze fit. The same glaze fired the same way may fit one clay perfectly, craze on others, and actually cause other clays to shatter.