the studio


Helen Levi

Page 24 | Inside the life

of Instagram's rising

ceramic artist

Clay Bodies

Page 8 | A compilation of

the makeup of clay bodies used

around the world

Kiln Mechanics

Page 50 | The inner

workings of mechanical and

gas kilns explained

Page 16 | A look at the human

history of clay

Page 32 | Tools to know to start

your own home studio

Page 36 | Understanding all of

the purposes of wedging clay

Page 42 | The beauty and

techniques of Raku firing

Volume 12 | $19.99

2020 Ceramics Issue


clay bodies



artist spotlight


8Clay Bodies

world look:

all you need to know

about the different

clay bodies used

by ceramic artists

around the world



the masters: a l l

about the studio,

work, creative

process, and booming

success of Helen

Levi, Instagrams top

ceramic artist



technology: a look at

the inner workings

of a kiln. Also, learn

about different types

and uses for kilns as

well as the meaning

behind all different

cone firings

4To the Readers

editor’s letter:

words from the editor

who molded this


6Features From

Our Readers

viewer's letter: a nice

showcase of reader




history: about the

ceramics surrounding

our canine friends


and Pottery

history: a look into

the history of human

32Tools to


tools: how to start

a studio and an

infographic of basic

studio tools



skills: understanding



techniques: the fun,

surprises, and safety

behind this beautiful

Japanese firing





use of clay

the several purposes

techniques: breaking

of wedging, wetting,

down the chemical

and preparing clay

makeup and science

before throwing

behind a glazes' glass

formation when fired


kiln mechanics


Cover photography courtesy of unsplash

2 | atelier 2020


36 42


the studio


dear readers

President | Jake Geiger

Vice President | Elaine Cunfer

Lead Editor | Morgan Nadin

Managing Editor | Karen Kresge

Senior Copy Editor | Poppy Mitchell

Assistant Editor | Julianna LoMonaco

Article Editor | Kaleigh Moran

Project Manager | Sophia Tornay

General Assistant | Allison Kostaras

Photographer | Madison Woodruff

Assistant Photographer | Eirene Hoover

Marketing Director | Noah Walker

Sponsor Manager | Helen Kerschner

Sponsor | Dr. Lynda Runyon

Distribution Manager | Eve Piper

There are so many things outside

of my field of work of design and

editing that excite me; Traveling

and learning about the world around me

hands on is something that makes my

heart beat a little faster. So when I heard

that the annual topic for Atelier was

ceramics, I couldn’t have been happier.

The act of creating pieces by hand from

natural materials is thrilling, and the idea

that the items could be functional in

a home or workspace is a bonus. While

working on this edition, I got to dig my

hands into the nuanced elements of

ceramics, from picking clay, to throwing

on the wheel, to mixing glazes, and

all things in between. The process

was interesting at every step and was

even more of an impact as a learning

experience after I dove into the history

of clay at its roots. I am honored to have

been able to have a hand in the creation

of Atelier, the beginners deep dive into

learning about and creating ceramic

pieces. Clay and ceramics are an part of

nearly all ancient human societies and

continue to be an important part of daily

life, despite the fact that most people

don’t have to create their own ceramics

by scratch anymore. However, ceramic

creation is an art that been experiencing

a revival in America despite the great

prevalence of technology in society and

the ability to mass produce all things clay.

Pottery is not a craft that is required for

human societies to thrive, but is one that

makes it more pleasant to do live each day

even more thoughtfully.

best wishes,


Naseef Publications

181 Redwood Grove

Daytona, Florida 29183


4 | atelier 2020

Photography courtesy of

Morgan Nadin

Lead Editor


humans and pottery

digging up our ancient past

by professor karen carr

People first started making pottery

out of clay in East Asia, in both

China and Japan, around 14,000

North Africa, around 6000 BC, near

the beginning of the Neolithic period

there. West Asian people may have

BC, long before they started farming.

started to make pottery as a way to store

Probably people had always known how

grain when they started farming. They

to make pottery, but just hadn’t done it

also used their pots to make fermented

much. This early pottery was made by just

fish sauces for eating.

pushing a hole into a ball of clay, or by

making a long snake of clay and coiling

it up into a pot shape. It may have gotten

started by making baskets and coating

them with clay. In Japan, early pots might

be buried in the ground for storage. One

reason for starting to make pottery was

likely to preserve fish. Another reason

may have been to store grains like millet.

Pottery in the Americas

The Slow Wheel

By around 3000 BC, at the beginning of

the Bronze Age, people in West Asia had

begun to use the slow potter’s wheel. This

is a little platform made of wood that you

build the pot on. You can turn the round

platform around so that instead of having

to walk around your pot you can sit still

and turn the pot around. In the hands of

someone who is good at using it, the slow

People probably began to make pottery in

wheel makes potting a lot faster. At

the Americas for the same reason, several

the same time, Central American people

thousand years later. People who ate a lot

invented the slow wheel. The Zapotec

of fish and shellfish were making pottery

were using it to make pottery, around 100

Someone begins

to knead raw clay, likely to

find any large imperfections

in Brazil about 5500 BC. Maybe they also

used pottery jars to preserve fish by fermenting

it. From Brazil, people gradually

BC. The Zapotec kept right on using

the slow wheel, but by 2000 BC, almost all

potters in Europe, Asia, and North Africa

began using pottery further north. The

were using the fast wheel instead.

Photography courtesy of

Pottery in East Asia

In early Japan, pots may have been buried in

the ground for storage, largely to preserve

fish. Pottery also may have been used to

store grains like millet.

Pottery in the Americas

People began to create pottery early in

the Americas for the same reason, storage

and food preservation, several thousand

years after the practice began in East Asia.

Pottery in West Asia

West Asian people may have started to

make pottery as a way to store grain when

they started farming. They also used their

pots to make fermented fish sauces.

fish-eating ancestors of the Cherokee

and other Mississippians knew how to

make pottery by about 4500 BC.

Pottery in West Asia and Europe

The use of pottery also spread west from

East Asia, reaching Mesopotamia and

the Eastern Mediterranean, and then

The Fast Wheel

The fast wheel is also a platform, but one

which spins on an axle, like a top. You can

start it spinning with a push or a kick,

and then draw the pot gradually out

Continued on page 70

atelier 2020 | 17


Helen Levi

Helen Levi

@Helen Levi

Helen Levi





Photography courtesy of Helen Levi

atelier 2020 | 25


Helen Levi is a New York native

that went from juggling four

jobs at once to being a ceramic

it is tied to the general trend of conscientious

shopping on a wider scale: people

caring about where their food comes from,

art powerhouse, in only a few short years.

wanting to buy clothing that is ethically

After being enlisted to make some pieces

made, wanting to cook with meat that was

to sell at Steven Alan’s boutique store, she

ethically sourced. There’s a trickle down,

decided to take the leap, ditch the side

in my opinion, to the objects we use in

jobs and commit full-time to her craft and

her budding new business.

our home. People seem just more curious

to have a connection with all the objects

Helen Levi working in her Brooklyn studio

Since that pivotal moment, Levi has

completed large orders of artisan

tableware for restaurants, been featured

on almost every “best of ceramic artist”

list, and gained an impressive 128k of

Instagram followers. The busy Brooklyn

they surround themselves with, whether

it’s a sweater or a mug. Obviously it’s a lot

more expensive to buy handmade so it’s

not accessible to every person. I was so

grateful to finally have the continuity

of one job.

artist and entrepreneur took some time

I always struggled with balancing

out to tell us what she’s learned about

the different part-time commitments

running a creative business. I sold my

I had. Now I feel successful in the sense

first piece when I met Steven Alan at

that my work supports me and I love what

a pop-up shop.

I do but it’s been a really gradual growth—

After chatting a bit, he asked me

to send him some photos

of my work. I had never


my work before

because it had

always just

been a hobby.

But once I

made that connection,

I got

really excited by

the idea of doing

that hobby as a job,

and I put everything I

had into making it work.

The timing of that decision probably

had something to do with the current

popularity of handmade ceramics. I think

there wasn’t one specific moment when

everything totally clicked. I would say that

in the last year I have made a real effort

to make sure I take a day or two off every

week, because I was in a phase of working

so hard that I forgot how important a little

time off was.

"Since I am the only wheel

thrower in my studio I spend

a lot of time on the wheel."

I tend to do the business/computer tasks

in the morning or evening and spend

the majority of the day making things.

It’s really important to me to keep

the parts of my job that bring me joy at

the forefront of my day. My favorite part

Continued on page 40

Photography courtesy of Helen Levi via Instagram

“Just because a thousand people like something on

Instagram doesn’t mean anyone will buy it.”

atelier 2020 | 27


the tools to know

everything you need to start your own studio

by jenni fritzlan

Clay Roller | A roller can be used

in many different ways, such as to

smooth a piece of clay to find large

imperfections, but is typically used

to roll new clay flat.

carving tools

Setting up a pottery studio will

require some investments, but

once you have the equipment, with

minimal maintenance, it will last for many

years. For the hobbyist, setting up shop

and some tools on. For a wheel throwing

studio, you will need a space large enough

to have a wheel, a work table, a clay storage

area, (ideally under the work table),

shelves to keep your work on, a sink

Wire Clay Cutter | This tool is

usually used to remove a piece from

a table or wheel after being thrown.

could be as simple as acquiring a wheel,

a work table and a small shelf unit to store

your work in progress.

But for the serious potter, setting up shop

will require quite a bit more. Before you

begin purchasing equipment and tools,

Continued on page 50

Ribbon Tool | The ribbon tool is used to

carve or sculpt small areas of a piece. The

metal top comes in many different shapes

and sizes, so an artist must be careful and

thoughtful about picking the correct size

for what needs to be carved. Usually these

tools have a wooden or plastic handle,

making them light and easily transported

as well as cleaned after use.

you will need to determine where you will

be able to set up your new shop.

Some questions to consider would be: Do

I want to make wheel thrown pots or just

do hand building? Do I have a place to

put a kiln and if so, is there an adequate

power supply to the location? Will I glaze

my pots in my studio, or will I need to

take them somewhere else to glaze and

fire them?

If hand building is the only

thing you want to do, an extra

room in your house or a corner

of the garage would be an ideal

place to set up a small studio.

All that would be required would be

enough space for a work table (a 40 x 80

inch table is ideal), a small electric kiln

and a shelf to keep your work in progress

32 | atelier 2020

Photography courtesy of

Potter's Rib | The potter's rib (left) is

primarily used to sculpt and shape

a piece; this is very helpful when

throwing on a wheel.

Needle Tool | The needle tool (right)

is good for fine details and is one of

the best tools for signing the bottom

of a piece before firing or bisque.

Loop Tools | Loop cutting tools

come in a myriad of sizes, just like

the ribbon carving tools. The loop

tools are characterized by their large

looped cutting top. Generally, this

tool is used to carve of large pieces

of clay off of a piece.

Smoothing or carving

tool, generally for


atelier 2020 | 33


A colorful raku piece that

has cooled after firing

raku ceramics

the basics of the traditional Japanese technique

by beth peterson

Raku is a Japanese word that can

be translated as enjoyment, happiness,

or comfort. In 1580, the

potter Chijiro is thought to be the first to

produce this form of ware. He developed

a low-fire pottery process in which he

placed ware directly into a red-hot

kiln, then once the glazes had melted,

removing the ware from the still red-hot

kiln and allowing the pottery to compltely

cool outside of the kiln.

This direct process was well received,

especially by enthusiasts of the tea ceremony.

In 1598 a gold seal was presented to

Chijiro (or possibly his son) by the ruler

Hideyoshi. This seal was engraved with

the ideograph for ​raku. Raku thus became

Chijiro’s family title. In 1940, British potter

Bernard Leach published A Potter’s Book

in which he described his very first introduction

to the process of raku.

American potter Hal Riegger began

experimenting with the process and

subsequently, beginning in 1958, to

include it in classes and workshops he

taught. Somewhere in that milieu of trial

and experimentation, pieces began to be

reduced in combustible material once

removed from the kiln. Raku requires

preparation before you take on this form

of firing. First, you need to use a clay body

that can withstand the thermal shocks it

will go through. Second, you will need

a kiln that is appropriate for the process of

raku firing. Third, you need to have

the proper equipment.

Clay bodies, for raku, tend to contain

30% to 50% non-plastic material, such as

grog, sand, organic materials, or kyanite.

Stoneware bodies do well in raku, with

additions. Even though the clay body may

mature at cone 5 to 10, for raku it should

be bisqued, as usual, no higher than cone

04. Kiln firing like this leaves the clay

open and less likely to suffer damage

during the extreme temperature changes.

In 1960, American potter Paul Soldner

also began experimenting with raku ware.

Paul Solder has been quoted, saying:

“In the spirit of raku, there is

the necessity to embrace

the element of surprise.”

Raku kilns should be small; they also

must be easily opened, with the opening

large and safe enough for the ware to be

removed from the kiln while still incandescently

hot. There is any number of

styles that can be used for raku, but in my

Continued on page 64

A raku piece being pulled

out of an open-air kiln

Photography courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker

atelier 2020 | 43

for educational use only

morgan nadin | 2019

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