You start with a 25 pound bag of clay!
One of the rewards of working with clay is when you finally get to open the kiln after a final firing! Initially you are excited to create something out of clay - which is really just a lump of mud more or less. Eventually you realize that creating something is only the first step!
Here is just one example of the process. For Van Gogh's Room I started with rolling a slab of clay about 1/2 inch thick and cutting it to the dimensions I needed. I turned the slab over and added pieces to the backing so it could hang when completed. I covered this in plastic and let it dry slowly (so it would keep the flat shape).
I then rolled more slab (not as thick) and cut pieces out to make the bed and chairs and other objects. I let the slab for these pieces dry overnight to a 'leather hard' stage so I could build the pieces.
After several weeks the clay was dry enough to bisque fire. This is the first firing that allows the clay to be handled and glazed. After the bisque firing, the piece was glazed and refired. Normally you would attach the pieces to the slab before firing but I took a chance and sort of used the glaze as glue. This can give nice sharp lines since each piece is glazed individually but it is also taking a chance as things move around a bit at over 2000 degrees!
I try to take pictures of each shelf for every glaze firing. This is the bottom shelf of my most recent firing which has the 'Room' and a leaf dish.
I don't bother taking pictures of the bisque firing as that isn't exciting because everything comes out just looking a little pink.
This is after firing to 2194 degrees (Cone 6). Absolutely the highlight of my day when I open the kiln after a glaze firing!
This is the last shelf of the same firing. A few leaf dishes, an ikebana vase and some test tiles. The little circles are the test tiles and I generally try to get a few of these in the kiln load.
I also try to keep detailed records of what glaze and/or technique I used for each piece. This helps to know what works and what doesn't. I also try to STAY FOCUSED on glazing. In the past I have sometimes tried to hurry through this part of the process but I've learned that it is just as (if not more than) important as creating the piece itself.