Sean Nicholson Clay

Clay is one of the most common, basic, yet complex and wonderful materials on the planet. Sean uses quality Australian Stoneware clay when producing your hand-thrown, individual ceramic pieces. Stoneware is made from a particular clay which is fired at a higher temperature, 1,280°C. This results in a more durable material, with a denser, stone-like quality.

As clay dries, it passes through several stages. The one between moist and dry is known as ‘leather hard’. Clay is trimmed, carved, cut or faceted when it is leather hard. ‘Bone Dry’ clay is clay that has been completely air dried and is ready to be fired. Green Ware is the term used to refer to bone-dry pottery that hasn’t been fired.

Sprigging is a process of adding relief decoration to a damp pot. Sean applies decorative clay elements, Sprigs, individually to his pieces. Sprigging was used in China as early as 206 B.C. Sean also works with traditional Indian wooden stamps to create the Sprigs that you see adorning our Water Purifiers.

Clay Preparation

At Sean Nicholson Clay Studio all hand-thrown wares are created with quality Australian Stoneware Clay. Before the clay can be formed on the wheel it must first be wedged. Wedging is a technique in which clay is thoroughly kneaded before use in pottery throwing, to make it malleable and remove air pockets.

What is wheel throwing?

Wheel throwing is the process of forming clay into shapes on a potter’s wheel. The potter shapes and forms wet clay on the wheel, then lets the clay harden and dry until leather-hard before finishing and returning the piece to the wheel for trimming.

Wheel throwing works through the combination of centrifugal force and relative control by the potter. As the wheel spins, the clay is inclined to stretch and move outward. The potter controls the clay with their hands to push it towards the centre and shape it in an even manner. The potter places the clay at the centre of the wheel, adding water to assist in the smooth, slow movement of the clay upwards. The rhythmic spiral grooves and ridges that result from throwing give pots mad on the wheel a unique character.

Throwing the clay

Sean Nicholson has been working with clay professionally for over 45 years. Sean is owner/designer/thrower at Sean Nicholson Clay Studio in Armidale.

Sean has developed skills and techniques over many years to ensure that each piece is aesthetically and functionally complete.

Each piece is individually hand- thrown.

Loading and firing the kiln - Bisque, first firing

Bisque Firing is a slow, low temperature, 1,000°C. This first firing leaves the clay porous and ready for a glaze application. The clay is chemically changed during this process and cannot return to wet clay. Glaze is applied to bisque fired pieces as they are hard and absorbent.

At Sean Nicholson Clay Studio we use a 150 cubic foot trolley kiln to fire our wares. The first firing is a Bisque kiln followed by the glaze firing.

Sean in the Sean Nicholson Clay studio carefully loading our 150 cubic foot trolley kiln with Water Purifiers and dinner/kitchen ware. Each piece is very fragile at this stage, before the first firing.

The bisque kiln is ready to turn on. The kiln has 8 large venturi burners that pumps gas into the kiln for approximately 8 hours during the Bisque firing. During this firing it is important that we fire the kiln very slowly to allow all moisture to escape from the clay.

Sean's renowned teapots

Sean Nicholson in the Sean Nicholson Clay Studio/Gallery. Sean is well known for his teapots. Quality hand-thrown forms, aesthetically and functionally beautiful. Making a teapot is one of the greatest challenges a potter can take on. Although combining their different
elements – the body, spout, lid and handle – offers many wonderful design possibilities.

Sean is renowned for his ‘non-drip' ceramic teapots.