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Using clay day to day

Gerald Warren has always enjoyed getting down and dirty with clay.

"My granddad and I used to mess around doing pottery. Where I grew up, there was clay in the area. And my granddad had a machine shop and there was a forge there. So I would collect clay and we would make stuff and put it in the forge to fire. So, they weren’t the most beautiful things to look at but they were things we made," he says.

When Warren grew up and moved on to post-secondary education, he was able to find a way to incorporate his creative side into a career. He took photojournalism and architectural drafting at Western University and ended up working as a commercial designer in Toronto.

He says his university courses ended up influencing his current pottery making.

“Lately I’ve been doing things that are a little bit on the geometric side. Quite geometric actually. And I think that (goes) back to how I started with the architectural drafting."

Warren says his career in commercial designing was extremely demanding in hours and as he got older he wanted to slow down a bit. He and his wife moved to Kingston and both took a break from work for a year or so. When they started up again, they ended up buying Amaranth Stoneware, the pottery business they’ve owned for 17 years now.

With pottery the focal point of his days now, Warren says he is so in tune with it he doesn’t even have to think to get his hands to do what he wants.

“Sometimes I sit at the wheel and I do not even have a vision of what’s going to happen and it just starts to flow... or I’ll have an impression in my mind as to what I want the piece to look like and it seems as if it’s able to be communicated to my hands without any regiment at all. It just sort of happens."

Making pottery is great for his own artistic expression, but Warren also says he enjoys watching others do the same, especially when they’re inexperienced.

“I get high off watching (our) workshops. It’s so great to sit here and watch all these people who’ve never touched clay before and they’re so happy,” he says.

As someone who loves to talk, Warren says his favourite part of the job is having customers come through the doors.

“Potters love talking about pottery so I think I might be in the right place. They come in here and talk to me for 45 minutes and leave with a brush,” he laughs.

Pottery has been around since about 9000 B.C. according to the American Ceramic Society.

Warren explains the process of making pottery involves using raw clay mixed with other substances such as sand to ensure sturdiness, then forming the model with devices like the wheel, or just by using your hands. From there the clay must dry, which can take up to a week. Then it gets baked in a kiln, glazed (adding colour or designs), and put in the kiln again. The whole process can take about two weeks with all of the dying, firing and cooling that goes on.

Watch Warren demonstrate the first step of pottery:

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