By ELISA D. KELLER
BRANCHVILLE -- Potter Joyce Maurus-Sullivan compares her craft to
playing a musical instrument.
While you can learn the basics of working with clay after a
handful of lessons, it's an intense learning experience that
continues throughout your life.
"The more you learn in pottery, the more it seems you don't know.
There's always new things to try," she said, pointing out some of
her most recent pottery experiments, from a ceramic citrus juicer to
decorative aerated pots for orchids.
Owner of Lafayette Clayworks, in Branchville, Maurus-Sullivan has
operated her business for 19 years, selling ceramic goods in her art
gallery and teaching a variety of weekly pottery classes for adults
The Lafayette resident has been using a potter's wheel for 35
years, first learning the skill while studying art in college.
"I was so attracted to it. You were making a work of art, but it
had a basic function to it," she said, noting that many of her
pieces can be used as serving dishes, cooking vessels or garden
A former demonstration potter at Waterloo Village,
Maurus-Sullivan said many visitors would ask where they could take
lessons. After getting accustomed to demonstrating her art, she
found it easy to pick up teaching in a private setting.
According to Maurus-Sullivan, the process of making a ceramic
piece can take three to four weeks, starting with "wedging" the clay
by kneading all the air bubbles out, then forming it through various
methods -- traditional "throwing" on a potter's wheel, or hand
building by pinching the clay into a shape, rolling out slabs to be
sealed together, or coiling clay into a mold.
Shaped pieces are left a couple of days to dry until they are
"leather hard," when they can be handled and trimmed for a more
finished look. Once completely dry, the pottery is fired in a kiln,
then typically coated with glaze and fired again.
The pieces shrink quite a bit from beginning to end, and
Maurus-Sullivan notes that you're never quite sure what the final
product will look like until the glaze firing is complete.
"I think for any potter, (the hardest part is) finding the right
venue and how you're going to market the pots," said
Maurus-Sullivan, noting that some pieces will sit on a shelf for
years before being sold.
"But if you're passionate, you just keep on making them. It's a
fun way to make a living."