Canberra Potters'

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Watson Arts Centre is an ACT Government facility managed by Canberra Potters' Society Inc. CPS is supported by the ACT Government


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The Canberra Potters Society has an excellent collection of books and journals devoted to all aspects of pottery. It is a very important resource for us all as members. It also supports the teaching program.

Journals are the very best way of keeping up to date with new developments in pottery. CPS subscribes to the top journals worldwide. When the new issues arrive, they are placed in a special holder. Everyone can read these new issues in the library, where they stay until the next issue arrives. Then the old issue goes into the general run for that journal and may be borrowed.

We understand how easy it is for books and magazines to find their way onto bookshelves at home and then get forgotten so we follow up on overdue items rigorously. We hope that no members will be offended if they get an email, phone call or even a text message about overdue items.

The library has a small reference section with books that are frequently used as teaching resources or which are important enough to warrant being available on the premises at all times. Items in this section are not available for borrowing and may only be read in the library environs. However, most, if not all, are also available on the borrowing shelves.


Reminders for members using the Library:

  • Members can borrow up to three books and three magazines at a time.

  • Loan periods are for 3 weeks.

  • Please don’t borrow new items if you still have loans that have not been returned.

  • If an article is taken out on loan and not returned you will be asked to replace the item or pay for a new copy to be purchased.

  • When taking out an item on loan – please fill in the loan sheet (in clear, legible writing) with the following information:

    • The call number in full.

    • Your name, CPS membership number and your contact phone number.

  • Videos, CDs and DVDs cannot be borrowed, but can be viewed on the CPS premises.


Returning Books and Journals

When you return your books and journals, please sign them off in the loan records folder by entering the return date against the loan entry. Put the returned books/magazines in the 'Returns' box.  




Over the years, donations have enriched our collection significantly. If you have pottery/ceramic books that you'd like to donate please contact the office on (02) 6241 1670 or by email. Even if the book you donate is not needed in the collection, it can be sold and the money raised then helps buy new titles – a benefit for all CPS members.

Book Reviews

'The Spirit of Ceramic Design: Cultivating Creativity with Clay’

Author: Robert Piepenburg

Publisher:  Pebble Press, Michigan  2009

Reviewer: Cathy Franzi.

This difficult to describe concept, the spirit of ceramic design, is tackled by Robert Piepenburg with many words. Often this felt to me to be new age waffle without getting to the nitty gritty of what this concept may really mean or how to go about reaching it. For instance, he writes "Our willingness to recognise the spiritual dimension of our identity and to allow our designs to be an acknowledgement of it is the most important gift we can give ourselves. By embracing the domain of identity as a spiritual self we unite the core of our creative center with the creative center of humanity." Sounds nice but I'm not sure how that provides a guide to the ceramic artist aiming to cultivate creativity.

Piepenburg's book is attractive with the text liberally scattered with quotes from famous artists and philosophers and beautiful photographs. He certainly deserves credit for writing about this difficult aspect of working with clay. there are many books on how to technically work with clay but this aspect could have more attention.

Piepenburg can be commended for trying to describe the last part of the end sentence in one of the more memorable quotes he uses in his book:


First, one seeks to become an artist by training the hand.

Then one finds it is the eye that needs improving.

Later one learns it is the mind that wants developing, only to find that the ultimate quest of the artist is in the spirit.

Larry Brullo

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Colouring Clay

Author: Jo Connell

Reviewer: Jennifer Collier

This book is one of a series (of practical ceramics manuals) and offers an extensive introduction (96 pages) to all the various ways in which clay can be coloured and used – whether for thrown or handbuilt work, functional or decorative.  The author provides us with a few examples of her work but includes high quality colour photos throughout the book of expert practitioners from around the world to illustrate the many varied techniques she describes.

The chapters start with a brief history of coloured clays in use and the various terminologies, moving on to the methods of colouring clay, including how to organize your workshop practice to achieve repeated effects over time – which I have only come to appreciate some years after first experimenting with coloured clay myself! 

The real strength of this book is in Chapter 5 – Techniques – ways of using coloured clays.  This chapter has simple, clear, well written descriptions that describe step by step through each process so that any reader of this book can confidently try any of the methods described.  Each of the different methods features an artist with at least one photograph of their work that appropriately displays the method described, and frequently includes advice from the artist about tricks and pitfalls of their chosen method.  By doing so, the book offers the beginner many time-saving hints to improve their results or reduce the costs involved.

A short but practical section on health and safety, along with a directory of suppliers; some further reading and a very good index completes the book.  I have experimented with two new coloured clay methods since reading this book and am pleased to say that although my first attempts didn’t look anything like the expert photos, I was more successful than I had expected to be – something very encouraging when trying yet another new idea.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has wondered about experimenting with coloured clay – and thanks to our Librarian, we have a copy in our Library just waiting for you to borrow it.

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Salt Glazing

Author: Phil Rogers

Published by A&C Black 2002  ISBN 0-7136-4821-X

Reviewer: Maryke Henderson

This is a wonderful reference book, particularly for those interested in vapour glazing whether using either salt or soda.

Delightful quotations from historical writings can be found at the beginning of each chapter and give insight into past practices, thoughts and ideas.

Rogers gives an honest examination of the many and varied approaches taken by other potters and in doing so this becomes quite inspirational as one explores the individual stories and views the images of their work. He does not hide the fact that vapour glazing is hard laborious work. His  analogy and debate of environmental issues and an associated comparison of salt versus soda is thoughtful reading.

The book is packed full of generous concise information of all aspects involved in the process of salt glazing. The section on kiln building is particularly detailed with clear plans for kiln construction and with stacks of information requiring consideration before one even starts building a kiln. 

This is not altogether a ‘how to do it’ book but allows the reader to make choices as to how they want to approach their own work.  It is a book that I have used often in my own research and one that I would happily have on my bookshelf.

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The Teapot Book

Author: Steve Woodhead   (385 WOO)  2005

Reviewer: Cathy Franzi

The first sentence of this book begins "Most potters agree that the teapot is one of the most challenging objects to make, both from a technical and an aesthetic point of view." I found this a refreshing start!  Much better than the notion that anyone can make a teapot in 6 easy steps.  However this book is the most comprehensive guide to making a good teapot that I have ever read.  It covers artistic development, theory and design and a step by step guide to all the technical aspects of making a teapot and is a must read book for budding teapot makers.  It has excellent technical photos to clarify the text including points to watch out for as a beginner to intermediate maker and uses beautiful images of teapots from a wide range of studio potters as examples to inspire. 10/10.

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Smoke - contemporary artists and approaches  (544 PERR)

Author: Jane Perryman

Reviewer: Linda Davy

 The variety and beauty of the work created by the artists represented in this book are enough to make even the most highly proficient master of porcelain with an international career want to experiment and play with this ancient firing method.

The technological simplicity belies the endless effects and interpretations that these 29 contemporary artists from 17 countries have created through various processes of smoke firing including the use of bonfires, containers, earth pits, saggars and kilns. This book is not a ‘flick through’ while you have a cuppa - it is a book you find yourself wanting to read every word.  Each artist is given at least 4 pages, accompanied by beautiful illustrations of their work, covering their ceramic journey and life history, step by step photographic and written detail of each of their methods of working with clay, plus a small portrait so you know who they are when you meet at the next international ceramics conference!

This is a fabulous book, truly inspirational and appealing because of the experimental approaches by each artist to a firing method that every potter, at any level, can feel confident in trying.

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Ceramic Figures - a directory of artists  (365 FLY)

Author: Michael Flynn

Reviewer: Linda Davy

If you enjoy energetic, entertaining, gut wrenching, extraordinary figurative ceramics, then this book, full of hundreds of illustrations, is for you.

Michael Flynn’s own figurative ceramic work is immediate, conveying a moment with great clarity and freshness.  He has chosen work for this book that reflects his personal tastes, I think, works from some of the most important artists working with the ceramic figure, works that project a huge array of emotive subject matter and diverse ways of working with clay from the miniature to the monumental.

This is not a ‘pretty’ book, but a pretty amazing and inspiring book to engage with, some controversial, strong, bizarre images to discuss over that pot of tea in the teapot you have just pulled out of the kiln.

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Out of the Earth, Into the Fire

A course in ceramic materials for the studio potter  (160 OBS)

Author: Mimi Obstler

American Ceramic Society, 1996

Reviewer: Ian Hodgson

When I first scanned the contents of this book, I thought ‘this looks very interesting’. Then I read the preface and introduction, and started to see warning signals. It seemed verbose and waffly, and when I saw that temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit, not Celsius, and then read ‘melters’ instead of ‘fluxes’ I became even less inclined to like it.

I thought I would end up telling everyone to stick to Greg Daly’s book, but then I flicked to Chapter 1. Glaze cores, and its first heading, ‘feldspars and rocks’, and started to get interested again. As I went on I became more and more interested until I couldn’t put the book down. Not that it is really a book you can read straight through like a novel. It is, fundamentally, a reference book, but, being a geologist, and one who has always been interested in the use in ceramics of natural materials (rocks and minerals), as against chemicals, I found it fascinating.

The book is well laid out and methodically organised. The author introduces a concept of ‘glaze core’, a primary single natural material that will, when used as a glaze on its own, produce the surface you are looking for, or almost. Its key quality is that it comprises just about the right proportions of glassmaker (silica), adhesive (glaze stiffener), and melter (flux). Granite, feldspars, and some clays are examples of what the author calls glaze cores.

Chapter 2 is titled ‘Clays and claybodies’. It describes how clays form and the characteristics of clay minerals, followed by discussion of the firing process and its effect upon a claybody. It is well written and easy to understand.

Out of the Earth, Into the Fire does contain some recipes, but it is definitely not a glaze recipe book. It is a scientific book, despite its somewhat romantic title and I don’t know how much harder it will be for someone with no scientific background to read it—only you will be able to tell. But if you are interested in where glazes come from and why they do what they do, then I certainly recommend you look at this book. I wish I had had copy 10 years ago. I recommend you do read the introductory pages, all twenty-six of them (though that includes the contents and acknowledgements), as the preface and introduction will help you see where the author is coming from and establish some basic background. Now I have to find a secondhand copy for myself, as I expect the library copy to be in considerable demand.

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Functional Pottery

form and aesthetic in pots of purpose  (385 HOP)

Author: Robin Hopper  2nd Edition 2000

Reviewer: Cathy Franzi

This is an excellent book on all aspects of functional pottery. I have my own copy and use it regularly as a reference and as a teaching aid.  It is full of information with excellent historical and contemporary images. The book goes into great detail on the considerations of function for each type of vessel. Everything from rum jars and butter dishes to the type of spout needed for a gravy boat depending on the consistency of the gravy.  Things you might never have thought of until you not only make but use those functional pots. The final section describes the ways of working of some well known functional potters. It is a pleasure to read these personal notes and to look at the good images.

Robin Hopper very much has his own philosophical voice throughout the book that leaves one feeling uplifted and inspired to be aiming to make beautiful, well thought through, functional pots. If you ever feel baffled by some of the ceramics you see in magazines this book will bring you back to earth.

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RAKU investigations into fire  (545 JON)

 Author: David Jones

Reviewer: Chris Harford

My first impression of this book was “nice title, bad cover photograph”. This proved to be true throughout the book where a lot of the photographs were either blurred or indistinct and although they weren’t taken by the author I think they should have either been omitted from the book or a little more research done to find better shots. Jones also included a few ‘holiday snaps’, which I found a bit odd.

The book has been around for a while, being first published in 1999, but, of course, Raku firing has been around for a few hundred years so the basic technique hasn’t really changed too much apart from post-firing reduction in the 70s. Since then things have started to rapidly change so this book is mostly about the more contemporary uses of the technique although history rears its head periodically. Jones’ philosophical background is evident early on and there is a very good background to Raku in the first section: “A Historical Overview”. The section on controlling colour is technical enough to interest more seasoned potters but easy enough for the newcomer to understand.

In “The Search for Ideas” Jones’ philosophical approach comes to the fore in an interesting chapter with some reasonable things to say. One quote that struck a chord was “The important place that tradition has in our world should not preclude our examining what we have learnt, and omitting any part of the activity if it does not accord with our own aesthetic”.

The last section of the book focuses on individual potters’ work, the techniques they employ not only in Raku fired ware but other forms of low firing: saggar, pit, sawdust, and philosophy (again). I found this a little strange given the title and feel the distinction needs to be drawn between Raku firing and just using Raku clay for other types of firing.

I found a few places where Jones repeated himself, on one occasion in the very next paragraph. I must say it was rather refreshing not to see a section with sixty-four different recipes but rather a few basic recipes interspersed throughout the book. Jones covers materials, burners, and fuels and there are also some kiln designs. Overall most of my criticisms are small and the book holds some useful information and is probably a reasonable addition to our library. A shame about those photographs!!

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The Ceramic Process: A manual and source of inspiration for ceramic art and design (105 REI)

Author: Anton Jeijnders

Reviewer: Jennifer Collier

Published by the European Ceramic Work Centre or Keramisch Werkcentrum (EKWC) in Hertongenbosch, The Netherlands, this 300+ page large format book is the result of almost twenty years of research and development at the EKWC. The author/editor, Anton Reijnders, was head of the workshop for seventeen years and the book is formed from the collection of a series of fact sheets and workshop notes.

The book is structured to follow the logic of the ceramics process, starting with the choices for making with discussions of clay bodies and making techniques (though wheel work is skipped over with a referral to the specialist books that focus on wheel-throwing techniques) before discussing drying, biscuit and glaze firing and post-firing treatments.

The text throughout this book includes 155 carefully chosen colour images of finished works to illustrate specific aspects of the text. The legend for each image includes not only the usual information (makers name, dimensions, year, etc) but commentary by the author such as “due to a thickly applied layer (of glaze) and differences in the rate of expansion, the terra sigillata partially flaked” which is clearly depicted in the image (on page 261). But the photos aren’t the only additions to the text. Each chapter has:

·  tables advising on a wide range of technical aspects – from recipes for terra sigillata (on which there is a whole chapter) to comparative charts for firing, drying ratios, clay properties and mould production techniques.

·  diagrams illustrating a wide range of ideas, ranging from different arrangements of kiln furniture supports for complex forms through to different drying schedules and the resultant effects for subsequent processes;

·  figures and graphs for advanced subjects (such as eutectic mixture temperature ranges) which will be useful for the advanced practitioners amongst us.

·  notes about faults and remedies relevant to the subject under discussion, as well as a frank survey of the tried and true preferences of the EKWC practitioners – noting ratios of ingredients preferred and discussing the potential side effects of choosing one commercially available product over another.

As a novice-intermediate reader I was surprised and pleased to find that I could follow most of the text. The layout of the charts, tables, diagrams and images is well integrated with the text to achieve a clear transmission of ideas and concepts.

The one failing of this book is the lack of a glossary or index of technical terms – unlikely to be a problem for intermediate or advanced readers, but frustrating for me when I tackled new subjects.

My congratulations to our wonderful librarian, Carol, for sourcing this book – I got an enormous amount of very timely advice and technical information out of this book this time.  I expect that re-reading it, whether dipping in for a once-off problem or to try a new area of experimentation, will be rewarding for at least the next 20 readings or 20 years!

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Alternative Kiln & Firing Techniques  (540 WAT)

Reviewer: Garry Palecek

This recent addition to the CPS library will enhance the already extensive collection and immediately receives a big tick for its user-friendly format and the quality of artworks selected for the beautiful illustrations.

The subject focuses on low temperature fast fire techniques and is divided into three sections: Raku, Saggar and Pit Barrel. The space allocated to Raku is twice that of the others plus the Gallery.

The authors, James C. Watkins and Paul Andrew Wandless, along with three other renowned ceramic artists, were invited to a picturesque mountain top setting in N. Carolina. Here they workshopped together, sharing their unique methods and technical secrets. Each section utilizes a well-documented step-by-step approach to kiln building, kiln loading and reduction alternatives.

This book will appeal to beginner and professional along with all smoke lovers who harbour a fascination for the powerful effects of fire on clay. It is sure to be a popular contribution to the elusive art of reduction firing.

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Glazes Cone 6 1240C by Michael Bailey (455 BAI)

Mastering Cone 6 Glazes by John Hesselberth and Ron Roy (455 HES)

Reviewer: Jane Crick

Recently the CPS library has acquired two books on formulation of glazes for the mid-fire range (Cone 6, 1220C - 1240C). This is an increasingly popular temperature range in which to work and many clays are now formulated to vitrify at this temperature. The prime reasons for a move to firing at this temperature are reduction of firing costs and ability to retain bright colours. The benefit of lower firing costs is tempered by the fact that the glazes themselves will be more expensive than standard Cone 9-10 stoneware glazes because of the need to use fritted, or larger quantities of more expensive, fluxes. Glazes formulated to this temperature range may also be more prone to leaching of colours and other health hazardous materials. Both of the books reviewed below stress the importance of choosing the right clay and addressing the balance of glass former to flux to ensure a good glaze fit and safety in use.

Glazes Cone 6 1240C by Michael Bailey (455 BAI) is one of the Ceramics Handbooks series. This book works on the premise of using a Cone 10 base for each of the main high fire glaze groups, e.g. calcium matts, crystalline glazes, Jun or Chun glazes, etc, and altering that base to produce a suitable example at Cone 6. There are lovely photographs of test tiles, not so lovely of actual pots. There is extensive use of the Seger unity formula and molecular graphing of Alumina against Silica content that may be too technical for the average studio potter but there are some good basic recipes and information on how to alter them.

Mastering Cone 6 Glazes by John Hesselberth and Ron Roy (455 HES) has been in the library for a few months and obviously fills a need for many members as it is well thumbed. A much more user-friendly book than Bailey's, it presents the authors' personal approaches to glaze development. These inspire a positive approach and successful outcome. The photographs are encouraging rather than exciting as they appear to show attainable results for all. The "Four Rules for Successful Glaze
Formulation" are simple and would apply at all temperatures:

· Have enough Silica;

· Have enough Alumina;

· Ensure thorough melt;

· Use only moderate levels of colourants and opacifiers.

It is good advice. Simple tests for glaze safety are also outlined.

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500 Cups  pub. Lark Books (385 CUP)

500 Pitchers  pub. Lark Books ( 385 PIT)

Reviewer: Sue Hewat

These two publications explain themselves as “ceramic explorations of utility and grace” and “contemporary expressions of a classic form”.

500 Cups and 500 Pitchers are fantastic picture books that are excellent references for potters. They showcase the many different styles of these classic forms. As a potter it is great to be able to clearly see the way different artisans have proportioned the different elements of each form, eg the body of the form, the construction, positioning and curve of handles and the structure of the spouts. Each photo has an explanation of each piece. This covers the dimensions, the way it is made (wheel thrown/slip cast/ hand built), the clay that is used, the glaze and decoration techniques, the firing method and temperature.

These books show a complete overview of many styles of pottery in a single volume. They showcase international trends. It is interesting to note that although the books do have international participation approximately only 10% of the entries are drawn from outside USA. Perhaps for future publications a wider search net should be sought.

I find these books invaluable. This probably explains why they are on the constantly borrowed list in the library and should be permanent members of many private book collections.

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The Ceramic Glaze Handbook by Mark Burleson (455 BUR)

Reviewer: Jane Crick

Lark Books publish many informative and colourful reference books and this is no exception. Almost "Glazes for Dummies", this book is a great place to start your journey into glaze development. Materials, firing, and special effects are clearly described and copiously illustrated. The vocabulary peculiar to glazing is demystified and there are just enough interesting recipes to whet the appetite.



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The Potters Book of Glaze Recipes by Emmanuel Cooper ( 455 COOP)

Reviewer: Jane Crick

A new edition of a tried and true collection of well-tested glazes. Classified by firing temperature, including a good section on the increasingly popular mid-fire range, this book includes glazes for all occasions. There are many good colour illustrations, in many cases giving comparison of the same glaze on different clays and in varying firing conditions. In this edition the Earthenware glazes have been rewritten to replace lead with more health-friendly alternative fluxes.

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The Glaze Book by Stephen Murfitt (455 MUR)

Reviewer: Jane Crick

The latest edition of a recent recipe book. Again listed by firing temperature (but with no mid-range recipes) and grouped by colour within each temperature range making it easy to find a place to start your search for a suitable recipe. There are many colour pictures and very good descriptions of the use and firing of each glaze. Disappointingly, the majority of the Earthenware glazes still contain lead bisilicate and many of the colours are obtained using purchased stains. The Stoneware and Porcelain recipes will provide much food for thought and experimentation.

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The Complete Guide to High Fire Glazes by John Britt (455 BRI)

Reviewer: Jane Crick

Plenty of detailed information about materials, glaze preparation, application and firing. Read the "Introduction from the Author" – it will reassure you and engender

confidence to persevere and succeed with glazing. These high fire recipes come from many sources, and the background reading is interesting and informative. The glazes are grouped by colour and the recipes tabulated so that similarities and variations can be easily seen and assessed. Dozens of alternatives are offered. This is serious testing country; exciting and inspiring - I can't wait to get into that glaze room!

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more book reviews  ...


This information last updated 01/03/13