Mountain Arts Pottery is a working production custom pottery studio in Bozeman, Montana. Mountain Arts Pottery brings in around 1 ton of clay per month from The Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT. Because we fire to a temperature just under 2300 degrees Fahrenheit, we use high fire stoneware clay.
We bring 1000 to 2000 pounds of clay into the studio at a time. The potters will run the clay through our pug mill (which we built 30 years ago). The pug mill brings the clay to a workable consistency. The pug mill also allows us to reclaim the waste clay that has been trimmed off of the pots. Potters will extract clay from the pug mill, measure it, and cut it to lengths according to the pot that will get thrown. Now the thrower starts the throwing process. Each thrower has a list of items to throw each day.
In our studio we developed a laser unit that is mounted above the pottery wheel. The laser, which works as a measuring device, allows the potter to size each piece without stopping the wheel. The potter is able to produce pots of the same size and consistency. We enjoy some variations because each piece is individually thrown by any of several potters. After the pots have been thrown, they are transferred to a shelf where they air dry to “leather hard”. This means the pots still have moisture in them, but they are dry enough to handle without becoming misshapen. Now the potter trims the pots to remove excess clay and smooth the bottom of each pot. At this time, handles and medallions are attached and decorative pieces are hand-etched.
Next the pottery pieces are loaded into the kiln for the first firing. This first firing is called the “Bisque”. Temperatures reach 1500 degrees F and raw clay is transformed to porous rock. The pottery pieces are now referred to as ‘bisque ware’. Bisque ware is now ready for glazing. Because we want our pottery to be both functional and beautiful; we create glaze formulas for their combined beauty, vibrancy, and durability. All of our glazes are food safe and 100% lead free. Potters will mix gallons of glazing components with water and the glazes are applied entirely by hand. The bottom of each pot is then wiped clean so it does not adhere to the kiln shelves. >Pottery pieces are now ready for the second firing called the “High Fire”. The high fire kiln is loaded and brought to 2300 degrees F, resulting in the soft rock composition of the bisque ware metamorphosing to a hard rock composition. In addition, the chemical make up of the glazes transforms to the vibrant colors of the finished stoneware pottery. There are many steps in the handmade stoneware pottery process and the result is a beautiful, functional work of art. We hope you enjoy using our pottery as much as we enjoy hand crafting it.