Melissa Weiss is a North American potter, based in Asheville, NC. Her work is particularly special because of the freedom she takes on allowing irregular edges, dripped glaze and uneven shapes to show on her pots. She digs her own clay off her land in Arkansas, and mainly works with woodash glazes and wax resist. You can see the spontaneity and enjoyment in each one of her pieces, and that’s her signature. To see her work visit her website.
We highly admire Melissa’s work, that’s why we wanted to share today her book called HAND BUILT: A Potter’s Guide.
What’s the book about?
This book is a step by step introduction to different hand building techniques like Kurinuki, moulds and coil and slab methods. It also introduces us to slips and glazes, decorating techniques and firing methods. She talks from her experience and shares her building methodology and glaze recipes.
This is a very personal book, as if you were there talking to Melissa face to face. She talks in first person throughout the book, but she’s generous enough to interview other ceramic creatives at the end of each section, called ‘Guest Potter Interview’. That’s how, for example, in the first section titled In Search of Wild Clay, she interviews potter Mitch Iburg on The Geology of Clay. How interesting is that? And so on, she’s got a special guest potter for each particular theme in her book.
The book starts with a description and photo of all the basic tools and materials needed to do hand building, and an introduction to the technical vocabulary used in ceramics. What does it mean when they say clay is in its leather-hard state? Or when it’s bisque? Well, you got that covered here.
Then, she talks about the process of digging off your own clay, which is something not many potters know about.
The rest of the book focuses on the various hand building techniques she uses in her work, as well as a short explanation of the firing methods. All accompanied by plenty of images.
What do we like about this book?
To be honest, we like everything about this book. Aesthetically speaking it’s a beautiful book, with a very ‘earthy’ look in terms of colour, type of paper and images. It matches Melissa’s style of work very accurately.
In terms of content, the book is a very complete guide for ‘potters working at many different levels’ (as she describes it). We like that all the images are explanatory and they add up as a great complement to the text.
Lastly, we highlight the fact that Melissa shares her own glaze and slips recipes, which we think it’s something very generous to do.
Where can you find this book?
You could buy this directly from her website for USD$33 here, however it could take a while to reach Australia. Fortunately, there’s many bookshops and ceramic shops where they sell it too. Northcote Pottery Supplies is one of them. Otherwise, buy it online on Booktopia or BookDepository.