Andrea Nolan-Parry has a passion for pottery. The elementary school teacher, and Newton Robinson resident, introduces pottery in her classroom and recently began occasional classes for adults and small local sales of her own work. Her focus is to have fun, and to share that fun with others.
She says, “Everybody has to have something.”
Although she will never make it her fulltime job, Nolan-Parry is increasing her ability to play with the medium in a brand new personal studio. Her enthusiasm is palpable as she creates new shapes, uses new techniques to texturize and explores the world of glazes.
She appreciates the light, warmth and location of her studio and doesn’t want to leave it once she gets going on something. She says, “It's awesome to have all my stuff right here. It’s the most amazing thing.”
Her stuff includes a kiln that has really spurred her on to experiment. She did take some classes some time ago, partially to learn how to use the kiln, but most of it is trial and error.
She says, “I watch YouTube videos and practice, and practice.”
Not long ago, she was inspired to make pots with lids. She was so excited to know, “Yes, I can make a pot with a lid.”
Nolan-Parry uses existing forms as molds to make platters and other shapes, such as cylinders to hold toothbrushes or pencils. She rolls the clay with a large rolling pin, and can add patterns with small rolling pins engraved with shapes, or natural items such as evergreen leaves. The clay is then wrapped over or around a shape, such as an existing bowl or plate. Her classes use this method.
Once the green-ware is fired it becomes known as bisque. The bisque then receives three coats of glaze applied with a paintbrush, or it is dipped. The glazes in this form are very different in colour and sheen than they appear once the item is fired again.
Firing is done in the kiln at 1,000s of degrees for six-eight hours. It has to stay in the kiln for another 24 so it can cool. Nolan Parry says, “It’s like red hot lava. That’s why it can be used in the oven, because it has been fired at such a high temperature.”
She says, “I love getting new glazes and trying new things.”
She experiments with how they transform a piece. Some seem to suit plain pieces, others those imprinted with a pattern. The glazes for dipping create a smoother finish. The temperature used when firing a piece also makes a difference. Nolan-Parry shares the excitement of a student when they see the final product.
Using the pottery wheel is something she does on her own. She says, “It takes a lot of practice. You have to just keep at it.”
It also takes a lot of strength.
She says, “I really take my time to centre, and get it straight. Then I have to use my stomach muscles and brace my arm. I feel the clay between my two fingers, add pressure, and pull it straight up. And the clay goes upward.”
She’s always thinking of the next creation, saying to herself, “I’m going to make a bigger one. I’m going to do a design on the next one. I’m going to change the glaze. I’m going to make pots with lids to use in the oven.”
Nolan-Parry is also thinking ahead and of how she can combine her love for creating pottery with other retirement funding ideas.
She says, “I’ll flow nicely into the stage of life.”
Rosaleen Egan is a freelance journalist, a storyteller, and a playwright. She blogs on her website rosiewrites.com