Ashley's Creative Process

Unglazed Bonsai Pot with Yellow Splash by Ashley Keller

Unglazed Bonsai Pot with Yellow Splash by Ashley Keller

Inspiration

Ashley's work stems from a lifetime's obsession with plants and a fascination with Eastern culture. Her work combines her education in fine art with a deep understanding of the needs of the plants she designs pottery for. 

Process

All of Ashley's pieces are pure craftsmanship and made without the use of molds or forms. Each piece is the unique result of working with the unpredictable elements of earth and fire. 

Ashley's bonsai pottery incorporates traditional hand-building and wheel techniques that she has learned through studying Japanese bonsai pottery. 

The Beginning

Each pot begins on paper by sketching and exploring a variety of ideas for form and details.

Sketches and exploration of bonsai pot forms by Ashley Keller

Once a design is selected, the pot is either thrown on a potter's wheel or made from hand cut slabs of clay depending on whether it will be circular or rectangular.

A variety of high quality stoneware clays are used and selected depending on the desired appearance of the piece. These clays have different properties such as colour, plasticity, drying time and grit.

A video montage of Ashley throwing three bonsai pots on a pottery wheel including a semi-cascade, a round with flared rim and a shallow round pot. 

See more of Ashley's videos here.

Next Steps

After the initial form is created with wet clay it has to dry slowly to a "leather hard" stage under plastic sheets in a controlled environment to avoid distortion or cracking. 

The drying phase of a pot may vary from a few days to several weeks depending on the size. Each piece must be constantly observed as the final assembly and detailing of the pot must be completed before the clay becomes too dry.

Once leather hard, the pot can be trimmed and altered to create the final form. This can include creating unique surface textures, carving and adding sculptural elements.

Hand carved details for the bottom of bonsai and orchid pots

Hand carved details for the bottom of bonsai and orchid pots

 

Final Touches

When the piece has completely dried the "greenware" is fired for the first time in the kiln.

As a result, the "bisqued" pot is hardened but open-pored enough to be glazed in the final step. The glaze not only coats the surface of the pot but also slightly penetrates into the clay.

Ashley hand paints each layer of glaze onto the pot to ensure the highest quality of application. She will sometimes use a combination of glazes to achieve different effects.  

Glaze being painted onto a bonsai pot

Glaze being painted onto a bonsai pot

Once the glaze has been applied, the final firing is carried out to approximately 2250 degrees Fahrenheit and the pot is then complete and fully vitrified. Vitrification is when clay has been fired so that it has fused together completely and that the pores between refractory particles are filled with glass and the clay body is impervious to water.

Shipping orders

The final stage of Ashley's creative process is packaging orders to be shipped. She takes as much pride and pleasure from wrapping and sending a piece off to its new home as seeing it fresh from the kiln. Her work is shipped using recycled kraft paper, recycled corrugated cardboard boxes and heavy-duty bubble wrap. She will also use inflatable air pouches and reinforced boxes for delicate or heavy items when appropriate.

Shipping bonsai pots worldwide

It is in this final stage of Ashley's process that she feels deeply greately that someone has discovered her work and decided to select something special for their own collection. This support represents a shared connection in appreciating a handmade piece of original art.

For more information on her work and creative process, return to the blog.

Ashley Keller