People who are drawn to pottery are naturally attracted to the Tampa Tour De Clay, said Kim Wellman, of Wellman & Welsch Pottery in Lutz.
This tour offers so much more than the chance to add some unique pottery pieces to your collection, said Wellman, whose studio is one of four stops on the tour.
It also offers provides a closer look at what goes into the creation of ceramic art.
Tour-goers can talk to nationally known ceramic artists, can see demonstrations, and can get a better idea of the techniques and processes used.
Taking the tour tends to deepen participants’ appreciation of pottery, said Wellman, who has been creating ceramic pieces since the mid-1970s.
“There’s all this stuff going on behind the scenes that you didn’t know was going on. When they realize how much is involved, then you begin to appreciate it more,” she said.
This year’s Tampa Tour De Clay features 24 nationally acclaimed ceramic artists.
Other highlights include pottery demonstrations, kiln openings, charity chance drawings, refreshments, and the opportunity to meet the artists and purchase handmade works.
“This tour is modeled after several artists’ tours around the country,” said Harry Welsch, who is Wellman’s husband.
“The four stops are what’s convenient for people to get to in one day,” Welsch said. “If they follow the schedule and spend a couple of hours at each, it just seems to be a good number.”
Wellman added: “We each have a few guest artists. So we tend to bring in people who are different from anything that you might have seen before.”
The kiln openings are one of the tour’s high points.
Each studio is planning a kiln opening on Dec. 10. The first will be at 9 a.m., at Pottery Boys Studio, 30 Bogie Lane in Largo. The next will be at noon, at Hidden Lake Pottery, 16705 Hutchison Road in Odessa. The third will be at the Wellman & Welsch Studio, at 17202 Whirley Road in Lutz, at 2 p.m. And, the last will be at San Antonio Pottery, at 11903 Curley St., in San Antonio, at 4 p.m.
As the kiln is emptied, Wellman said, those taking the tour will get a chance to hold a piece of warm pottery, and to learn more about the pieces.
Kiln openings are the time when ceramic artists get to see the results of their handiwork.
“You pull them out — and there are these beautiful colors,” Wellman said.
It can be a time of delightful surprises — or not.
Sometimes there are imperfections that need to be addressed before a piece can be sold. Other times, the flaws can’t be fixed.
“The way you stack a kiln matters,” said Welsch, who has a background in physics and chemistry, as well as a master’s in fine art. “It can affect the way the work comes out.
“In this kiln, it’s about a 16-hour cycle, from cold start, room temperature, to about 2,400 degrees,” Welsch said, describing the kiln at his studio.
“We control the amount of fuel and the amount of air. We prefer most of the time to have the atmosphere neutral, or not too much oxygen, not too much fuel.
“If you take out some of the oxygen, you get an incomplete burn. What happens is that the flame gets so hot, you’ve got to get oxygen somewhere. And, it comes out of the chemicals in the glaze,” he said.
“You can look in there and see it (the fire), kind of dancing around the work,” he said.
The shelves inside the kiln can be adjusted, and the number of pieces placed inside the kiln varies, Welsch said.
Generally, it takes about two weeks of work to fill the kiln for a firing, he said.
But, numerous steps precede the final firing.
“To make this body of the mug, without the handle, it’s less than a minute. And then, to make the handle, is less than a minute,” Welsch said. “The actual making of this thing is probably less than 5 minutes.”
But, then it has to air dry, then go into an electric kiln, at around 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Then the piece is glazed before it is fired in the hotter kiln, at about 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.
The couple’s involvement with pottery began when Wellman enrolled in a pottery class.
Welsch recounted: “It’s all her fault. She thought she might want to try it out. She was way too good.
“There are few people who are naturals. They sit down at that wheel and they center,” he said.
“What was happening is that she was making work way faster than the lady that ran the class could fire it.
“I built our first wheel and kiln before I knew how to make pots. That’s what husbands do,” he said.
Wellman added: “This is what I was supposed to be doing. Every day, I want to come out to the studio. I still do, after 40 years.”
They began making pottery in Bradenton in 1975 and moved their studio to Lutz in 1991.
Their daughter, Adrienne Welsch, is also involved.
She grew up around pottery making.
She said she does prep work, creates some pieces and helps organize the work flow in the studio.
By doing that, she said, she saves her parents time, so they can focus on pieces that require a greater degree of mastery.
The arrangement seems to suit the trio just fine.
Tour De Clay
A self-guided tour of four local pottery studios, featuring 24 nationally known artists.
When: Dec. 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Dec. 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
What: The tour’s highlights include kiln openings, pottery demonstrations, entertainment, charity chance drawings, refreshments, the opportunity to meet the artists and to purchase unique handmade works.
How much: The tour is free. Those visiting all four pottery studios will have a free chance to win prizes.
Where: The tour stops are:
- Pottery Boys Studio, 30 Bogle Lane, Palm Harbor, 34683 (Kiln opening Dec. 10, 9 a.m.)
- Hidden Lake Pottery, 16705 Hutchinson Road, Odessa, 33556 (Kiln opening, Dec. 10, noon)
- Wellman & Welsch Pottery, 17202 Whirley Road, Lutz, 33558 (Kiln opening, Dec. 10, 2 p.m.)
- San Antonio Pottery, 11903 Curley St., San Antonio, 33576 (Kiln opening, Dec. 10, 4 p.m.) Please note: The San Antonio Pottery will be open until 8 p.m. on Dec. 10.
For more information: Visit TampaTourDeClay.com.
Published December 7, 2016