I have visited many pottery factories and workshops in the Andalusia and Castilla-La Mancha regions of Spain and I have enjoyed learning more about the long tradition of producing ceramics. Many of the factories specialize in certain techniques, products and designs. One of the interesting details in the production is how the piece is made,… before it is fired and painted. Basically, there are three different ways the pieces are made, and below is a brief description, along with several photos.
Hand Thrown: The oldest method of producing pottery pieces is with a potting wheel. This is the traditional method of a potter (alfarero in Spanish), sits and makes pieces with his hands. This is fascinating to watch. The pieces are beautiful. Hand thrown pieces will vary slightly in size, weight, and even shape. No two are identical. A potter will produce 10 sangria pitchers, and each pitcher will have a slightly different diameter and height. They will be close, but still different. The packing of hand thrown pieces requires a little bit of care
Mold pressed: Using a hydraulic press with a mold allows a more rapid production of pottery pieces. As you can imagine, the production involves the use of a hydraulic ram that moves up and down. Only certain types of shapes can be produced with a press mold. Plates, open bowls, straight or cone shaped cups are some the shapes appropriate for a press mold. After the pieces are pressed,they are handled by hand to smooth the edges before they are fired and ready for painting.
Mold poured: Some shapes are very hard to throw by hand and they cannot be mold pressed with the one piston action, so in these cases the potters make molds that are filled with liquid clay and sent through a line kiln. This allows the production of a variety of intricate shapes, many that are hollow in the middle. The photo below shows some mold poured lizards. All the pieces coming out of poured molds are handled by hand to smooth off edges before they are fired. Sometimes small knives are used or a type of sand paper.
Of course, packing for shipping will be influenced by the method of production. Mold pressed and mold poured pieces are uniform, with the same shape exactly. So plates, cups, etc will stack straight and each is the same diameter so the packing can be more exact. While hand thrown pieces are similar in size and shape, there will be small differences so the packing is a little more tailored to the pieces.
While each of these methods is used extensively in the production of ceramics in Spain, I am still fascinated with the hand thrown pieces. It is very difficult to find a factory capacity to produce hand thrown ceramics. In most countries, small workshops produce hand thrown pieces. To my knowledge, Spain is one of the few places left that has the personnel, tradition and know how to produce beautiful hand thrown ceramics.