Step 1: Preparation

The preparation of the Earth is a crucial step in the making of the Anduze Vase. The clay is kneaded at length to remove air bubbles and make the earth homogeneous and malleable. For large pieces, potters use chamotte clay. The chamotte is made of terracotta grains of different sizes integrated into the clay. This mixture allows for a better resistance. Once the earth has reached the necessary flexibility, the potter prepares "dough pieces" or balls of earth for the Shaping stage.
Step 2: Shaping
The second step in hand-throwing an Anduze planter starts with shaping the clay. As this skill requires years of practice, only a select few potters continue to perpetuate this noble tradition. This method of modeling the earth is one of the most difficult to master. In just a few minutes, a ball of clay is transformed under experienced hands to form the base of a vessel. This technique is rarely used today as it requires great finesse and is extremely physical.

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Step 3: Calibrating
Large planters are pre-shaped in plaster molds. This step is called Calibrating. Generally used for large parts, calibration consists of placing a mass of clay in a mold of the desired vase size. With a calibrator, the clay is applied evenly around the mold. The foot is made separately and reported and assembled manually.

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Stamping is a technique that uses the principle of sizing but it is the hand of the potter who applies the clay to the walls of the mold. The vase is also made in two parts. The foot is made separately and then attached and assembled by hand.

Rope-thrown vases are rarely seen. This ancient technique makes it possible to turn very large pieces from a wooden template. The rope is wrapped around this carefully set frame to define the shape of the vase. The clay is then applied by hand, all around the rope. The wooden template is then removed, so that the rope is all that is supporting the vessel. It is necessary to wait several days and to reach a level of drying sufficient to remove the rope.

Step 4: Decoration
The Decoration phase begins with surfacing the planter. The potter then sets and levels the base, hand-applying the decoration to be placed on the planter’s body. This step involves adding handmade garlands, macaroons and the chains that connect them. Garlands and macaroons are made from plaster molds. Each potter places his own garlands and crests with the effigy of his pottery. The artisan then dates and signs each vessel to prove its authenticity. 

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Step 5: Enrobing
After several days of curing, the clay obtains a “leather touch”. It is now ready for the crucial enrobing stage, where a primer, made out of white liquid clay, is applied to the main body of the planter to neutralize the red tones of the terracotta. This layer is used to enhance the color of the vessel after firing in the kiln.

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Step 6: Drying
Prior to firing in the kiln, the planters must dry several weeks naturally or in a dryer. The drying time varies depending on the season and the weather. Although each vase is dated, it is the potter's intuition and knowledge of the earth that determines if the vase is ready for firing. A vase that has not dried properly may burst in the kiln, so this simple step relies heavily on the potter's extensive experience and artistry.

Drying the Anduze planters

Step 7: Glazing
Glazing is done just before firing. This is the moment when the potter defines the color he wants to give to the vessel. It is not an exact science - the colors may vary a little from one vase to another. Each potter safeguards their signature recipe - a keen eye can recognize the provenance of an Anduze Vase by the quality of its varnish and color.

Glazing the Planters

The traditional Anduze vessels are famous for their green, brown and yellow streaks of colour. Mixing copper oxide (green) and manganese (brown) to the glaze yields 2 different mixtures, spread manually across the planter in a unique, flame-like pattern. Then, transparent glazes are applied to the planter, revealing the natural yellow hue of the enrobing primer. The unassuming grey colour of a glazed planter prior to being fired is deceptive - it transforms at 560 Celsius to reveal its true colours.

Anduze Planters

Step 8: Firing
Once sufficiently dry, the planters are glazed and placed into the kiln, and fired at temperatures over 1000 Celsius for 40 hours. Finally, the moment of truth: the final reveal. This special moment is revered by even the most experienced artisans - a mix of anxiety and emotion at the unveiling of the their finished creation.