Potter Glenn Woods says every day is like Christmas when he opens his electric kiln to see how the glazes have reacted to the heating and cooling process.
"Sometimes you get socks and underwear, and sometimes you get a shiny new bike," he said.
On Saturday, he's hoping for some shiny new pottery that is beautiful and functional when he opens his kiln at 10 a.m. in the Pottery Boys Clay Studios in Palm Harbor.
It's all part of the inaugural Tour de Clay of Tampa Bay, presented by the newly formed Florida West Coast Ceramics Society.
On Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 13 potters at four locations — two in Palm Harbor, one in Tampa and one in San Antonio — will discuss their work and give demonstrations.
They're also hoping people will do some holiday shopping, selecting from their uniquely crafted wares: bowls, mugs, plates, vases, casserole dishes and other items.
Each studio will have a kiln opening Saturday. Pottery Boys is the first suggested stop on the self-guided tour.
Woods says the cooler weather is favorable for his crystalline glazing technique, which requires porcelain pieces to reach a peak temperature of 2,355 degrees, followed by a quick cool at various temperatures and holding times.
Ideally, this glaze chemistry makes the zinc-silicate crystals grow, producing rings of color surrounded by halos that appear to float on a contrasting background.
"Some people think they look like cells, while others say they look like balloons or flowers," he said.
The next suggested stop is the Clay and Paper Studio in Palm Harbor, where artist Ira Burhans will open his electric kiln at noon Saturday. His studio is beneath his Key West-style home.
He has been creating pottery professionally for 28 years, not counting his childhood when he fashioned robots, dinosaurs and lizards from clay and fired them in his mother's kiln.
These days he employs a wavy, carved pattern in much of his work, creating functional stoneware pottery in a variety of whimsical designs.
"The carving allows the glazes to flow, and it's always exciting to see what they will do, where they will go," he said. "Each piece is different."
The plates, casserole dishes and teapots he creates tend to evoke images of sand and sea, reflecting his love of windsurfing and the environment.
"Handmade pottery connects people to their own individual style," he said. "When you buy an artist's work, you're buying a piece of that person."
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