When it comes to pottery, having the right safety tips matter. It’s important to know what you need to do and not do when it comes to pottery since it can affect your personal safety as well. Luckily, we have a few things to touch on that will help you have the best, and the safest, pottery session that you can have.
Don’t let clay sit out
There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t let clay sit out. They are as follows:
- It will dry out
- Silicate dust starts to stir up
- It’s a mess to clean up
It’s important that you do put away clay when you’re done with it. This means in general cleaning the entire area up, including the following areas:
- The pottery wheel
- Any trimmings that are left
- Anything that’s in containers that are left out
- All work surfaces
If you are looking to keep the place nice and clean, definitely consider the clay, and cleaning up when you’re done.
Watch out for inhalation of clay
Speaking of clay, it’s imperative that you don’t want to inhale it. It actually can damage your body and lungs in a way that isn’t good for you. That’s because of the following:
- The clay contains silica in many cases
- When silica gets into the lungs, it can scar the tissue and completely mess up your ability to breathe
- The most dangerous parts are the ones that are least visible, since you don’t see them, and you might not wear a mask
It’s important to know about this because most clay bodies have this crystalline silica in it, or at least half of it is made with this. That’s pretty dangerous, and if you’re going to be using a clay that contains silica, you want to make sure that you’re properly prepared for something like this.
The most obvious way to prevent issues is to wear a mask and a respirator to breathe when working with this, especially when you’re firing. You also want to make sure that the surfaces are completely wiped down. This, in turn, will trap the particles there before they become airborne.
You especially need to watch when doing the following, since this involves the most dust
- Trimming the clay
The best way to wipe this down is to spray down the area or wipe it down either with a sponge, or a wet cloth, and this will trap the particles and keep you from inhaling these.
You should also consider having a lot of sponges on hand since this will make the job way easier when you’re finished up.
You can also avoid a lot of dust exposure by doing the following:
- Get the cay bodies mixed and premade
- Clean the area of scraps and don’t sweep the studio area
- Make sure that you give fresh air to the work area
- Wear a mask
- Clean the studio frequently with a mop or a vacuum
- Wear plastic aprons rather than ones that are porous
Know about the ingredients
It’s important to also know about the ingredients that you’re using, especially if you’re trying to avoid too much silica when working in a studio.
Here are a few things that you can help to make sure that you don’t deal with too many compounds that could be hazardous.
- Find out if you can get “low free silica” in terms of clay bodies
- Don’t use Barium Carbonate, especially when it comes to earthenware
- Avoid asbestos, primarily in contaminated low-fire talc or raku clay
- Don’t use hazardous materials to cover the clay bodies.
Essentially, if you’re worried about potentially harming yourself with clay, it’s best that you don’t use that one, and seek out an alternative if possible.
When you use clay, it’s important to make sure that you do handle it in a correct manner. When you’re in the studio, you want to make sure that you’re eating, smoking, or drinking in there. Even water could end up getting worse because the silica might end up on the bottle, or in the water itself, and then you swallow it.
You also should make sure that you don’t interchange the tools that you’re using with anything else. What that means is, don’t just use a clay tool, and then use your phone, or try to eat, or whatever. That will end up creating a lot of issues later on, and you’ll potentially be ingesting it.
When you’re done with a session, you want to scrub your hands in a thorough manner once you’ve finished working. Don’t do a small job but work to get the clay off as much as possible.
When it comes to handling clay, you want to make sure that it’s stored in a rightful manner, and you also don’t let mold grow on it. If you do use wet clay, there are a few precautions that need to be considered.
- Store it in a correct manner so that mold doesn’t grow
- If you have a mold allergy, you should make sure that you do take the right precautions and steps when you use something like this.
- If you have an allergy or want to prevent bacteria from transferring, you should work in a studio alone, or with very few people. It can prevent the transfer of bacteria.
- You should also make sure that you don’t share the clay either. That will also transfer the bacteria, and it can end up creating issues later on.
Handling clay, especially if you have allergies, is super important, and if you do it right, you’ll be able to prevent yourself from getting into anything that could potentially be hazardous. Knowing exactly what you’re getting into is important and knowing full well what you’re about to deal with in terms of the materials that you’re going to use is important since it will prevent you from having an adverse reaction to anything.
When working at the wheel
Working at the wheel can be fun, but it often can cause back and wrist injuries, especially with the way that you’re moving your hands. There are a few good work habits that you should put in, and you should make sure that you do so before you begin.
- Do make sure that the wheel heights, the bench heights, and the wedging board are at the right height. Failure to do so will make you sit with a hunched over back, and it can end up hurting you
- Make sure that you keep your back straight when you’re working with the wheel
- When you’re lifting, you want to keep your back straight, especially if the material or equipment is heavy. Failure to do so will cause unnecessary strain on the back, and it could potentially make you throw your back out
- If you’re using the wheel a lot, take breaks, so that you can give your body some time to rest, especially if you’re working for a long time
- You should try to avoid repetitive motions that are stressful, especially if you’re doing this a lot. The best way to do so is to vary the routine that you do each day for the best results
You want to make sure that you keep the powders stored. To do otherwise will cause the silica to start to dredge up, and it also might cause contaminants to form in the clay as well. If you’re wanting to prevent the integrity of the clay from getting compromised, and the powders as well, you want to follow this.
The best way to ensure its longevity of is to do the following:
- Store the powders in an airtight container
- Don’t inhale these as you open them up
- Don’t let moisture get into there
- Get varying containers so that the powder isn’t overflowing, and instead, you have it nicely put away
To do otherwise can cause the powder to get everywhere, and it can dry it out and get contaminated. So, store it correctly, and know what you’re working with.
Glazes can be hazardous as well, and if you don’t know what you are using, you can potentially be using something that is very toxic to the body.
There are a few compounds you must watch out for when you’re easing glazes in pottery, and they are as follows:
- Silica, as mentioned before that can cause scarring of the lungs and breathing issues
- Luster glazes have toxic metallic compounds and mediums in them
- Anything with antimony, chrome, lead, cobalt, copper, iron, iron sulfate, nickel compounds, uranium compounds, and also vanadium compounds should be avoided as much as possible. These are present in a lot of glazes, stains, and slips, and if you use it, you should make sure to take the right safety precautions
- The best way to avoid this is to not use them whenever you can. You want to make sure that you don’t inhale or ingest, especially since these are toxic. You should however also try to limit the skin contact that you have with this as well. If you’ve got any crevices, you should avoid this, especially since it can seep in. They may be invisible, but they can do a lot of damage
There are a few other steps that you can take as well to ensure that you don’ use these compounds, and they are as follows:
- Find out from the manufacturer if there are any ingredients in these. You can find out either by contacting or checking out the website and any of the other information that’s possible
- Don’ assume that the limits of exposure are on the guidelines, but instead, take the necessary steps to help prevent I from getting worse
- Learn the difference between different chemicals, and research them as needed
- You should look at the datasheets from the US Dept. of Labor to find out about the hazardous materials and make sure to prepare yourself for them
When you’re using the glaze, obviously just like with clay, you don’t want to use this in a place where there is food or drink. After all, you don’t want toxins and chemicals to be present in the stuff you’re eating. You should put all of the food and drink outside, especially for it to not get contaminated.
There are a few other things that you can do as well, and a few things that you can take into consideration in order to fortify yourself for using them.
- Always wear a mask, especially when you’re working with vapors or luster glazes
- You should make sure that the exhaust is vented so that the air doesn’t get completely polluted. Make sure as well that the place has proper ventilation
- Spray them only in the ways that they should be, and make sure that you have a source of clean air to breathe
- You should use spray booth filters that might have toxins in them
- Get rid of these glazes like how you would with toxic waste
- Make sure that if you’re not using a glaze, reformulate it, or give it to someone so that it can be used
- Fire the scrap glazes in a bowl and make sure that they’re tossed when you’re done in a way that’s environmentally safe
- Take the scraps that you have to waste collection sites and don’t have them sitting around
Glazes are important for pottery, but using the wrong kind, or misusing them can be dangerous and hazardous to your health, so make sure that you do use them as directed, and make sure that you use them in a smart manner.
Keep your Kiln in a safe location
When you’re using your kiln, it’s important to make sure that the kiln is kept in a safe place. This prevents any potential fires from happening. There are a few ways to make sure that you don’t do anything to hinder the safety of your kiln.
- Have concrete floors
- Keep the kiln away from other kilns and walls to prevent anything from melting
- Keep anything that is flammable far away from the kiln to prevent fires and explosions
- Use metal shelves instead of wooden ones near the kiln
Another important thing to have with a kiln is an emergency shutoff. You need to have this not just for the kiln, but especially the kiln. When it comes to electric kilns, making sure that you have a breaker that shuts it off can prevent serious issues, fires, and explosions from happening. But, this isn’t limited to just the kilns it’s also important to make sure any drills, pugmills, slip casting machines or anything that is a machine has some way to make sure that it’s shut off immediately, and a way to unplug it if something goes awry. It’s important to have this because if it is not turned back on during the emergency, you can find out what’s going on without hindering the safety of yourself, and others as well.
When you’re putting the kiln in, make sure it adheres to the fire codes as well. You should make sure that the installations are done by a professional, especially with gas and electric, and make sure that it’s grounded as well when you use it.
If you’re going to use the kiln, make sure that you have an experienced person at hand to make sure that you don’t do anything wrong, and potentially fatal. You want to make sure that if you do understand what you’re using, you especially know the safety controls, and the functions on the kiln so that you don’t press something wrong.
Don’t Touch Electric Kiln Elements!
To do this can be fatal. This is a huge thing, and you should make sure that you don’t touch the kiln while it’s in use, because this can kill you.
There are a few ways to prevent this from happening to you, and a few safety precautions that can help you prevent yourself from potentially killing yourself with a kiln. They are as follows:
- Don’t touch the kiln until you know for sure everything that you have is turned off
- You should know how the kiln operates before you use it. You should know that there are three phases that pass electricity even when the kiln is off. You should make sure that the sitters have three-phase wiring, and make sure that any power relays are added as needed. If you need to replace the power relay, do so, since an old power relay actually can cause a lot of problems, since it can cause the power to flow through even when it’s off. You’ll have to wait until it’s fully off before you touch it. You should change the power relay every two or so years
- At most, make sure that you turn off the circuit breaker, or the vacuum if needed, and make sure that everything is fully off before you even touch it
Don’t touch the elements on the electric kiln, and it’s best to wait for it all to cool down before you even think about touching it.
Deal with toxic liquids and films accordingly
When it comes to toxic liquids and fumes, you want to make sure that they’re taken care of in a rightful manner. To do otherwise can cause toxins to be present in the studio, and that’s dangerous.
For the toxic liquids, you should make sure that they’re stored correctly, and not contained in a place where they can be exposed to the elements. You should make sure that all liquids that you use are handled with care, depending on the level of toxicity of the chemical. Use the right protective clothing, eyewear, respirators, and the like to protect yourself.
You should also know the safety features that will help you prevent yourself from getting hurt. It’s definitely important to know of the precautions for this since it can be dangerous.
With the venting, you want to make sure that all toxic fumes are properly fumigated from the studio when you work. The following are good ways to help prevent the fumes from getting into the body
- Wear a respirator
- Vent the place out when you’re finished
By doing this, you’ll prevent anything from getting out. Hazardous chemicals are no joke, and if you breathe them in, they can make you sick, cause you to pass out, or even worse if you’re not careful. Doing the right thing and taking the necessary safety measures will help you have the best pottery experience that you can have.
As always, you should follow all of the guidelines, and if you’re working with someone that knows what they’re doing, you should definitely make sure that you have the best experience that you can have by asking questions as needed, and find out anything that you should do to make sure that things are safe and easy.
Safety is a huge thing when you’re working with pottery materials, and by taking the right steps to prevent issues from happening, such as fires, explosions, and the like, you’ll be able to have a great experience with this, and you’ll be able to make some great pottery.
Pottery might seem like something that doesn’t require a ton of safety tips, but you are working with some dangerous machines. Between the kilns which get very hot and can potentially be a fire hazard and cause explosions to happen, toxic fumes from the glazes and such, and overall possible health and safety concerns, it’s important that you know what you’re doing with this. But, if you do have a good idea of what type of work you’re going to be doing, and if you take the right steps to prepare yourself for this, you’ll be able to create some gorgeous pottery, and from there, you’ll be able to create some amazing and beautiful pieces that you can be proud of, all of which are in a safe manner, and are done in the right steps.
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