By Sandra James

Carla Trask works in her parents white barn creating another one of her masterpieces. The piece of clay which sits on her potter’s wheel will become a mug with hand painted stunning blue mountain scenery inspired by local views.

Trask, lifelong McBride resident and owner of Cottonwood Pottery, started making pottery in 2017 when she approached another potter Stefi Maclane in the Valley for lessons. Enjoying her time learning this craft, Trask kept going every couple weeks for the following couple of years. Trask says she feels so blessed being able to learn while they talked about life and pottery, and she treasured her time there.

Ceramic artwork and pottery is one of the oldest crafts and human inventions originating before the Neolithic period. The earliest ceramic objects have been dated as far back as 29,000 BC. People who make pottery today are called potters and this word comes from the Old French word “poterie.”

Space is an important factor for pottery and is the reason Trask set up in her parents barn in 2020 as this provides enough space, is heated and has the hook-ups for her kiln: you need both heat and water for the clay.

Trask first started selling her pottery at the Christmas craft fair online in 2020. Some of these items include mugs, bowls, teapots, plates and even Christmas ornaments her seven-year-old daughter made. Trask is passing down the craft to her daughter as well.

“The community has been very supportive,” Trask said.

Currently a lot of her work has a glaze painted on them with mountain scenery as there has been a demand for this but the ideas are limitless. There are many techniques, ways of firing and glazing, all different. Trask calls her style “functional pottery.”

While creating her pieces mostly on a pottery wheel, she explains that you can also use a technique called hand building which allows you to create forms with clay and your hands, without using a throwing wheel. 

Wheel throwing is the technique of shaping around ceramics using a potter’s wheel.

“You can’t let the clay move you especially when it comes to the bigger pieces” Trask said as she wetted her hands and pulled the clay. 

Clay is the basis of pottery and an abundant and naturally occurring resource. 

“It’s magic how the clay forms on there,” she said as she explained about all the various things you can create with a slab. 

Creating a piece of pottery is like telling a story: there is a clear beginning, middle and end. First, one must have a slab of clay and cut off a piece and then throw it on your potter’s wheel which is essentially making and shaping the piece. 

Now it is time to wait two or three days for it to dry to a state called leather hard.

After that, it goes back to the wheel for trimming; handles, if required, will be attached at this point. 

It all goes for drying again until the piece is in a state called bone dry which can be done with a fan or dryer. Clay is bone dry when it has lost all the moisture that it can lose before it’s fired.

Once in this state it is ready to be fired once at a lower temperature for about 10 hours and will be glazed after this. Once painted and glazed the piece is fired again for another 8 hours and then it is sanded. 

If all goes well and there are no misfires or if the glaze turns out not too thick then it takes Trask two weeks to complete each piece.