By Molly Hammond, Storage.com
Whether you throw all of your own pots, have a sizable art collection, or simply attended a pottery painting party, having pottery in your home is a joy. What might not be so enjoyable, though, is trying to figure out how to keep expensive or sentimental pieces in great shape, particularly during a move or renovation when pottery must be temporarily kept in a storage unit. By taking the time to invest extra care in your pottery, you can be sure that it’ll look just as good coming out of storage as it did going in.
Clean Pottery Before Storage
“When [people] paint pottery, they’re creating art they can use and should treat it like any other prized possession when using it in their daily lives,” say Amy Klingler and Diana Poloma, owners of paint-your-own pottery studio The Pigeon & The Hen Pottery in South Bend, Ind.
Because pottery is so delicate, Klingler and Poloma suggest a gentle cleaning before storing any type of pottery. “Dust is an enemy to unfinished [or unglazed] pottery,” they add.
According to George Hibben, Director of Development for Rookwood Pottery Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, use lukewarm, soapy water when washing pottery. Just don’t dry it in sunlight, as extended exposure to light can cause discoloration and make materials like terracotta or porous clay become brittle.
Wrap Pottery for Storage
Wrapping up breakables before boxing them may seem obvious, but there are a few things to keep in mind when packing pottery for storage.
“If pottery is being stored for a long period of time, don’t use newspaper,” Hibben warns. “Newsprint can have acids, and the humidity can react with certain chemicals in newsprint that result in discoloration.”
Hibben suggests wrapping pottery in acid-free paper or soft cloth instead. Wrapping your pieces in paper that won’t discolor them is a good way to protect glazes and paints, which is especially important if there’s a hand-decorated design. Once your piece is wrapped in paper, you’ll want to move on to bubble wrap.
“It’s very important to wrap pottery with many layers inside a box.”
Amy Klingler and Diana Poloma, owners of The Pigeon & The Hen Pottery
“It’s very important to wrap pottery with many layers inside a box,” say Klingler and Palomo. “We would lay several layers of bubble wrap along the bottom and sides of a box, completely bubble wrap your finished pottery, lay on top of layers of bubble wrap, and add a few final layers of bubble wrap on the top and enclose.”
Klingler and Palomo say it’s fine to put more than one wrapped piece in the same box, as long as each has a little room to move around. “There shouldn’t be any pottery too closely packed together…[the bubble wrap should] prevent anything from knocking together and chipping during a move.”
Hibben, Klingler, and Palomo all agree that double-boxing wrapped pottery can provide a little extra cushion and should be done for particularly delicate pieces or pottery that’s traveling a long distance.
Consider Climate-Controlled Storage for Pottery
Climate-controlled storage is often recommended for expensive or fragile items since the feature regulates temperature and humidity levels within a storage unit. That said, your need for climate control will depend on the kind of pottery you’re looking to store.
“Temperature is a big concern for pottery,” say Klingler and Palomo, whose paint-your-own pottery is fired at a low temperature and very porous. “When the temperature dips below 40°F, we risk temperature shock in clay that can result in hairline cracks and fractures because of different rates of expansion and contraction between the clay body and glazes.” If your pottery was fired at a lower temperature and is porous, climate-controlled storage will keep the glaze from being ruined and prevent cracks or breaks in the pottery itself.
On the other hand, Hibben says the kind of pottery produced at Rookwood is fired at such a high temperature that changes in temperature aren’t as crucial a consideration. Though Rookwood pottery (and other stoneware fired at extremely high temperatures) are known to be resilient, it never hurts to rent a storage unit with climate control, especially if you live in an area where weather is unpredictable.
“If there are extreme fluctuations during the course of a few days, that might be problematic,” Hibben explains. Since pottery is often as artistic and expensive as it is functional, the price of climate control can be well worth keeping your pieces in the best condition.
It’s important to know how to store pottery when the time comes. By taking the time to clean, wrap, and store your pieces, you can protect them for years.