Archive for January 15th, 2009

The wimp’s way to make it big.

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

When I was learning how to build pottery on the wheel a few decades back there was a really large guy in the studio who made big pots. He always made them from one big lump of clay and was a gas to watch. He made the most amazing shapes with his mouth while he was throwing. My cousin Scott (who got me into ceramics) remarked that he must be one heck of a kisser. One time a cute little girl named Nora asked him to throw her a bathtub. He said he would if she would use it to bathe in the studio. Not having his physical endowment I didn’t try stuff like that. Then came along Shirley Ray, this relatively small and skinny girl, who made pots big enough to hide in using some Korean methods.
I have not made a lot of big pot because I have to stick with what I can move through my inventory. I suppose that may sound mercenary but it is a fact of life for one who makes his living with clay. If I am selling pots I get to make more. I love making pots a lot. It is a real kick. Nothing turns me off in terms of wanting to get muddy as much as looking at a full showroom. I now have a couple of interior designer clients who want big stuff so I dusted off Shirley’s methods and am using them with my middle aged arthritic hands to make, what are for me, big pots. So with the help of ibuprofen and some cheater moves I am making big bowls this week. Too bad Nora isn’t around.
I am starting with a fairly hefty 30 lb platter thrown with a slightly concave rim. I let it sit in a breeze free studio or with the electric wheel turning slowly to prevent uneven drying.
When the platter is leather hard but not too dry I score the rim with a serrated rib and wet it down pretty well.
I use an old Brent extruder to make a 1.5″ coil. Ten lbs of clay makes a coil that will fit this 20″ platter.
I lay the coil down on the scored and dampened rim and make a lap joint.
If the rim has been dampened enough I can knit the outside edge as shown above. The inside is no problem as it is still plastic clay. The knitting is done with a wiping not pinching motion using a dry digit. (Usually my thumb.)
Note: If you let the bowl dry too much this knitting is harder to do and you run the risk of a dry joint that will crack somewhere between now and the final firing.
When I am satisfied that the knitting is complete I wet down the coil and carefully throw it to the desired hight. At this point the newly thrown section is allowed to dry to the same leather hard state as the platter was. If I am in a hurry I’ll use a weed burner to push things along. This method is OK but must be done carefully so as not to over dry the bowl, and for hecksake don’t burn down the shop.
When the new rim is stiff enough (but not too dry) I add another coil like the last one. and throw it to the desired hight and thickness. If the rim is too thin a 1/2″ coil can be added after the required drying has been allowed.
I like to texture some of these especially if I am thinkig of applying a glaze that is sensitive to thick and thin variations. The stamps are bisqued clay. The bread knife is from a flea market in Missouri where my mother lives. I have a hard time passing up a flea market, thrift store or kitchen shop. They have so many good potter’s tools.

Listening this morning to the Rick n’Roll Show on Gulch Radio this morning.