When you put a ball of clay in your hands, you just want to start making something---it’s so natural it’s uncanny. And while equipment is used to make a lot of the pottery in the world, using just your hands or a simple paddle and rolling pin can produce awesome results! Discover how to make pottery using three simple techniques, but with a twist. Make a pinch pot really big, make coil pottery from flat coils, save a step and make leather hard hump molds instead of ceramic bisque molds, use a paper plate as a press mold, or make square slab pots with great textures. All you need is a ball of clay in your hands. It's all here in a free download - Five Great Handbuilding Techniques: Variations on Classic Techniques for Making Contemporary Handbuilt Pottery.
Making a set of handbuilt ceramic plates can be fun for the beginner, but is also easily adapted for the more-experienced student. This project presents a direct and fresh slab-forming approach resulting in handbuilt pottery that becomes a great canvas for surface decoration. Materials are simple, inexpensive and readily available.
After only a few hours of work, you can learn how to roll out a good, even slab, and can experience different stages of plastic clay and what the clay is capable of at each stage. You become familiar with simple press molds and start to consider the form and function of your work. Most importantly, you learn how to handle clay in a direct and intentional way.
These plates become a wonderful surface for finishing, embellishing and glazing. I have expanded this project to include experiments with paper stencils and slip decoration, but that’s just the beginning. Try underglaze design work and glazing methods with this project as well. When the project is completed, you’ll have a set of plates to use in you home or to give as gifts.
Roll out a slab to a desired thickness of ¼ to ½ inch. When rolling out a slab, start by throwing it across the table in different directions until it is somewhere close to 3 inches thick. Use a slab roller or a rolling pin to continue rolling the slab to the desired thickness, taking care not to roll over the edges. Roll two or three times on one side. If you’re working on canvas, you’ll notice that the clay stops stretching after the first few times because the clay holds onto the texture of the canvas. Carefully lift the slab creating as much surface area with your hand as possible, and leave the slab to stiffen to a soft leather-hard stage. The clay needs to be able to bend without cracking, but you don’t want fingerprints to show as you manipulate your clay.
Choose the size of your plate. Chinet® brand has dinner, salad and dessert-sized plates as well as an oval platter. Place the plate upside down to use as a template for cutting the slab (figure 1). As you cut, keep your needle tool or fettling knife perpendicular to your work surface to create a square rim.
Remove excess clay and smooth out the rims. Slide your finger across the edge of the rim with firm and consistent pressure (figure 2). The sharp corner of the rim softens without flattening the edge. A damp sponge, chamois or a small piece of a produce bag also works. Stamp or sign the underside.
Flip the clay slab, smooth the top edge then place it into the paper plate, lining up the edges (figure 3). Experiment with pressing the clay into the paper plate with your hands or sandwiching your clay between two plates (figure 4). The clay will have a different character depending on your chosen method.
Allow the plates to dry to a firm leather-hard stage in the bottom paper plate. Remove the clay from the mold to check to see if the plates stack nicely and sit on a flat surface without rocking. Take a moment to look closely at the rim of each plate to do any final shaping they might need.
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