Saturday 15 September 2012

Making Pouring Bowls

Turning or trimming base
In the past couple of days I’ve been making a small batch of batter bowls or larger pouring bowls. These are bowls with a pouring lip that prove really useful around the kitchen when cooking. I use one of my own pouring bowls regularly for beating eggs to make quick omelettes. They’re about the size of a normal breakfast bowl so they’re very handy to have around compared to traditional mixing bowls which are often huge cumbersome things stored at the back of cupboards. And of course having the lip just means they’re satisfying to use – which is the main thing of course.

Lifting Bowl off wheelhead after turning

These larger pouring bowls are really ‘a size up’ from my small drizzle bowls. So basically they follow the same shape and design but on a larger scale. Back in April I made a variation on my drizzle bowls by adding a small thumb handle. I called this variation ‘bird bowl’ pouring bowls because the handle seemed to look like a bird tail. They’ve proved quite popular and I’ve been asked to make a larger version of them. So in the same batch I’ve also made a couple of test bowls to see how feasible they are on a larger scale.

Making thumb handles

So far this larger bird bowl design seems to work. Sometimes scaling-up changes the nature of a pot so much that different sizes don’t always seem to relate to each other. Happily at the moment they have the same sort of vibe as the little ones do. I had to reconsider the design of the thumb handle so it could withstand the extra weight. An odd feature of making pottery is that logic, maths and ratios don’t always make sense: just doubling the size of the handle for instance wasn’t going to function well or look right. Instead I extended the width of the tail to accommodate the whole thumb and give support. Hopefully this will retain the function as well as keep the ‘feel’ of the little bowls. Of course I won’t know if they work as a design until they’ve been glazed.

Larger 'Bird Bowl Pouring Bowl'
Anyway, I’m quite pleased and excited by this larger size. When making pots I always think it’s a good sign if you feel the urge to keep one for yourself.

Detail handle and lip

Sunday 2 September 2012

How to Make Pottery Stamps and Seals

The weather can make all the difference to making pots. Today has been damp and drizzly and the air feels colder too, which makes drying times much longer. The jugs I threw yesterday were too damp to turn and the handles I was making for them too soft to attach. So while I waited for both jugs and handles to dry out and stiffen, I decided to make some pottery stamps.

Pottery stamps are so easy to make. The easiest method is to take a piece of clay and roll it into a ball. Flatten one side of the ball to give yourself a ‘stamp’ area, and then use wooden sticks, metal tools or any type of utensil to carve or impress designs into the clay. This is best done while the clay is on its way to becoming leatherhard, but can be done to soft clay too if you make confident marks.

Alternatively, make a cylinder shape and impress your design right around the cylinder (but not the ends). This type of stamp is called a roulette. They work by holding them at the flat ends and rolling them like a wheel into soft clay to create a continuous repeat pattern. Both types of stamp must be left to dry out thoroughly before bisque firing in the kiln. This will make them hard enough to use again and again, and as long as you look after them (and don’t drop them!) they should last years.

This is exactly the method I used to make my own pottery seal. For the first few years of making pots I used to carve my initials into bases by hand. This is time consuming however and can sometimes look scratchy, so I decided to design my own seal. At first I got distracted by the idea of having a metal seal especially made: but this seemed an unnecessary expense and not personal enough. So instead I played around with some designs before settling on my initials made using a simple handmade clay seal. As you can see in the photo above, these have been bisque fired and feature my initials in reverse. They’re both the same design but one of them is indented and the other is in relief, which gives me the option of having an ‘outward’ or ‘inward’ stamp. I’ve been using them for about five years now and all my work is stamped using them: even the smallest buttons!

Anyway, eventually the jugs and handles dried out enough for me to finish them…