Firstly, I mark all the pots before starting to facet the sides. To be able to replicate the cuts from piece to piece I use a wooden bat as a marker to divide up the sections, with a guide to mark the cutting height. A round cap marks the arch before I can start the facets.
The pots need to be thrown thicker at the base and in a conical style so when cutting the sides, I don't go through the pot.
The first attempt at this style I applied the handle from near the rim and kept it quite tight to the pot but it didn't look quite right.
I've started to pull the handles from just above the middle of the mug with the shape being sprung quite high giving a more classic, generous shape.
Handles I think are the most difficult, not the pulling or application, that does take time but comes relatively quickly with repetitive practice. The shape and consistency take a while to grasp but it's finding the right shape to suit the ware paying particular attention to the negative space.
These pots have a white slip applied to the inside including the lid, to allow a better colour response from the celadon glaze inside. The outside is left as bare clay with the intension they will be decorated by the kiln during the firing. The flame will carry soda/salt or fly ash from the wood depending on the firing throughout the kiln and will pass each pot individually leaving a flame path as it travels making each pot individual. As the temperature in the kiln rises the salt, soda or ash will become silica on the surface.
The clay is a blend of a high iron body and a white high silica body. The white body helps soften the bare clay, silica from the atmosphere within the kiln can attract to it more easily and the high iron clay gives that warm toasted red to brown look, traditional to the firing process on reduction fired stoneware.
For the body of the large Lidded casseroles I use 2kg of clay and for the lids of this size I use 1.3kg of clay. The reason for using so much clay is design feature for its intended use. These pots are used for slow cooking in the oven and not intended for cooking over a flame or on a hob. The thickness within the walls of the pot helps radiate the heat through the food, helping with the process of slow cooking. In addition, when taking from the oven to serve at the table food is kept hotter for longer for those second helpings.
All the bowl forms I was taught to make throughout my apprenticeship were generally thickly thrown. The reasons being that, they would later be faceted and slipped/glazed as the firing process was raw for the soda kilns, this is were slips, shino’s & glazes would be applied to the pots while they were still greenware. So if the pots were too thin they would generally warp or split during the process. This is avoidable but we often poured and dipped to get a better even finish so the wet pots were taking on a huge amount of water and becoming incredible soft before firming up again and drying out for firing.
After finishing my apprenticeship, I planned the exact opposite, beautifully thin and elegant was the aim. But this didn’t sit well with me, I’m not a small delicate person and I love to use and experience all the pots I have collected over the years. Unfortunately, all the finely thin bowls I have bought are now chipped or broken beyond repair. Not purely because I’m clumsy but more to the fact they get used several times a day, spoons bouncing into the pots at breakfast and piles of dishes crashing into the sink to be washed at tea (dinner) time. I want to use pots care free and enjoy them for what they are, so I avoid the fine delicate forms and thin rims, as beautiful as they are and as well crafted they look, it just didn’t suit me. When making pots I look to craft something I would be happy to use, happy to live with. A thick pot needn’t be a heavy one, its all about the balance throughout the form.
I make bowls in the simplest, energy efficient way. First finding the base and creating the rounded interior leaving enough there to consider the foot ring when turning, before lifting the walls to form a conical shape thrown up to a marker. I then use a particular throwing rib to push the walls down and into shape. The whole process taking a couple of minutes but with the need to mention several years of practice. After turning the exterior shape and exposing the foot ring I use a tool to apply linear marks to the outside. Although simple and often hidden under the glaze, sometimes this kind of decoration can just break up the form a little and help draw in the eye to subtle detail. Also I’m a terrible decorator.
The form originates from medieval Europe and is typically used for soups, stews and similar dishes. I find porringers very comforting to eat from as your hand can wrap around the form.
Originally I was trying to find something to shield the jugs on the top shelves of the kiln as the glaze finish I was previously using didn’t work well with the flames and higher amount of ash & soda in this area of the kiln. Not to waste space in the kiln I started making the Porringers, with a slightly thicker rim it allowed me stack them rim to rim then foot to foot as high as I needed to go. Wadding, a mixture of Alumina and China clay, is placed around the rims and the foots so during firing they don’t stick together.
My apprenticeship took place in Devon, a few miles from Okehampton at a studio and gallery complex called Kigbeare. When starting my position, I was introduced to a potter called Brian Dickinson and under his guidance I helped Brian build the large oil fired soda kiln Lisa Hammond used while potting in Devon to whom I was apprentice. This practice was hugely beneficial when it came to building my own kiln towards the end of my apprenticeship.
Brian would often come visit and also invite me over to his studio on the Cornish border. So many late late nights followed, drinking wine, talking pots and having tutorials in the studios during the early hours. Brian gave me so much of his time and really taught me how to achieve the shapes I make now when throwing jugs.
Simple tricks in the throwing and finishing has helped my jug forms transform from being bottom heavy or out of proportion with an odd looking high shoulder to a more well balanced pot. He taught me to start by throwing a tall evenly thick cylinder, then using the corner of you finger mark out what will become the neck of the jug with the finger nail. When doing this you need to consider that this will often be collared back in during the throwing making it thicker and then finally thrown up into shape to be the right thickness, so depending on the shape intended highlight maybe 1/8 at the top. Then below this line I mark out exactly ½, this becomes the line in which I change direction when throwing to help me throw the mid bellied forms. Starting at the base I throw out until I reach the line then back in after the line towards the mark highlighting the neck. Repeating this twice and then again using a piece of straight edged bamboo on the outside.
Before addressing the neck, I then use the curved edge of a potters Kidney, either metal or rubber, on the inside to give the form a more ballooned look. I will most likely run over the whole shape again until am happy with the form.
I enjoy working on refining my throwing skills and I feel making these rounded bellied forms really pushes me. Just a few millimeters out in one area and the whole form can look out of proportion they are a challenging form but hugely rewarding when you get It right, which isn’t all of the time.
I really like cooking and presenting food to friends and family at the table, I find that when food is served on a plate we are all guilty of just tucking in and filling our faces (well, I am). Presenting food for people to help themselves I found gets people talking, picking up the pots passing them round encourages conversation.
I have quite a number of oven dishes in my kitchen from various potters that I have collected over the years all different shapes and sizes, perfect for all the different home bakes, straight out of the oven and onto the table.
Because I rarely have consecutive days in the pottery I needed a way of making the dishes in one run. My master potter from when I was an apprentice makes the walls of the dish first and then the following day would shape the walls into an oval and fix it down onto a freshly thrown bed of clay. I needed a way to make them in one go and later, once they have firmed up, apply the handles and slip the interiors. I start by throwing a large cylinder to preset measurements, leaving the walls and base relatively thick for the purpose of its cooking use. Once the cylinder is formed I mark out two parallel lines on the inside close to the outer wall. I then run a pin through the wall as level to the interior base as possible and once both sides have been cut I cradle the wall with two hands and lift the wall over towards the middle of the pot to square up the dishes. The reason I use a pin is because it has less surface area and doesn’t drag and distort the pot as I cut through. The join will need working over on the interior and exterior but it doesn’t need to be scored and slipped as the clay is soft from throwing and the wall and base are the same constancy.
There is a time lapse video of the process on my blog/Instagram feed if you want to understand better what I mean.
I use porcelain as blank canvas, to see the true colour of the glaze. From porcelain I generally make small bowls thrown off the hump. A large piece of clay is placed on the wheel and only what is needed is centered at the top, thrown and measured using two crossed sticks to gauge the depth and width.
For finishing I turn the smallest one first lying a flat blade down on the turned piece I mark the next one how far down to turn down before starting the foot ring. So when they are cut from the hump I can be generous without finding it too difficult to turn the pots to the same height and shape.
When displaying my work, I find some vibrancy from glaze on porcelain can help lift the stand I’m displaying on.
In some form or another this shape is the most commonly used bowl in our house, when I describe them as pasta bowls it doesn’t limit their use, they can be used for most dishes, Stews, Curries, Stir Fry’s etc.
When throwing this form, the clay is centered as a low dome to give a wider foot and then the base is formed. I then proceed to throw up into a conical shape before using a rib on the inside to stretch the bowl into shape, but by not starting at the rim it allows me to easily form the vertical sides.
I find each one has to be made on a wooden bat attached to the wheel head by a bed of clay, although a little more time consuming in the making process it really helps prevention of the form warping when removing from the wheel. More recently I have applied some textured decoration to the interior, enough to let the glaze pool on the inside to make a point of interest but not to leave the interior of the bowl rough and unpleasant to eat from.
I've been looking to explore some new ideas for making bowls, something that is more fitting with the faceted mugs I make but not so nearly as time consuming.These are thrown, then turned before being pressed over a plaster mold.
I plan to use a simple glaze as the form is quite complicated in its self. I made two molds with the same shape but in two different sizes. The most difficult part of the process that I found was working out the size of the thrown form, too shallow or deep and the rim of the pot can split easily when pressed. The plaster mold started as a CAD drawing and then produced using the 3D printers at the institute of making UCL, @of_making where I work. Untrustworthy of the CNC, I Vac formed the print to allow me to take a quick 1 part cast. I then proceeded to cast in plaster an additional cylinder underneath to raise the mold up to make pressing easier whilst working on the wheel.
I’m sure many would be able to sculpt the mold from clay to then take a cast, but sculpting isn’t my strong point. I also really enjoy the process of solving problems and making tools to aid me in my making.