Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pottery Magic!

One of the (many) good things about being a regular at Scarborough Fair Pottery Studio are the days when you show up to find that Peggy has discovered a new project in "Clay Times" or another pottery magazine or web site. It may be something she has seen before or something she has never tried, but every time she is all excited about it. "Look," she exclaims, "look at this! We are all going to make ___ (fill in the blank.)" It is her enthusiasm which emboldened me to attempt this project - a conjoined chip and dip bowl assembly.

First, you throw two bowls of equal size and shape. The directions suggested 3 pounds of clay per bowl, but my first attempt, using 2.5 lbs per bowl, went dramatically wrong. For my second attempt, I scaled down. These bowls are made of 1.5 lbs of clay each.
By the way, I find that a lot of pottery directions sound much more simple than they really are. That one line, "Throw two bowls of equal size and shape" assumes you are talented enough repeat your moves from one bowl to the next in order to make them equal. Mine were close - close enough that only a little judicious trimming was needed.

The demo article we were following did not suggest two different colors of clay. That was my idea. I thought the project needed more of a challenge!

After they dry to "soft" leather-hard stage, you are ready to begin assembling your bowls. I trimmed the bottoms as usual, then took about 1/4" off the rim of the brown bowl to make them the same height. (This was my "fudge-factor" adjustment. It was not in the original instructions.)

Any good construction project has to start with a little demolition, and this is where the new potter tends to cringe a bit. Those carefully crafted bowls - centered, balanced, well-formed - well, you have to cut them up!

I made marks on each bowl, approximately 1/3 of the diameter, then sliced through each bowl with a taut cut-off wire.
Eeek! The pretty bowls are now in pieces! Putting the smaller slices aside for the moment, I wet the cut edges of the two larger sections, stuck them together, then rolled a thin coil of clay to fill in the gaps and seal the seam.
First problem with two colors of clay - which color do you use for your coil? I chose brown, simply because it was out and accessible. It's a bitch to keep from smearing brown clay all over the white, in case you hadn't guessed. I didn't think about that.

Next you turn the conjoined bowl over (carefully, by sandwiching it between two pieces of wareboard) and inspect the underside.
Another thin coil of clay seals the bottom and outside seams.Going back to the cut-out pieces, you join them the same way,using more coils of clay to fill in the gaps and seal the edges.
The brown clay is starting to over-run the white right about now. When I get it all together, I can lightly scrape the surface and remove most of this brown slip.
The bottom of the dip bowl. Some of the weight still needs to be trimmed off in order to make it fit for the next step.
The smaller dip bowl is placed into the larger joined bowls section, creating the optical illusion that the two bowls are overlapping.
You can see a bit of a bobble where the inner brown wall of the dip bowl just misses matching up with the curve of the larger brown chip bowl. My excuse? I had been at this for 1.5 hours and my sister was hovering over my shoulder, saying, "I'm hungry - when are we going to eat?" I wrapped the project in plastic wrap and let it rest for a couple of days, to help all the seams "cure," and took Lisa out for a belated birthday brunch.

A little scraping with a thin metal rib cleaned up most of the seams to leave as sharp and defined an edge as I could, then the bowl had to dry to a bone-dry state before it could be fired.

Now, a pause for prayer. Will all those seams stay stuck together, or will the whole thing crack, fall apart, or explode in the kiln?

* tick

* tock

* tick

* tock


It made it! Now, to decide about glazing. Since any colored glaze will minimize the two-color clay effect, I have just about decided to go with a simple clear glaze.

I think I'll try this project again, but I'll use only one kind of clay next time!


Lisa said...

I object to the author's characterization of my occasional check-in as "hovering". Besides, she has already admitted to struggling with spatial relationships... that's all I'm sayin'.

(but it was a YUMMY brunch, and well worth the wait.)

NatureWoman said...

This is too cool!!! This turned out fantastic - what a great idea.