Monday, June 5, 2017

Sometimes Things Just Happen

Spring found me sending out new Communion Sets and a Flagon and bowl. These are to be a graduation award for new graduates from seminary schools all over the country. One special person from each college gets the award. The schools are in the all over the country, East coast, West coast, Central, North and South.
Just as I was finishing up the last of the Communion Sets, I was approached by an very good friend to make a burial urn for her mother, whom I have known for several years. So it was back in the shop for that, which took about a 1 1/2 weeks. Talking about it in a private club to one of the managers brought another job in . . . a burial urn for him and his 3 bird dogs, still not yet finished.

However, I do have many of the pieces mentioned above for display here, beginning with the Award sets for the Seminary Schools.  I have often done bowls for this for those people in Seminary that are not going to become ministers. This is the first time I have been requested to do a flagon and a bowl.

I have also included several Communions sets, with close ups of images I believe to be of interest.Each of these is shaped and decorated and assembled individually so as to be one of a kind. All of the patens are stamped with the logo of the non profit group that contracts the commission.
Flagon and Bowl Honorary Award
Bowl with stamp for organization
Flagon(pitcher) to the bowl set.
Decoration done with commercial
rolling stamp and silicone hot pad
before shaping.

Serrated plastic rib carved from credit card around and arc

Decoration detail of chalice bowl, which was thrown off the
hump, trimmed and joined to the stem.

detail of above paten showing stamp
and decoration detail

Funerary Urn

The pieces here are using a commercial roller stamp for the decoration before shaping.

The funerary urn was thrown from seven lbs of clay with the two lids thrown off the hump for the body of the pot. The cylinder was raised, and then decorated with the commercial rolling stamp of pine needles, and a silicone kitchen hotpad with a hexagonal pattern in it.

The lid was also stamped after soft trimming with a commercial rolling stamp.
Inner lid with full name and dates for genealogical purposes
Lid to complete form, cover and protect the inner lid

This bowl set was created for a wife's retirement from nursing. The husband had seen some other bowl sets that I had done and asked me for a set for his wife. So again one job led to another. The bowls are shown in order, and the first is from 6# of clay for the Mixing bowl, then 4# for the large serving bowl, and 3# for the smaller bowl and the batter bowl. the flared rims and cut feet have pretty much become a signature attribute to the bowls for me.

Batter bowl for ret

The last jar is something that just happened as I was throwing all of the other jars that I have been doing. This one was from 4# of clay, including the lid. I have a tendency of throwing lids off the hump of the piece of clay I am throwing the pot with. When throwing jars, lids come first off the same clay, as with teapots, lids and spouts come first then the pot itself. This seems to keep me focused, and at the same time the clay used is of the same consistency for each piece.
As you can see from this view, the foot for the jar is carved using the brass pipe as I have been doing in many of the bowl forms. I believe this gives a more elaborate effect to the lift of the form.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Communion Set time again. . . along with some recent bowls


Most every year, around March, I have an order for Communion sets from a non profit organization. These are given to graduates from colleges across country pursuing a career as an ordained individual. I have been doing business with this group now since the late 70's. when my chalices were short more like goblets, and my plates were much less than they are now. I have 20 chalices to choose from for sets this year, and am in the process of throwing the plates or as others would know-patens. As communion has changed over the years, the patens now are larger to hold either a whole loaf of bread to be ceremoniously broken , or one already broken in to smaller pieces. At the same time the chalices are a little wider in bowl size than I would normally drink from to allow for Intinction from the chalice.

The past year or so, I have been experimenting with more texture on mugs, and bowls. This experimentation has led me to texturing the cylinder before shaping it. So when doing a mug, I throw the cylinder approximately the height I want the mug, then texture most of the surface with scraper,rollers or stamps of some sort. Then I shape the mug form using only my hand or a tool on the inside of the mug. Then I finish up by pulling a smooth curving lip that partially re-centers the top of the pot.
The new bowls, and chalice bowls follow the same process. I will try to include some close-ups of the chalice bowls so that you can see how the texture is working. I especially like the way the textures get larger yet softer with stretching the clay to shape it.

The logos are rubber stamped and I use it only on the orders for this organization as it is their logo.

I have not discovered a way to make the stems use the same texturing process, or the plates. However, I am happy using the texture repeat on the plate so that the two pieces match up with matching glaze color.

The bowls are a similar situation, as they are using a silicone kitchen hot pad pressed into the cylnder after it has been thrown. It has taken a bit of experimenting on how thin to throw the cylinder before texturing as this is to be a bowl. Too extreme a texture and the bowl will end up with holes all the way through the wall, too thick a cylinder and you will have to trim too much of the texture off of the bowl.
The bowl shown here is a retirement gift for a clients wife. I was asked to put her Name and retirement dates on the bowl. This is one of 5, and is thrown of 6 pounds of clay.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
The second bowl to the set is a 4 pound bowl that is thrown to be used as a large serving bowl. This bowl is decorated in the same style on the rim, and on the outside.

 The next bowl is a 3 pound bowl that is another part of the set and is meant for smaller serving bowl or for an individual salad.
This last bowl is a batter bowl from 3 pounds of clay also. It uses the same motif for the flared rim, and the same texture from the silicone hot pad as the others. I also curled down the rim opposite of the spout while in the wet state, for the later handle addition. After trimming, and signature the strap handle was pulled , textured, and joined to the batter bowl arching over the area where I had curled over the rim. Works very well that way and is kind of elegant.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Thinking about better bowls

Often when throwing a bowl, I found that I was taking a long time to open up a larger bowl 10 pounds or more. While still in graduate school, I was trying to throw large bowls, struggling along until I saw a picture in a book of someone using there elbow to open up. Looked weird in the beginning, but the more I thought about it, I decided what did I have to lose? It took me a few weeks of effort to get down the process, but after wards the entire opening up with the elbow felt quite natural. The elbow is a pretty rounded area of the body, the shortening up of the arm and the bracing of the wrist of the opening arm by the unused hand seemed to give a lot of stability and control. Ever since then larger bowls, which I have been doing more of lately are much easier. Here are a sequence of videos showing the process. I think those of you with experience will recognize how controlled the opening is using the elbow.


When I first learned about throwing in college, my professor told us that there were three forms we were to be able should be able to throw. He started us with the cylinder, and I believe that most students on the wheel start with the lowly cylinder. He also stated that the three basic forms, the cylinder, the bowl and the plate were the forms from which all thrown pottery were derived. Over the years, I have read so much material discussing what made each of these forms, and how each form could be modified to do create a wide variety of functional and non functional forms. 
Cylinders seem to be the most adaptable of forms being able to adapt to forming taller forms like pitchers, vases, mugs, jars, and jugs. Lower forms of cylinders include cups, dishes, casseroles and other baking dishes. The other two forms, plates and bowls seem to be less adaptable than the cylinder. 
Bowls are a form that is often misunderstood or  What makes a good bowl? First maybe we should decide on what a bowl is defined as.
Definition of Bowl
  1.  : a concave usually hemispherical vessel;

This as opposed to definition of a dish:
Definition of Dish
  1. a shallow, typically flat-bottomed container for cooking or serving food.
For this exploration of improving the bowl, I hope you can accept my Basic bowl profile as presented.

The basic bowl shape has some characteristics that have made it an excellent piece of functional pottery: the rounded curve into the bottom allows foods or liquids to pool on the bottom for removal by a spoon, the curve also is lacking corners or dead spots where flour of other materials would gather when mixing making it easier to get all ingredients mixed into the batch, and the curve can be adapted for wider or deeper bowls for a variety of uses from mixing to serving.

I have been using thrown bowls for many years in cooking at home, and find the basic shape in need of some updating. My wife and I will often use the dishwasher to clean up after big meals. Often the bowls used for preparation or serving are placed in the dishwasher leaning upside down. Upon unloading the dishwasher the bowl will often have water gathered in the base of the foot ring that drips over other ware in the dishwasher when unloading. Solutions to this problem could include changing the angle of the inside of the foot ring, or cutting the foot ring to the base of the bowl curve. Each of these methods removes the area where water gathers when the bowl is leaning upside down.
The first option is simple in that the inside curve of the foot ring is rounded into the base of the outside of the bowl. Thus allowing water to drain from the foot ring. This option allows for a very simple presentation, but works best for shallow foot rings as the deeper the foot ring the more extreme the curve blending into the bowl base.

The second option is much more useful for deeper foot rings and bowls with more presence on the table than the first option. Often the use of a fettling knife is used to cut away portions of the foot ring down to the bowl curve. The use of a large pipe to cut away part of the foot ring will give an elegant curve to parts of the foot ring that are left, and also allow the drainage of water. I have found this to be one of the easiest ways to cut the rim neatly.  I am sure that an experienced potter may find methods to alleviate the drainage problem, but these are two solutions that work without worry of holes filling with glaze or other problems. 

Further improvements on the bowl may be found at the rim of the bowl. My original profile had a rim that was slightly thicker at the rim, to strengthen the rim. Another concern though with bowls is lifting in and out of the oven, or microwave. Some would say to add a handle to the bowl, but traditionally a thicker rim with an outside edge allowed for lifting with gloves. This allows for a thicker rim, an embellishment on the outside of the form, and an edge to catch/hold when moving the bowl either with                                                                              gloves or without.

A second rim modification would be to add a flare on the rim, allowing for easy transport of the bowl with or without gloves. This rim could often be used as a decorative area for lettering, or other stamped or incised decoration. It can also have functional benefits for mixing bowls in that the form will catch materials not quite in the bowl. The rim can also be adapted for spouts, or folded down into the outside of the bowl for a natural area for handles.

This type of rim with the deep cut foot ring has greater presence on a table, or for other venues.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trimming Chalice Stems

I am working on chalices for next year, and have started to do the trimming after some throwing. Pictured here are 8 stems along with a few mugs waiting for trimming.

I have often spoken of doing chalices for communion sets, and even shown a video of me trimming one and putting one together. However, someone pointed out that my trimming chuck for the chalice stems is never shown. I have included several pictures here of my chuck, and the way it is put together. It is pretty simple involving the following items
  • Section of 3" PVC pipe 8-10" long
  • 3" Pipe flange
  • 3" Tank to Bowl gasket
  • 3" Pipe Hub Donut

The Pipe Hub Donut goes onto the pipe that is inserted into the Pipe Flange.

The Tank to Bowl gasket, which is soft foam, is inserted into the Pipe Hub Donut. This gasket was very important, since it is the piece that allows the whole thing to work without damaging or marking up the chalice stem while trimming. I can apply quite a bit of pressure on the bottom of the stem without putting any marks on the outside of the chalice stem. Whereas, whenever I would use a thrown slightly stiffened chuck I would have marking on the chalice stem.

I use a Griffin Grip to hold the entire assembly on the wheel. You could use the same device glued or otherwise attached onto a bat and then use the bat on the wheel head, but this was more convenient for me.

I have shown a slightly out of round uneven stem here ready to be trimmed. I often start trimming with a hack saw blade held perpendicular to the clay to cut and even up the base, and then move to regular trimming tools. In cases like this I might start with a needle tool first. Every piece has to be evaluated for the best trimming technique to be used, at least for me there is no "one size fits all".

I usually do production with 10-20 chalices at a time, trimming all stems first. Then I trim the bowls on the Griffin Grip, adding the stems immediately after adding magic water and to the trimmed area. I also level thing up by using the wheel turning slowly.

It took me a few tries to get this to work for me, but once I worked through the process, I realized that the tool was much better than other techniques for trimming the tall stems I wanted for the chalices.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Spring and Summer of 2016-Ceramics Monthly project

I have been moderating on Ceramics, in the forums for a few years now, spotting spammers, keeping the peace, and making suggestions or giving comment in areas of my expertise. This summer I was contacted by Forest Gard at Ceramics Monthly to write up an article for something I suggested in the forums about using bats on the wheel. I was really excited about doing this as simple as the whole idea was. At any rate I have been allowed permission to post the article on my blog here.
This appears in the December 2016 issue of Ceramics Monthly.

Spring and Summer of 2016, Revisiting bowls

Batter bowl with rolled rim and strap handle

Strap handle with hot pad stamp decoration

I have been doing bowls for several years now, and really enjoy doing them. However, I have used many of these bowls over the years and found some things about them lacking. I really like batter bowls, and yet never believed my handles to be integrated into the form well enough. They performed well, mixed eggs or batter nicely, and were easy to pour from and clean. The handles even worked well, but just did not seem to fit, more added on. 

Top view showing hot pad stamped decoration on handle

Lately on bowls I have been using a flared rim about 1" to 1 1/2" wide, This rim allows a baking bowl to be lifted out of the oven without having to have a handle. One day I decided to roll the rim down making an indent opposite the spout. Adding a strap handle from there was easy, and I believe the result is quite pleasing as you can see from the photos.

Small bowl with stamped hot pad decoration

Decoration was done by pressing a silicone hot pad against the unshaped bowl cylinder, then shaping without outside support. This also gave the bowl a bit of a looser feel than some of my other work.

Serving Bowl

 I like my bowls with a healthy foot providing stability visibility. The problem with that over the years has been how they work in a dishwasher. If the bowl is trimmed properly, and has a deep foot ring, it is problematic when unloading the dishwasher. You usually get everything wet when unloading if you lift the bowls out before all the rest. The deep foot holds water! This year I started using a brass piece of pipe to cut large arcs in the foot rings of other pots like the funiery urn. It just came natural after liking the look on those to try it on the bowls. Worked well.

Mixing Bowl with stamped hot pad decoration

 For those of you that are interested in throwing bowls, I throw the bowls here with 4, 6, and 8 poinds of clay. Both the batter bowl and small bowl are with 4 poinds. The Mixing bowl is using the 8 lb.  amount, and is quite useful for mixing, and with the rim even for cooking in the oven. The flared rim allows ingredients to be dumped into the bowl catching any oversights. When lifting a bowl out of the oven when hot, the rim allows secure grip without worrying bout sliding out of grip.

Mixing Bowl from above

Spring and Summer of 2016 Buial Urn

Greenware burial urn

 I have been remiss in keeping up with the blog site here, as it seems like there is never enough time in the day. I have been working on several different projects the last two seasons and also attended the NCECA conference in Kansas City in March.

One of the projects that was completed n a hurry was a burial urn for a man that my father had been a guardian/mentor for over the last 30 years. I had never thrown a burial urn before so dove into the internet to get some idea of sizes, possible design ideas, and other specifics that might help me design this man's urn. Some of the concepts I tried to put into it was  that often things get lost in time and that it would be good to have name and date for future reference instead of just an urn with nothing to identify the remains. So I believed that some sort of double lid would be appropriate, with the possibility of sealing one of the lids with glue or caulk. Some of this also came about because of my mother's and sister's search into our family heritage, and some or the problems they had with identifying relatives.

Inner Lid with name and birth date

 I used rubber stamps to add the name on the lid in the center area, and as I did not have stamps for the numbers of a size I wanted to use, these were incised. As you can see the lid fits very closely to the size of the rim. It does have a gallery that fits into the pot, it is not just a cover.

 The lid opening is large enough that the ashes in the plastic bag from the mortuary would fit inside with a little effort. This allowed things to be pretty easy for my father to fill the urn, without a lot of mess. The rim is flat at the top with a slight outer edge that is about an 1/8" wider than the neck. Reasoning for this is that it would allow some caulk around the rim before putting the lid on the pot to seal things in place.

The man spent much of his life outdoors, working on a farm, hunting, hiking and doing other things outside. I believed that it was appropriate for some form of decoration that would suggest something of what he was about. So I used a pine tree motif roller to stamp the pine branches, needles and cones on the side of the cylinder before shaping. I also added a few other decorative lines enhancing the belly, and a bottom foot ring on the jar form.

Glazed Lid

The pot was glazed with a glossy white as a base color along with a rust brown and a rutile green,
The white was dipped, and the other glazes were sprayed on.

This is the completed urn, with the lids in place. I believe that the glaze turned out quite well, and that the pine motif showed up well with the glaze technique. The clay body is 211 Hazelnut Brown cone 6 from Standard Ceramics. This was one of the factors I believe was important to this particular piece as the coloring worked well with the motif and glazes.

When I first began working with the Hazelnut Brown I liked its working and drying characteristics but was frustrated with the dull color I was getting with my glazes. I began experimenting with the use of a white slip, and later a white base glaze over the clay. This made things brighter, and I found that a little sanding off of either the slip or the glaze on the decoration helped to bring these out even more. I have just ordered another ton of clay, and half is the 211.