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Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott




Nathalie Mornu


T hom Gaines




Cindy LaBreacht

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Amber, Shay.
Ceramics for beginners: hand building/ Shay Amber. -- 1st ed.
p. cm.
Inc Iudes index.
ISBN 978-1-60059-243-0 (he-pie with jacket : alk. paper)
1. Pottery craft. I. Title.
TT 920.A44 2008
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Published by Lark Books, A Division of
Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
Text 2008, Shay Amber
Photography 2008, Lark Books unless otherwise specified
11lustrations 2008, Lark Books

Distributed in Canada by Sterling Publishing,

c/o Canadian Manda Group, 165 Dufferin Street
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6K 3H6
Distributed in the United Kingdom by GMC Distribution Services,
Castle Place, 166 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, England BN7 1XU
Distributed in Australia by Capricorn Link (Australia) Pty Ltd.,
This book is dedicated to my

godmother, Lynne Burke, for

P.O. Box 704, Windsor, NSW 2756 Australia

T he written instructions, photographs, designs, patterns, and projects in

her steadfast encouragement,

this volume are intended for the personal use of the reader and may be

love, and support.

reproduced for that purpose only. Any other use, especially commercial use,
is forbidden under law without written permission of the copyright holder.
Every effort has been made to ensure that all the information in this book is
accurate. However, due to differing conditions, tools, and individual skills, the
publisher cannot be responsible for any injuries, losses, and other damages
that may result from the use of the information in this book.
If you have questions or comments about this book, please contact:
Lark Books
67 Broadway
Asheville, NC 28801
Manufactured in China
All rights reserved
ISBN 13: 978-1-60059-243-0
For information about custom editions, special sales, and premium and
corporate purchases, please contact the Ster Iing Special Sales Department
at 800-805-5489 or specialsales@sterlingpub.com.







Project:Tea Bowl


Project: Wafer Vase






Project: Espresso Cup Set


Project: Coiled Bottle






Project: Footed Bowl


Project: Wall Pocket






Project: Geometric Vessel


Project: Carved Lantern






Project: Applique Tile


Project: Bird Sculpture


Project: Nesting Box








Project: Square Plate






















I love the feel of clay between my fi ngers . I t 's s mooth and moist - an
elemental m aterial . I l i ke its receptivity, the way it responds to the slig htest
p ress u re , reta i n i n g m arks and textures . That is why I work with clay,
and why I ' m passionate about shari ng what I know.



i n structions and step-by-step process photos that offer a sim ple, informative, and
inspired look at the u n l i m ited possibilities of forming clay by hand. Hand Building
is the first title i n the new Cera m ics for Begin ners series; I wrote it for those who
wa nt to learn to m a ke s i m ple yet beautiful cera m ic objects .


U n li ke wheel th rowi n g , the h a n d-bui l d i n g

you create. And s i n ce the work of others can serve as

m ethods i n t h i s book req u i re l ittle practice . J u st enjoy

i n spiratio n , each section is acco m pa n ied by a gallery

the feel of clay in you r hands a n d be w i l l i n g to learn

of h a n d-built work by contem porary cera m ists.

as you go. Beca use the basic i nformatio n, tech niques,

Once you have an u n dersta nding of the

and projects i n this book a re organ ized from the

tech n i q u es a n d have developed some skills i n each,

simplest to the most i nvolved, I encourage you to

you ' re poised for creative exploratio n . The a rtistic

work from front to back rather than j u m ping a ro u n d .

i m pulse has a lways existed alongside the need for

Tech n iques demonstrated i n each section b u i l d o n

fu nctional vessels. You can use ha n d-built forms to

t h e s k i l l s a n d knowledge you learned a bout i n

express an amazing a rray of ideas. I include a section

previous sections.

explaining how I bri n g basic design elements

You ' l l learn h ow to choose and use clay, work

pattern, shape, a n d texture-from photos, s ketches,

with the hand tools used by cera m ists, a n d gain

and oth er sources d i rectly i nto the form a n d s u rface

knowledge o n h a n d l ing the equipm ent. You ' l l a l so

of my own work.

find i nformation on setting u p a safe a n d efficient

The creative jou rney doesn't e n d afte r the

workspace. Then it's time to get out a brick of clay

form ing of a p iece; it conti n ues with the decisions

a n d try the s i m plest tech n iq u e : pinch i n g . Steps a n d

you make while decorating, glazing, and firi n g . The

photos wa l k you through the genera l process, then

S u rface Decoration section g ives an overview of

I show you how to create two bea utifu l forms using

some methods for creating visual i nterest on a piece.

j u st this s k i l l . O n e is a tea bowl-included because it

You might i nscribe the clay; d raw l i nes of th i n ner clay

d oesn't req u i re m a k i n g a perfect shape: A traditional

on the s u rface; polish the clay to a rich, deep gleam;

Japa n ese tea bowl s h o u ld have i m perfectio n s . The

or add color a n d depth with g lazes. I provide recipes

other, the Wafer Vase, ta kes the m ethod in an entirely

for glazes and other l i q u id embellishm ents, a n d you ' l l

d ifferent d i rection, showing how little clay wafers, can

discover fascinati n g ways to apply a coati ng as rich

be combined to make a d ra matic piece.

or as pale, as matte or g lossy, as m u ltilayered or

M ore hand-building tech n iq ues fo l low : coiling,

draping slabs, and b u i l d i n g with stiff slabs, with fun
projects related to each . The coil section, for exa m ple,

transpa rent as you l i ke. Fina lly, I include a n overview

of the firing process.
With my simple a n d basic approach to hand

features a set of espresso cups with spira l hand les,

building, you can qu ickly construct both useful

a n d in the slab b u i l d i n g section, I teach you to m a ke

objects and scu l ptu ra l forms, then choose from m any

a Carved La ntern . Another section s h ows how to

decorative methods to m a ke the p ieces u n i q u e . The

sta m p clay a n d turn its i m p rint i nto a n applique you

rewarding, wonderful world of clay has never been

can attach to a ny form, including tiles a n d scu lptu ra l

m ore accessible or easy to u n de rstand. Plunge your

p ieces. You also learn to make you r own sta m ps,

fingers into a h u n k of clay, a n d get ready to d iscover

including one for marking your name on every piece

you r own creative vision.

Choosing and Using Clay

Th is chapter contai n s a rou g h overview of what clay
is and the d ifferent types of clay that are available
to s u it you r need s . Before yo u g et you r hands in
the clay, you should u nd e rstand some of the basics
about the m aterial you w i l l be working with.

a n d inorganic materia ls, so they're

called secondary clays, wh ich a re just
fine for hand building .
Kaol i n is the m ost com mon type
of a p u rer (primary) clay that ceram ists
can find. It's d ifficult to work with
because it's dense a n d nonplastic
(less pliable) . N evertheless, yo u ' l l fi nd
kao lin m ixed into man ufactured clay,
particularly porce lain, because it has a
low s h rinkage rate a n d it's w h ite. There
are l ig hter, more p lastic clays than

w i l l help you choose

the best clay for the form that you 're

i m portantly, how to get clay to work

kao l i n , called ball clays, but ceram ists

for you .

mix them i nto other types of clay since

C lay i s basically a k i n d of pulver

they s h ri n k a lot.
You need some experience

making a n d determ i n e the way that the

ized rock. Cera m i sts who know what to

piece w i l l be e m be l l ished and finished.

look for may just dig it out of the bank

with clay before you go on your own

Although the ceramic process involves

of a river or stream near their studio.

treasure h u nt, because working with

ch e m ical compounds a n d cha n ges,

(Specific locations a re often closely

clay that you dig up involves qu ite a bit

you don't need a science degree to

g uarded secrets . ) The i r troves are

of experimenti n g . You r best course of

understa nd h ow clay wo rks or, more

usually conta m i nated with o rganic

action is to purchase clay until you're





comfortable with all of the processes

that a re part of creati n g a ceramic piece.
Man ufacturers create clay that's
form ulated with specific qua lities for
hand building, a n d proba bly incl ude
helpful information in the packaging. For
example, man ufacturers usually indicate
the clay's firing range (the opti m u m low
to high tem peratures for heating a piece
in a specialty oven, called a kiln, u ntil
the clay particles compress to make a
form that won't d issolve or easily brea k).
The packaging m ay also ind icate what
other ingredients are in the clay, called
additives. These affect the color (see

page 1 0), texture (see page 10), and

You r fi rst step is choosing a suitable clay, because each type has a unique color, consistency,

firing ra nge.

and fi ring range.


It always conta i n s some a m o u n t

this clay because stoneware contains

When you shop, you don't look for a

o f iron oxide, wh ich accou nts for

metals a n d m i nerals that will a lter its

p rimary or secondary clay. I nstead,

its sig n atu re red color. B u t don't be

color from light g ray to dark brown

choose ea rthenware, stonewa re,

s u rp rised if you find w h ite earthen

when fire d .

or porcel a i n . I n a class setting, your

wa re clay. Try it if you wa nt to show

instructor may have all three types

off a bright, tra n slucent glaze (a liquid

stoneware, is d u rable. Yet porcelai n's

ava i lable for you to try because yo u ' l l

that, when applied to a fi red clay pi ece

wh ite, transl ucent a ppeara n ce g ives

have access t o the expertise and

a n d refi red, fuses to the s u rface a n d

it a delicate, pristine sensibil ity. Its

equ ipment to help you succeed.

becomes h a rd a n d g lasslike).

smooth a n d creamy consiste n cy feels

On you r own , it's best to work with


also a secondary clay,


a m ore refined type of

wonderful and a l l ows the clay to pick up

is fi red at a m uch h ig h e r tem pe rature

the slig htest textu ra l d etai l . H owever,

than earthenwa re. Before buying it

its non plastic q u a l ity makes it d ifficult to

p reva lent-a nd commonly used-type

(or porcelain) make s u re that the kiln

work wit h .

of seconda ry clay. The finished piece

you 're using can get hot enoug h . At its

shown at the start of every project in

pea k tem perature of 2200F ( 1 204C),


this book is made from it. Since the

stoneware s h ri n ks a n d becomes nea rly

The firing tem perature can d ra matica lly

firing temperature is low (around 1 940F

nonporous (impervious to wate r) . This

change clay's color. For exa m ple, stone

o r 1 060C), this clay is a n excellent

clay is perfect for making fu nctional

ware clay that's g ray i n the raw state

choice if you 're concerned a bout the

wa re that holds food or drink because

may turn p i n k in the i n itial firing, then

effect that h i g h-fire kilns h ave on the

liquids wo n't seep through the clay

turn dark g ray or even brown after being

environment or you r pocketbook.

wa l l s . There a re many variations of

glaze-fired (see page 1 1 5) .

ea rth enware until you 're esta blished .


is the m ost





G laze can add a new color to you r

clay o r e n hance what's a l ready there.
H owever, the clay that you choose for
you r piece will affect the a ppearance
of the glaze. If you 're u ncertain how a
g laze will look o n a wh ite o r a red clay,
apply the glaze to a sa mple of each
and fire it. If des ired, you can lessen
the effect of your clay on the g laze
by fi rst applyi n g an underglaze (see
page 9 1 ) or a l i q u id water-clay m ixtu re
called slip to the s u rface.

A sand-like material can be mixed into clay for additional texture.


You can create visual texture by

Clay that's formu lated fo r hand building

working burnout m aterials into clay,

ofte n includes grog. This is basica l ly

such as rice and coffee g rounds. When

fi red clay that has been ground i nto

fired, the h eat destroys these add itives

sandlike particles.

so that the s u rface of the fi nished form

You can buy grog separately a n d

is pitte d .

a d d i t to clay, although t h i s isn't a n

easy p rocess (see Clay Preparation
a n d Storage and Recl a i m i n g on page


1 3) . M ost begin ners-a n d many

S o m e very s m a l l pieces c a n d ry

experienced cera m i sts-simply buy clay

natural ly, but larg e r work needs to d ry

with g rog m ixed i nto it.

at a slower pace so it doesn't crack,

G rog comes in different sizes, or

Metals, minerals, and other

ingredients affect the color of
different clay bodies.

warp, or separate. To control the d ryi n g

meshes. The coarser the mesh, the

time, p lace the work u n d e r a thin sheet

m ore texture, or tooth, the clay will

of p lastic. If desired, you can cover

have after the g rog is added. Clays

o n ly the areas that yo u suspect will d ry

conta ining large amou nts of coarse

faster. Punch holes in the plastic if you

g rog a re g reat for creating tiles or large

wa nt the clay to d ry at a faster rate.

sculptural fo rms . On the other h a n d , if

Remove the plastic when the work is

you 're making d i n n e rwa re choose clay

a l m ost com pletely dry.

conta ining fi ner g rog, or no grog at a l l .





Ceramists use special terms to

constantly m on itori n g the piece until it

describe the relative amount of moisture

reaches the desired stage of dryness .

in clay. Any piece you make will go

It's i m portant to be cautious because

through four stages of dryness described

overdoi ng it will cause a piece to

here before you put it in a kiln to be fired.

warp when it's in the kil n . Also, don't


is the most

remoisten a bon e-dry clay form because

malleable state. Fresh out of the bag,

it' l l just dissolve .

moist clay is ideal for constructing

pinched or coi led forms because it's
soft and plia ble. Wet is often used to


describe the material at this stage,

After you m a ke a form a n d let it reach

although some ceramists reserve the

the fragile bon e-dry stage, you place

term for product that has a considerable

it in a kiln a n d fire it to m a ke it hard .

amount of water in it, such as slip. You

This is the bisque firing. Th e piece

can use slip as a glue to join pieces

that you take out of the kiln is called

of clay (see page 59) or for surface

For hand building, moist clay, fresh out of

the bag, is ready for shaping.

bisque ware. Although some glazes

decoration tech n iques (see page 90 a n d

can be applied to g reenware, bisque

9 5 to 96) .

firing is usually needed to prepare

is strong enough to hold

Remoistening Clay

the clay for g laze a p pl ication. This fi rst

its shape, but can still be manipulated.

I magine that you wa nt to cut a hole

firing removes a ny rema i n i n g water

If you tried to make a large piece with

i n a leather-hard clay box. It's possible

and h a rmful gasses that might ruin

moist clay, it could collapse under its own

to d o so, although you run the risk of

the glaze. After you apply the g laze,

weight. Not so with stiff clay. However,

damaging the form as you force you r

fire the piece a second time at a

it's more prone to cracking. Handle and

needle tool t h rough t h e m ateria l . It's

h i g h e r te m perature. This glaze firing

manipulate a stiff-clay form with care.

easier if you first remoisten the clay

perm a n e ntly fuses the g laze to the

to make it softer. Remoistening is also

surface of the bisque piece.



cracks if you try to

bend it. It's the preferred state for clay

necessary wheneve r you need to join

used to construct rigid forms such as

two clay shapes that a re at different

fi red for the first time,

boxes. Th is tech nique, called stiff slab

stages of d ryness. You need to add a

construction (see page 58), is possible

bit of m oisture to the harder form so

it's porous enough to

accept a glaze.

because leather-hard clay pieces sti l l

that the clay pieces are at the same

have enough moisture to b e joined.

stage when joined.


won't get any drier

You can remoisten stiff or leather

un less it's fired. Forms at this stage are

hard clay by spritzing it with water a n d

known as greenware. Place an unfired

then placing it u n der a t h i n plastic sheet.

clay form on your cheek for five seconds.

Th is is a gentle process that requires

If the clay feels cold, there's still moisture

a ginger a ppl ication of water. The last

in it. If the clay is at room temperature,

thing you wa nt to do is wet the work

it's bone dry. You can't bend, shape, or

down a n d walk away from it. I n stead,

join pieces of bone-dry clay.

evenly m ist the clay every 1 5 minutes,

After a clay piece is





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tnartl) CO.PUlllH JUll

Clay i s a t its g reatest volume a t the wet
stage. As it d ries, the water that's in it
evaporates, and the size of the piece
decreases. When the clay is fi red, your
p iece contracts even more. This process

This fi n ished piece i s smaller t h a n

is known as shrinkage. D iffere nt clays

Making a Clay Ruler

shrink at different rates, a n d the higher

Roll a small, 3/s-inch (1 cm) th ick slab

the shape you c u t from t h e m oist

the firi n g temperature, the more the clay

(see page 47) . Use a need le tool to cut

clay, so you can use it to determine

will shri n k . Some clay bodies, such as

it to 2 x 1 2 i n ches (5 . 1 x 30.5 cm), and

the s h ri n kage of the clay. The simple

earthenware, may only shrink 7 percent.

carve exact measurements i nto the

fo rmula, using a n 8-inch-sq uare (20.3

Othe r clays, including porcelain, shrink

clay, using a ru ler as a guide. Let the

cm) piece as a n exa m ple, fol lows.

as much as 1 8 percent.

clay dry until it's bone d ry, and then fire

Yo u need to know a clay's

it at the exact te m perature that you plan

s h rinkage rate when the finished piece

to fire the form you're going to m a ke

m ust be a specific size . Man ufacturers

from the same clay. Apply patina to the

usually provide the s h ri n kage rates

surface (see page 1 1 0) so that you can

for their clays fi red to a specific

read the marks. Fi re the ru ler a second

tem perature. If you m ixed g rog or othe r

time, again to the same te m perature

additives i nto the clay used to m a ke a

you plan to use for the for m .

form, or you plan to fire a clay piece to

Subtract the length o f the finished clay ruler

from the length of the original ruler:

8 inches 7.25 inches= 0.75 inch

(20.3 - 1 8.4 cm= 1 .9 cm)
Divide this result by the length
of the original ruler:

0.75 inch/ 8 inches= 0.09

(1 .9 cm I 20.3 cm= 0.09)
Multiply this result by 100:

Attach the clay ru ler t o a scrap of

0.09 x 1 00 = 9

a d ifferent tem peratu re, you need to

wood that's cut to the same size, using

determine the s h r i n kage rate you rse lf.

epoxy g l u e . Write the type of clay and

I n this exa m ple, the clay's s h ri n kage

You conduct this test with a clay ru ler.

the fi ri n g tem perature on the wood.

rate is 9 percent.

When clay is fired, all moisture is re m oved and the particles are compressed .
Th is process turns the clay i nto a ceramic med i u m . Clay that has gone t h rough a
h igher firing is stronger than the resu lts of a typical lower-tem perature fi rst fi ri n g
for bisque wa re . A porous clay c a n still expand a n d contract, which could cause
the g laze to crack and make it u nsafe for food. If you're making a decorative or
scu l pted p iece, such as the B i rd Sculpture on page 75, you d on't have to worry
about clay's porous nature. Vitrification is the point at wh ich the clay particles have
reached their h ig h est rate of compress ion. This occurs d u ring the final fi ring . The
hard, vitrified clay is dense and i m pervious to water.
Water will leak through porous clay (right), while
c lay fi red to vitrification will hold water (left).
A difference in size is clearly visible in
this bone-dry clay piece (top) and its
fired twin.





Cera m ists wedge clay to loosen i t up,
make sure that it's wel l m ixed, and to
remove a i r bubbles that could make a
form explode when fi red . Experienced
ceram ists a l so use wedging to
i ntrod uce g rog and other add itives to
their clay bodies.
The wedging method described here
is j ust one of several that ceram ists use.
Soft, m oist clay is easier to wedge
than stiff clay. If your clay is sticky, let
it d ry out a bit. Place 8 pounds (3.6 kg)
of clay on a n onstick surface that's at
h i p leve l . Position your body with one
foot poi nted straight a h ead a n d the
As long as it hasn't been fi red, any clay can be crumbled, moistened with water,

other s l ig htly behind, to act as a brace.

and then reused to make an entirely new form.

Form the clay i nto a ba l l . Press you r

body weight i nto the ba l l with one of


your palms. Without re leasing the clay,

Reclaimed clay has a lig ht, plastic

to let the clay d ra i n until it's m oist.

cradle and l ift the front with the other

consistency that lends itself bea utifu lly

Wedge it (as described at top right) .

h a n d . Push the front down i nto the

to pinched o r coi led tech n iques. Clay

Store you r clay where it can be

clay's center. Repeat this process.

should be a bsolutely bone d ry before

kept as moist as possible: away from

it's reclaimed. Th is process creates

extreme heat and d i rect sun light. When

of the a i r bubbles have been removed .

d ust, so it's a good idea to wear a mask

tightly sealed in p lastic bags, the clay

To check for a i r bubbles, cut through

o r respirator.

s h o u l d keep sufficiently moist for a bout

the ce nter of the clay mass with a wire

six months . It's a good idea to mon itor

too l . The exposed s u rfaces should be

p ieces and elimi nate a ny l u m p s . Place

the m oisture content a n d spray the clay

flat and completely smooth .

the clay in a l a rge bucket and fill it with

with water as needed.

F i rst, brea k up the clay i nto small

water until the clay is su bmerged. It' l l

Clay, l i ke wine or cheese, i m p roves

q u ickly a bsorb water a n d turn to m u s h .

with age-if it's stored properly.

At t h i s poi nt, experienced ceram ists

Ceram ists actua l ly encourage mold

m ay add g rog (see page 1 0) . This can

g rowth on clay because it i m p roves

be tricky beca use a n u n balanced ratio

the plasticity. Some cera m ists m ix

of grog can cause cracki ng and other

organic m atter or yog u rt into their clay

structu ra l problems.

to prom ote this mold g rowt h . I n Japan,

Once the water appears to be

You're finis hed wed g i n g when a l l

clay is someti mes dug up, p re pared,

com pletely a bsorbed, place the b ucket

a n d then b u ried again for future

u pside down over a n o l d piece of fa bric

generations to un earth a n d then use.

Wedge reclaimed clay and clay scraps

you plan to reuse.

Getting to Know the Studio

You can enjoy hand b u i l d i n g - an d
p rotect you r health -to a g reater d eg ree
if you r stu d i o is set up appro priately and
you have the right tools and eq u i pment.
Read on to l earn m o re about setting
u p you r work space , the items that you
really need , and th ings that you can
add to a wish l i st .

M ost com m u n ities have ceramic studios
where you can take classes or rent
space and share eq uipment and tools
at a communal studio. These a re g reat
ways to get acq uainted with a studio
while d iscovering your creative direction .
If you decide to set aside a personal
space for hand building in you r home,
consider converting a garage or fin ished
basement to help you keep clay dust a n d
other conta mina nts away from primary
l iving qua rters.
A 1 2 x 1 5-foot (3.6 x 4.5 m) area can
accommodate a workta ble, shelves, a
slab rol ler (see page 20), and a medium
size kil n . To avoid d ust that can wreak

to build a p iece are you r hands,

havoc with clay and glazes, the walls,

a ch u n k of clay, a n d a worktable. Exq u isite ware can emerge

ceiling, and floor need to be smooth and

with l ittle more. Nevertheless, having some tools and a few

easy to wipe down. The floor should be

p ieces of equipment will probably make a ny process more

easy to sweep. Also look for access to

satisfying . It's also i m porta nt to estab l ish good h a bits to

ru nn ing water and good lighting. The

keep you r studio safe.

worktable should be sturdy enough

to withstand significant weight and






A clay studio can be a safe and


Use a

enjoya ble environment if you follow

bucket to collect residue from glazes,

a few preca utions when setti ng it up.

oxide colorants, and other harmful

Read these procedures before you

chemicals. Once you have a couple

start hand building.

of cups of this residue, let it dry


You don't want

com pletely. Make a cera m ic bowl, put

to inhale clay dust. Silica, one of clay's

the residue in it, and fire it to cone

main ingred ients, can cause a l u n g

6 (see page 1 1 7 to learn more about

d isease called silicosis. For cleaner a i r,

pyrometric cones). After firing , you can

install a professional ventilation system .

d ispose of the bowl a n d its contents

I f this isn't a n option, choose a studio

safely, knowing that the materials will

space with windows or doors that you

not leach into the g round.

can open to let fresh a i r circu late.

You can avoid your doctor's office


If you work with

m ore than one type of clay body, clean

by developing habits that keep down

your eq uipment and tools after you use

the d ust in your studio: Clean your

them. Also store moist red and wh ite

workstation at the end of each sessio n .

clay separately.

Wipe down you r tables and eq uipment



with a clean, damp sponge. Sweep the

though most kilns have safety features,

floor with a sweeping compou n d .

they can cause a fire or even an



explosion . An operati ng manual is hardly

read the label on the packaging for

exciting reading, but do take the time

any underglaze, g laze, luster, or other

to go through it. Also, never leave the

material that you plan to use. If the

premises while the kiln is firing. Even

information is skimpy, ask your ceramic

a new kiln can malfunctio n . If you're

supplier for details.

raku or pit firing (see page 1 1 8), make


sure all combustibles (such as leaves or

To avoid tracking d ust through you r

sawdust) a re completely extingu ished

home, designate a pair of shoes for

before leaving the premises.

the studio. Pick a closed-toe style to



protect you r toes. Take these shoes

women should consult with their

off as you exit your studio. Also wear

doctors before working in a clay studio

safety g lasses to protect you r eyes from

if you're expecting, that means you , too.

heat and rad iation as you mon itor the

Supervise chi ldren d u ring a l l ceramic

progress of the firings while looking into


a kil n's peephole .


Do not eat,

drink, or smoke in the studio. Always

wash your hands thoroughly once you're
fi nished workin g .

It's a good idea to label containers, especially

any that hold a medium containing hazard
ous chemicals.




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You can take a q uick glance in any ceramic supply catalog or website to
confirm that there a re many materials, tools, a n d pieces of equipment for
hand building. To help you sort out what you need, here's a l ist of suppl ies
that you ' l l use to create every project in this book. They a ren't mentioned at
the beginning of each project, but you need to have them on hand.

A banding wheel, which i s basica l ly

a lazy Susan on a pedestal, is very
im portant for sculptu ral work. You place

you r clay on it and then develop a l l sides

of the form by turning the wheel.

Buckets and small containers (with lids) can hold slips, glazes, and
other materia ls. N oncorrosive buckets, plastic in particular, a re idea l .

Chamois cloths and small, natural

or synthetic sponges work well for
smoothing and soften ing . S ponges a re
also good for cleaning your tools a n d
work space. Keep o n e handy when
you're worki ng with moist clay so that
you can wipe off any excess that's

A metal ruler, pencil, stir stick, and tape measure

have a wide ra nge of uses. Use the tape m easure to
check the width, length, and depth of cu rved su rfaces.

sticking to you r hands. It's to smooth a

surface when there's clay on you r hands
because clay tends to stick to clay.

The ruler and pencil will help you cut straight edges for
templates (see page 1 1 9) and slabs (see page 47) .

A flexible straightedge gives you a g uide to follow when

cutti ng a straight line along a cu rved s u rface. You can m a ke
one from a long strip of card stock or a man ila folder.






Slip applicators a re bottles or

bulbs that hold liquid and have a
tapered tip for a pplyin g fine lines
of slip, underglaze, and eve n g laze.
Experi ment on a test tile, tabletop,
or paper u ntil you ' re comfortable
using a slip applicator, and always

- ;;.. I.

test the flow before applying it to

Rubber gloves of a ny type will protect

your hands. Always wea r them when

a piece.

working with dangerous dry and liquid

chem icals.

Spray bottles can help you keep clay

m oist. J ust fi l l a bottle with water and

Plastic sheets help you keep clay moist

spritz it on the work in progress or the

a n d control the drying time of a clay

piece that's dryi n g . I ntermittently spritz

a handle or other appendage with water
to ensure it dries at the sa me rate as the

piece. The bags placed over d ry-cleaned

clothes work great because they're large

- -,


rest of the piece.


A wire tool is used to cut a s l ice or

chu n k off a block (also known as a brick)
or large section of clay. You ca n make
your own wire tool by tying a wood
dowel or large washer to each end of
a 1 2-inch length (30.5 cm) of 1 8-gauge
wire. Hold a dowel or washer in each
hand and sim ply pull it through the clay.

...,. Ware boards are flat, m obile work

surfaces. It's a good idea to have

A respirator is essential in any studio.

several, in a variety of sizes.

For you r good health, you m ust wea r it

To make you r own, see page

when working a round a ny dry cera m ic

25. Bats serve the sa me function

che m ical, including clay d ust, even if

as ware boards, and they'll keep a n

your studio has a ve ntilation system . If

object moist while you work on it. They're

you're on a tight budget, a basic dust

smaller and made from wood, plaster, or

mask will suffice. If you find you rself

plastic. Work on a ware board or bat while

spending hours at a time in the studio,

creating a ny of the projects in this book.

invest i n your health: Buy that respirator!

C hoose one that's suitable for the size of

the piece that you're making.

enough to cover most sculptural work .




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At the beg inning of each project, there
a re photos of additional tools you'll
need to collect to m a ke the featured
piece . While you learn wh ich tech n iques
and tools speak to you, pu rchase the
following only as needed . You can often
im provise with common house hold

.Canvas cloths a re helpful for soft slab

objects. For exa m ple, an old fork works

construction . Keep at least four canvas

g reat for scori ng a clay surface.

cloths in your studio so that you can

dedicate one set for use with dark clay
and a nother for light clay. Th is prevents
cross-conta mination of the clays.

.A mitering tool is d ragged along

the edge of a clay slab to create a
45 a n gle. When you cut such a n angle
in the adjacent edges of two separate
slabs, they can be joined with a n
attractive seam (see page 59) .
See page 24 to learn how to make

. Ball stylus tools are perfect for

you r own m itering tool .

d rawing into the clay surface. The tip

makes a wider line than the tip of a
needle tool . Collect several sizes so

.Loop tools are g reat for trimming

you can create a range of line types

or carving away clay, as i n the sg raffito

in your clay.

surface decoration tech nique (see

page 93) . When you build your tool
collection, include several with loops
of va rious sizes.

. Needle tools are used t o cut through

clay. To start, you o n ly need one. This
pencil-like i m plement is great for cutting
na rrow ang les a n d cu rved lines. You may
not need one if you only wa nt to pinch or
coil forms (see pages 26 and 34) .

. Metal hole makers are ava ilable i n

d ifferent diameters . They make perfectly

. Rubber-tipped tools a l l have soft

rou n d holes i n the clay for functional as

flexible tips. With these, you can make

well as decorative purposes. In a pinch,

beautiful organic drawings or add

you can make a hole with a needle tool.

surface detail to m oist clay.


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S T U D I 0

TScoring tools create the toothy

TA rolling pin makes it possible for you

surface needed to join pieces of clay

to hand rol l a clay slab. Find the longest

(see page 59). To cover a large area

one possible so that you can m ake a

q u ickly, opt for the long surface of a

wide slab. Clay sticks to marble so it's

serrated metal rib. When scori ng small

best to use a wooden rol ling pin.

a reas, a wire brush or a kitchen fork

will do the trick.

..& Ribs a re used to shape and smooth

clay wa lls. Metal ribs cause grog (see
page 1 0) to rise to the clay's s u rface,
so they're best used on clay that
conta ins l ittle or no grog. Wooden ribs

T Paintbrushes a re used to a pply

are stiff and strong, to p rovide the most

slip, un derglaze, and glaze . Collect an

resistance when a ltering the shape of

assortment that incl udes the thin nest

a wal l . They leave subtle natural texture

liner brush to much wider ones . For a

on the clay. Rubber ribs come in va rious

smoother, more efficient appl ication,

degrees of flexibil ity. Soft rubber ribs

choose soft, natural bristles that hold a

conform to cu rved a reas. A rigid rubber

lot of liquid. Use a sponge or foam brush

rib has enough strength to shape a wal l

to a pply a wax resist (see page 1 09) .

w h i l e re ndering a smooth surface.




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A scale measures ingredients for ceramic

recipes. Choose one that measures in g rams,
pounds, a n d kilogra ms.

...,_ An electric mixer or blender comes

in handy for mixing slips, washes, a n d

g lazes. I f you get a power drill m ixer
attach ment, select one that's safe for
plastic conta iners.

T A slab roller m a kes flat sh eets of clay, called slabs, to a specific,

even thickness. These pieces a re used in a type of shaping called
slab construction. You can make slabs by hand, but a slab roller is

Wooden modeling tools allow you to

easier and faster, and the results a re impressive. You can see a slab

refine a reas a n d ach ieve greater detai l .

roller in action, and learn how it works, on page 48.

They're helpful reach ing into a reas you

can't access with you r fingers. Metal
dental tools also work wel l .

A wooden paddle gently

alters the s hape of a form
when you tap it aga inst the
surface. With it, you can
eliminate bumps in a wall,
sq uare u p an edge, or help
fuse a sea m . C hoose a
paddle with soft, rounded
edges that can't gouge
the clay.


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From front to back, a white plaster porous

mold, an orange bisque-ti red mold, and a
clear plastic nonporous mold

Clockwise from far left, a rectangular hump mold, a press mold with decorative surf ace,
a bowl-shaped slump mold, and an antique cookie mold used as a sprig mold, with a
molding made from it


You can m a ke the same shape ove r

and over again, or create only one of a
specific sha pe, with a mold. Th is section
describes types of molds, as categorized
by shape and the material they're made
of. Some ceramic supply stores sell
m olds, and you can make your own
using sim ple household shapes (see the
Footed Bowl on page 49) . Cera m ists can
even create their own molds by casting
sha pes with plaster.
If you use a household object,
watch out for undercuts. These a re
angles on a mold that trap clay, making it
im poss ible for the mold to release clay.


allow you to shape a


are lightwe ight,

form by placing clay over the exterior

porous, a n d can be used as both slump

(or convex side). Si nce the outside of

and hump molds. As the name i m p l ies,

your clay form is exposed while it's on

they're just clay that has been hardened

the mold, you can add attach ments like

by firing to the bisque stage.

handles or feet.


a re often used in tile

are the easiest type

to use. They're usua lly made of wood,

production, or for pieces that are flat or

plaster, or unglazed clay. You simply

two-d i mens ional . You press clay into the

place clay onto the mold. The porous

concave surface. Sprig molds are a type

s u rface a bsorbs moisture from the clay,

of press mold .

wh ich allows it to set q uicker than it


a l low you to work

inside pieces while they're on the mold

would on a nonporous surface.


are made of

because clay is placed on the inner,

material such as glass, meta l, or glazed

concave surface. M ost slump and h u m p

clay. Wet clay sticks to these surfaces,

molds a re used to shape soft slabs

first cover the mold with a sheet of

(see page 46) .

plastic to prevent the clay from adhering.




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S T U D I 0

should ideally reside in its own room.

If separate qua rters a ren't an option,
invest in a ventilation system to re move
dangerous fumes.

come in many different

sizes. They're capa ble of firing at high

tem peratures, u p to cone 1 3. These
fuel-burning kilns run on everything
from natural gas or propane to biofuels.
Un like their electric counterpart, gas kilns
a re a ble to perform a reduction firing,
a process that reduces the amount of
oxygen in the kiln's atmosphere to affect


of fuel req u i red, the gas kiln is probably


more suitable for the advanced ceramic

Kilns range from primitive to electric.

the color of some clays and glazes .

Due to its large size and the amount

a rtist who wishes to create the special

effects that can be ach ieved by gas
firing . Many com m u n ity studios offer
classes that g ive the beginner some


experience with this process.

typica l ly consist of a large

Kilns are essential for completing the

a n d offers a clean and efficient firing

ceramic process. They're classified

solution . Shapes and sizes vary. Smaller

chamber (interior) that burns at least a

according to their type of fuel: electric,

ones-about the size of a microwave

cord of wood in a single firing . A firing

gas, wood; or design, such as one of the

a re perfect for firing small pieces or

can take 20 to 30 hours and req u i res

many Japanese-style hand-bu ilt kilns;

g laze tests. Kilns a re also available in

constant monitoring . The anagama, or

or even by process, as for the quick-fire

m odels the size of a refrigerator, or even

cave kiln, is an extremely large type of

method called ra ku.

bigger. Since larger kilns take a while

wood-fueled kiln that sometimes takes

to fi l l with work, sta rt with a small- to

weeks to fire.


offer a wide firing

wooo l<ILNS

ra nge. Once progra mmed, they can

mediu m-size one. That way, you can

practical ly fire themselves-but never

experiment and fire your work more

leave one unattended!

frequently, and you ' l l develop you r skill

..... Tip: If you want to buy a

a n d style m uch more qu ickly.

k i l n , a l so consider purchas i n g

Beginners usually start with a n

electric kiln, wh ich i s used to fire clay to

Si nce electric kilns a re porta ble,

s h e l ves, posts, a n d st i Its so

the bisque stage and a lso to fire g laze

they're also a great solution for the

that you can fit more pieces

coati ngs to maturity. A sta ple in cera m ic

home studio. Reme m ber that clays a n d

i n s i d e and protect them from

stud ios, an electric type is relatively

glazes e m i t potentially toxic gasses

g l aze problems.

econom ical to pu rchase and operate,

when firing, though, so your kiln


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Several of the projects in this book are made
with flat clay shapes that are cut from
slabs. All you need to make a template for
a project a re sheets of ca rdstock (or some
manila folders), a mat kn ife, glue or carbon
paper, and access to a photocopier. Some
templates a re sim ple shapes that you can
d raw with the d imensions provided in the
project instructions, in wh ich case you don't
need a photocopier.
Photocopy the selected te mplates,
wh ich start on page 1 1 9. Sti ll at the
photocopier, enlarge or red uce a l l of them
the sa me amount to create ful l-size shapes

You can make templates out of any

that, when cut from clay a n d assembled,

stiff paper, such as manila folders.

create a form of the desired size. M ake

sure that the templates a ren't so large
that the finished clay piece doesn't fit i n
your kil n .

Place the tem plates o n a clay slab

and distorting the desired shape, so be

that's large enough to accommodate

patient. M a ke several incisions rather

them and then cut them out, using a

than cutting all the way through in one

them o nto cardstock. N ow cut the

needle tool. The press u re of cutting

pass. Sta rt from the outside corner a n d

cardstock to the tem plate sha pes, using

creates resista nce, pote ntially stretching

cut toward the center.

Cut out the photocopies a n d trace

the mat knife . You only need one template

for each shape. The labels and project
instructions tell you the number of clay
sha pes you need to cut with each tem plate.
If you want to be able to reuse the
templates, first apply shellac or spray paint
to m a ke them water resistant.

Use templates to cut shapes

with a confident hand. Spread
your fingers to stabilize the
template when cutting around it.
If you must move your hand to
a new spot on a large template,
don't lift your fingertips off the
surface. Instead, walk your hand
to the new position by bringing
your thumb into the fi ngertips
and then shift the fingers without
moving the thumb.




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You can buy every i m portant tool that you
need for hand b u i l d i n g . Neverth eless,
you can save money by easily making some
you rself. The fol l owing pages explain how to
m a ke a wa re board, m ite ring tool, a n d shims
for a slab ro ller. These will come i n ha ndy
when you 're constructing the projects in th is
book. To make your own sta m ps and wire
cutter see pages 68, 69, a n d 1 7, respectively.

M itering Tool

This is a useful tool if you wa nt to work with stiff slabs to make

square or recta n g u la r forms such as the Nesti ng Box (see page 79)
and Geometric Vessel (see page 60) . When you join sides of slabs, you
want their edges to meet at a 45 a n g l e . D rawing a m itering tool along
a n edge easily creates this angle.
If you have a saw, staple gun, pliers, and wire cutters, you can
m a ke a m ite ring tool with a 5-i nch ( 1 2 . 7 cm) le n gth of 26-ga uge wire
and scrap of wood that's 5 x 2 1h x 3/4 inches ( 1 2 . 7 x 6 . 4 x 1 . 9 cm).
Remove a corner of the wood block with two 1 -i nch (2.5 cm) cuts. M a ke
sure the cuts a re stra ight-a n d perpendicular to the wood edge-so
that they meet to form a 90 angle.

Secure the wire to the wood with some sta ples. M a ke s u re that
you cut off the excess wire so that there a ren't any exposed rough
edges .


S h i m s a re scraps of wood, cut to specific widths, used to space

slab rollers a fixed width apart.
You can create your own set of s h i m s using a saw, drill, and
3/s-i nch ( 1 cm) drill bit. Start by col lecti n g wood pieces i n a variety
of th icknesses. (Wood shops ofte n g ive away small scraps.) Cut
the scraps down to widths ra n g i n g from 2 to 4 i nches (5 to 1 0. 2
cm) wide and 5 inches ( 1 2 . 7 cm) long . Write the th ickness on
each one, and drill a hole i n one end. Stri n g the shims togeth er
o n a length of twine or rope.


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Drywall Ware Boards

M a ny materials, such as wood or plastic, a re used for ware

boards, but d rywa l l is one of the m ost popular surfaces. It's
easy to fi n d at home im provement a n d hardware stores,
and a sta ndard 4 x 8-foot ( 1 . 2 x 2.4 m) sheet, or sectio n , is
inexpensive . If you only need one or two ware boards, ask
a store employee a bout damaged sheets, which a re sold
at a fraction of the cost of a full sheet. S i m ply cut off the
damaged a reas and sa lvage the rest.
Cutti n g drywa l l is very easy with a meta l ru ler a n d mat
kn ife . You j ust place the ru ler on the d rywa l l a n d then draw
the kn ife along the edge of the ru ler two or th ree times to
score the s u rface. You don't have to press hard.
N ow place the drywa l l
..... Tip: Avo i d i n j u ry

on a table with the scored

by cutt i n g away from

mark at the ta ble's edge.

you r body.

Tap with q u ick force along

the scored l ine to make

a clean break thro u g h the plaste r th at's inside the d rywa l l .

Complete the break by cutti n g through the paper coati n g on
the u n de rside. When all sides are cut, cover the exposed
edges with d uct ta pe.


Most Efficient Way of Getting Wareboards from

One Sheet of Drywall

..... Tip: C ut drywa l l far away f rom

any s pace where you work on cl ay.

C l ay work t hat's contami nated with
p l aster (or even p l aster d ust!) w i l l

(2.4 m)



11 (0.3 m) square ware boards

21 x 11/21 {0.6 x 0.5 m) work surface or ware board
21 (0.6 m) square work or drying surface

probably exp l ode d u r i n g the fir i n g .

S T U D I 0


Tec h n iq ue : P i n chi n g
What cou l d be si m pler than
pushing and p u l l i n g on a c h u n k of
clay? Despite the h u m ble nat u re
of this age-old process , cal led

pinching, you can m ake some

amazing forms with it . Ceram ists
often use the same m ethod for
p i nch ing a pot, as d escribed here ,
to c reate a scu l ptural form .

Start by rol l i n g a h a n dful of clay i nto a ball a n d then insert the

thumb of you r dominant hand ha lfway i nto it.

{Set the clay aside to

dry a bit if it's too sticky.) Rotate the ball while it's cu pped i n your othe r
h a n d , a t t h e s a m e time pinch i n g the clay between you r fingers a n d
t h u m b . You wa nt to enlarge t h e center open i n g while t h i n n i n g the clay
to form the wa lls. Pinch ing aro u n d the ball opening sh ifts some of the
clay u pwa rd, as well as thins the sides to create a wa l l .
Th i n the bottom of the form by pinch i ng i t out to the desired width
before the wa l l is too ta l l . Stop th i n n in g when the bottom and wa lls a re
the same th ickness . You can reshape the wa l l s if they distort during t h is
process. N ow pi nch the clay wa l l to make the opening wider. At the
same time, pi nch it u pward to g ive the wal l m ore height.


The type of clay and amount of grog i n it affects the wal l strength .
You don't wa nt it so thin that it collapses. Make s u re that the wa l l is
sm ooth a n d an even width . A small pot does wel l with a 3/s-in ch-th ick
( 1 cm) wal l . If a spot is too t h i n , place a wad of clay on it while the
enti re form is sti l l m oist. Stroke the edges of the patch with your fi ngers
or th u m b to fuse it to the wa l l . Leave the rim a l ittle thicke r until m ost of
the form is fin ished . This prevents it from tea ring or cracking . If desired,
sm ooth the rim with a moistened ch amois cloth .

Project : Tea Bowl

Here 's a p roject that you can approach fearlessly because the fi n i shed form
does n 't have to be perfect . In fact , asym metry is part of this p i ece's charm .
When it comes to the trad ition of tea bowls , i m perfections are enco u rag ed - and
even celebrated - i n the trad itions of the Japanese culture .

I n sert you r th u m b into an orange

size ball of clay. This a m o u nt will

yield a tea bowl th at's 3 i nches (7.6

tal l , narrow tea bowl,

cm) ta l l and has a rim diameter of

use a b l u nt-edged

43/4 inches ( 1 2 . 1 c m ) . Begin rotati ng

wooden mode l i ng tool

a n d pinch ing to shape the wa l l . First

to shape and smooth

focus on open i n g the wa l l by pinching

the i nteri o r.

the clay even ly with you r fingers and

th u m b . Conti n u e pinch i ng until the
wa l l is 112 inch ( 1 . 3 cm) th ick and 2 112
inches (6.4 cm) ta l l . Keep the bottom
1 i n ch (2.5 cm) th ick.


Glaze Preparation

Dipped Ware





..... Tip: If you make a

9' 8

P R O J E C T :



Tu rn the piece upside dow n . Pinch out

the clay at the bottom to form a ring that

has a d ia meter of 2 1/4 i nches (5.7 cm). M a ke

sure that it's centered. This ring forms the
base, or foot, of the tea bow l . Make the foot
as even as poss ible. Place the bowl on a flat
surface to assess the bottom of the foot. If
necessa ry, res hape the foot so that it's flat
a n d rests eve n ly on the ta ble. Tu rn the bowl
right side up. Use you r fingertips and t h u m b
to pinch t h e clay wa l l i n a n u pward m otion,
stretch ing the clay toward the palm of you r
h a n d to create a wide, shal low bowl. Stop
when the wa l l is 3 i nches (76 cm) ta l l .

S mooth the wa l l s a n d rim with your

hands a n d a dampened chamois cloth .

Hold the bowl to ensure it sits comforta bly

in your hands. Place the bowl on a ba nding
wheel, and g ive it a 360 turn to inspect the
shape. F i ne-tune the shape, if needed. Add
surface decoration, g laze, a n d fire as des ired .
The fi n ished bowl shown on page 27 was
coated with a low-fire, o paque wh ite g laze .

A vintage ceramic decal (an image made from

china paints that's transferred onto a glaze-ti red
surface and fired again) is an easy way to add
delicate details to a piece.

Project : Wafer Vase

Th is s i m ple vessel al lows you to beco m e fl uent with
p i n c h i n g by shaping wafers that are su bseq u ently
layered to m ake a fo rm . You ' l l also be fi nessi n g you r

...... Tools

fusing tech n i q u e . U se a slow, method ical approach

Soft ru bber r i b,
N e e d l e tool

so that you can carefully study the piece as yo u

d evelop its shape to the fi n al form.

M a ke a tem plate for a base from

ca rdstock. The finished vase was built

on a 6 x 3 112-inch ( 1 5 . 2 x 8 . 9 cm) ova l .


Making and Using Templates

Underg laze Application





P R O J E C T :



Pinch a wad of clay about the size of a che rry between

you r index finger a n d thumb while rotating it with you r

other h a n d . Conti n u e until you have a wafer-shaped piece

th at's 3/s inch (1 cm) th ick, with the edge tapered to 1/4 i nch
(6 m m ) th ick. M a ke enough wafers to fit the base. Also
m a ke some for the wa l l . Place a l l of the wafers on a wa re
board under a thin plastic s heet. S pritz them with water to
keep them moist, if needed . You can m a ke m ore wafers as
you r piece develops.

Remove the plastic and

place several wafers on

a ware board so that the edges

s l ig htly ove rlap a n d rad iate out. Continue unti l the
overlapped wafers a re slightly l a rger than the base.
While the clay is still m oist, fuse (smooth) the
overlapped edges of the pieces togeth er with your
fingertips. M a ke this slab an even width .

Smooth the slab's surface

with the soft ru bber rib.

Release (l ift) the slab from the ware

board without d isto rting the shape,
and then replace it. Place the
template on top of the slab. Steady
it with you r h a n d . M ove the tip of
the needle tool through the clay,
fol lowing the edge of the template
until the base is cut from the slab.

P R O J E C T :



Place a row of wafers around the perimeter of

the base, overlapping the edges as you position

the m . From the i nterior, smooth the edges togeth er

as you p lace each wafer. Conti n u e adding rows of
wafers i n the same man ner. Always overlap the
wafers' edges the same amount to create an even
patte rn . M a ke sure the edges a re overlapped fa r
enough to make a wa l l that's th ick e n oug h to prevent
the form from col lapsi n g . Stop when the wa l l is the
desired height.

Slide the soft rubber rib over the

i nterior of the vase to smooth the

large a reas. Do this while pressing your

other h a n d on the outside of the wa l l to
match the position of the rib o n the i nterior.
Patch th i n a reas of the wa l l . Pinch out a reas
that a re too th ick. Ideal ly, the wa l l should
be 1/4 to 3/s inch th ick (6 mm to 1 cm). The
finished piece shown on page 29 was
painted with m u ltiple colors of underg laze
(see page 91 ) while at the greenware
stage. O n ce the piece was bisque fired,
a patina (see page 1 1 0) was appl ied usi n g
a meta l l i c black low-fire glaze.

A patina emphasizes the overlapping

edges of the wafers.


P i nched G a l l ery

Thomas Kerrigan
Desert Sunset I V, 2007

1 0 x l 7 X i nches (25.4 x 44.5 cm)

Pinched and slab-b u i lt earthenware;
stains, glazes; e lectric fired
Photo by Wilson Graham

Janis Mars Wunderlich

Portra it of a Puppy, 2006

24 x 1 2 x 1 0 i nches (61 x 30.5 x 25.4 cm)

Earthenware; s l i ps, u nderg laze, glaze;
mu lti-fired in el ectric k i l n
Photo by Jerry Anthony Photography

Alice Ballard
Magnolia Pod, 2000

9 x 1 4 x 8 i nches (22.9 x 35.6 x 20.3 cm)

Hand-bu i It white earthenware;
terra s i g i l lata; electric fired
Photo by artist


Penney Bidwell
Mother, Daugh ter, 2007

H ong-Ling Wee
Dream Stones 11, 2005

Each, 8 x 6 x 5 inches (20.3 x 1 5.2 x 1 2. 7 cm)

Pinched, low-fire clay; s l i ps, stains; mu lti-fired

Each, 2X x 3 x 3 i nches (6.4 x 7.6 x 7 . 6 cm)

Pinched porcelain; colored sl ips, clear g l aze;
electric fi red

Photo by John Bonath

Photo by artist

J i ll Al len
Vitrafeeler, 2007

7 x 1 2 x 5 i nches (1 7 . 8 x 30.5 x 1 2. 7 cm)

Pinched and slab-bui l t earthenware; low-fire
g lazes; e lectric fired; wire added
Photo by artist




Tec h n iq ue : Form i n g Coi ls

Rope l i ke strips of clay, called
coi l s , can be wrapped to
c reate flat or d i m ensional
forms , or used to rei nfo rce
part of a clay p iece. Left
exposed on a form , coils
c reate an org an i c , textured
su rtace that expresses the
pri m itive beauty of the hand
b u ilt form. Use larger coils
for the th icker wal ls that big
forms need . For an average
form , ai m for a 3/s - i n c h d i am eter ( 1 c m) co i l .

A hand-pressed coil can forever hold the

mark your fingers leave on it, even after
the coil is rolled into a shape.

This method involves squeezing the
clay into a long, tapered shape. If hand
building is new to you, you ' l l probably
find this easier than rol l ing a coil (see
page 35).
Start with a handful of clay.
Sq ueeze it i n your hand until it's a roug h
cyl inder.

N ow rotate your hand so

the shaping . Squeeze out and pull the

clay with you r othe r h a n d .


Slide you r

hands u p a n d down the enti re length i n

that you ' re holding the clay vertical ly.

order to keep t h e growi n g coil a n even

I n this position, g ravity will help with

width th roug hout.

T E C H N I Q U E :

F 0 R M I N G

C 0 I L S

This tech n ique usua l ly req u i res a l ittle
p ractice, but once perfected you ' l l be
able to do it with your eyes closed .
Don't use this method simply because

A hand-rolled coil, shown here after

it's wrapped to make a base for a

it's easier. Choose it because the

form, is smoother and more even than

s m ooth coil is most s u itable for the

one that's hand pressed.

form you 're ma king .

I t's best to use the palms of your

Squeeze a h a ndful of clay i nto a

th ick cyl i n d e r. Place the cyl inder on a

hands because they have a bit more

ware board, and position the pa l m of

padding, wh ich a l l ows you to exert

you r hand o n top of the center of the

even pressure for a smoother coi l . You

cyl inder.


Start ro l l i n g with your hand

want to press hard e n ough to force the

in the center; as the coil g rows longer,

cyl inder i nto a longer shape without

use both hands. S h ift them outward

leaving fingerpri nts in the clay.

If the coil does become u n even,

along the coi l 's length as you roll back

and forth to stretch a n d thin the clay
into a coi l .


Don't use your kn uckles;

they' l l make the coil u n eve n .

a pply m ore pressure to the thicker a rea

as you roll it. If the coil becomes flat, tap
it into a rounder shape.


It's m ost l i kely that you'll need more than one coil to make a form . I n this
case, you need to taper the ends of each coil so that they can be overlapped
when a new length is added during the hand build i n g . When overlapping
ends to sta rt a new coil, taper the coil ends to 112 inch long (1.3 cm).
Coils don't have to be the same length . In
fact, it's best to use a variety of le ngths to m a ke
a form because the place where new coils a re
added should n't be adjacent to o n e a nothe r or
line up vertical ly.
If you make a batch of coils, keep them
m oist under a th i n plastic s h eet, on a ware board,

If a coil becomes too

long to handle, cut it

unti l you 're ready to use each one. It's m ost

(or pinch and pull it

important that the coils a re m oist when they're

apart) to create two

appl ied to an em erging form so that they're well

fused to one a n other. If not, the form will fa l l
apart a s it dries.

lengths that you can

easily manage.



Project : Espresso C u p S et
Th is set is a g reat way to d evelop a sense of p roportion
between the c u p and its han d l e and to practice c reating
i dentical forms . You don ' t see the coils that were used
to b u i ld each p i ece because the sides and ends
of each coi l were blended .



wood mod e l i ng
too l , need l e too l ,
scor i ng tool

Make a batch of coils, each o n e with a diameter of 1/4 in ch

(6 m m ) . Ta per both ends of each coi l, a n d keep a l l of them

moist under a thin plastic sheet on a ware board until you're ready
to use them . Roll a 9-i nch-long (22.9 cm) coil i nto a spiral that has
a diameter of 2 i nches (5 c m ) . Th is is the base for the fi rst cup .

..,... Tip: When mak i ng several

round identical forms, measure

the d i ameter of the fi rst base and
make a l l the rest the same s i ze.


Rolling a Coil

Working with Coils





P R 0 J E C T

E S P R E S S 0


Stroke the surface o f the spira l with your th u m b a n d

fi ngertips. Start in the center a n d work out. You shou l d n't be

able to see the sepa rate coils when finished blending the surface.
Release ( l i ft) the base from the wa re board without d i storting the
shape, and turn it over. In the same manner, fuse and smooth the
other side of the spira l . If you inadverte ntly distorted the spiral,
tweak the shape .

Place o n e e n d o f a coil a t the oute r edge o n top of t h e base,

and s m ooth the tapered end to the base . Press the rest

of the coil gently around the perimeter of the base. Conti nue
the coil on top of the fi rst layer. Add more coils-one at a time,
overla pping and fusing the tapered ends. Once a couple of layers
are in p lace, smooth the inside wal l using your in dex finger, while
braci ng the adjacent exte rior with you r oth er h a n d .

Continue a d d i n g coils a n d fusing t h e m u ntil the

vertical wall is 3 i nch es (76 cm) ta l l . Stroke the

inside and outside of the wa l l with a roun d-edged

wooden modeling too l . U se vertical strokes and gentle
pressure to fuse the coils and m a ke a smooth surface.




P R 0 J E C T :

E S P R E S S 0



Sm ooth the upper edge, or l i p, of the cup with your moist

fingers. The lip must be smooth so that it will be com forta ble

against your lips. I f you r clay contains g rog, be careful not to

overwork the surface because this will m a ke the lip rougher. Set
this cup aside under a thin p lastic sh eet, spritzing it with water
(if necessa ry) to keep it m oist. M a ke the remain ing cups.

M a ke a coil 1/4 x 4 inches (6 m m x 1 0 . 2 cm). Ta per

one end and m a ke a small spira l at the oth er end

of the coi l . Measure 1 112 i nches (3.8 cm) from the spira l ,
a n d u s e the needle tool t o c u t off t h e end at a 45 a n g l e .
Shape t h e coil into a n S curve . This is t h e h a n d l e .

Let the sections d ry to the stiff stage. Score

one of the cups a n d the handle where they'll

be attached. Use the slip tra i l i n g appl icator to

a pply slip to all of the scored s u rfaces . Press the
h a n d l e to the cup. Wipe off any excess s l i p, and
smooth the place where the handle meets the
cup. Co m plete the re maining cups. The fi n ished
pieces shown in the photo on page 36 have a
crea my, sem iopaque g laze that highlights the s u btle
textu ra l detail. The finishing touches a re l ow-fi re,
insect-motif decals (images made from china
paints a n d transferred onto a fired g lazed
surface a n d fired again).

The del icate spiral handles acknowledge

the origin of these little forms.


Project : Coi l ed Bottl e

This bottle is fu n to b u i l d because you g rad ually ad d
coi l s . Centering each new coil o n top of the p revious
one will create a straight wal l , but sh ifting the new
co i l i n or out changes the d i rection that the wal l is
g rowin g . To fi nish the piece , these coi ls are ro ughly
blended to create a cru d e yet eleg ant exterior.

Scor i n g too l , fl at-end and rou n d -edged

wood mode l i n g tool, soft rubber r i b,
metal serrated r i b.

Roll out a batch of coils, each o n e with a diameter

of 318 inch ( 1 cm). Taper both ends of every coil, and

keep all of them m oist under a thin plastic sh eet until

you're ready to use them . Ta ke out one coil and wrap
it a round itself to make a spira l . Conti nue adding coils
u ntil the spira l 's diameter is 4 inches ( 1 0 . 2 cm). This
circle is the base. Stroke the surface with your t h u m b
and fi ngertips, starting i n the ce nte r a n d working out.
Lift the base off the ware board without d istorti n g the
shape, and turn it over. In the same m a n n e r, fuse and
smooth the rem a i n i n g side of the spira l .


Working with Coils

Rolling a Coil






P R 0 J E C T :

C 0 I L E D

B 0 T T L E

Press a n d fuse a coil on top of the base's perimeter.

Continue adding coi ls-one at a time-on top of the

fi rst, overlapping the tape red ends. The p lace where n ew

coils a re added shou ldn't l i n e u p vertical ly. This way you
avo id creati ng weak spots. Laye ri n g coils vertica lly in this
manner forms the wa l l of the bottle. Add enough coils to
make the wa ll 3 i nches (76 cm) h i g h .

Fuse together the coils on the i n side of the wa l l by stroking

i n a downward m otion with your index fi nger. You 're apply

ing pressure to the wa l l , so brace the o utside at the same

position with you r other h a n d . Continue adding and fusing coils
u ntil the wa l l is 8 inches (2 0.3 cm) ta l l , wh ich is high enough for
you to sta rt shaping the shoulder (the top, below the neck).

Place the next coil on top of the previous one,

but shift it i n toward the ce nter to na rrow the

wa l l for the start of the shoulder. Conti n u e adding

coils that s h ift i nwa rd. As the opening na rrows,
fuse the coils more freq uently, while you still
have access to the interior of the piece. When the
opening has a 2 112-inch (6.4 cm) diameter, let the
piece dry until this section is at the stiff stage .

...._ Tip: U se a cy l i nder at least

6 i n c hes ( 1 5.2 cm) l o ng to m ake

t he bottle's neck. Select an
approp r i ate d i ameter after you
comp lete the body in step 4, i n
case the o pen i n g i sn 't exact l y
2% i nches (6.4 c m ) across.

P R 0 J E C T :

C 0 I L E D

Wind coils i nto a cyl inder that's 4 inches

( 1 0 . 2 cm) tall a n d has a d ia mete r of 2 112 i nches

(6.4 cm). Fuse the inside with the round-edged

wooden modeling too l . Let the neck d ry to the stiff
stage. Score the bottom of the neck and the top of
the bottle where you ' l l be attach ing th e m .

Apply s l i p to both scored s u rfaces

with a slip appl icator, and press

the neck to the bottle. Remove the

excess slip, and fuse the inside with the
wooden modeling tool. Use your fingers
to fuse a n d smooth the exterior seam
where the n eck joins the tapered bottle
ope n i n g , while bracing the i nterior with
the fingers of you r oppos ite h a n d .

To acce ntuate t h e texture and

rei nforce the a d hesion of the coils,

run yo u r fingers ve rtically over the

exte rior surface. F i re and finish you r
bottle as desired.

When selecting a glaze,

consider one that highlights
the texture of the coiled walls,
such as this green semiopaque glaze.

B 0 T T L E



Coi led Gal l e ry

Jenny Mendes
Birds, 2006

1 8 x 4 x 4 i nches (45. 7 x 1 0.2 x 1 0.2 cm)

Coiled, pinched terra cotta; terra s i g i l latas, g l aze; e lectric fired
Photo by Tom Mills

Debra Fritts
Three Women Praying, 2006

34 x 24 x 24 i nches (86.4 x 6 1 x 6 1 cm)

Hand-built terra cotta; layering s l i ps, oxides,
underglaze, g laze; e lectric fired, multi-fired
Photo by David Gulisano

Edwards Harper
Heavy Handed, 2006

1 6 x 1 0 x 20 i nches (40.6 x 25.4 x 50.8 cm)

Press molded, coiled red earthenware;
found objects; e lectric fired
Photo by Steve Mann


Carol Gentithes
Nosy Be, 2006

Juan Granados
Sprigs, 2002

25 x 1 2 x 20 i nches (63.5 x 30.5 x 50.8 cm)

Hand-bui lt porcelain mix; coi ls, slabs, stains, and
s i l kscreen photo emulsions; electric fired, mu lti-fired

25 x 37X x 7 inches (63.5 x 95.3 x 1 7. 8 cm)

Slab, hand-b u i lt earthenware; g l aze; e lectric fired


Photo by J. 0. Thompson

Photo by Tim Ayers

Lars Westby

Untitled, 2005
40 x 1 8 x 1 8 inches ( 1 0 1 .6 x 45 . 7 x 45.7 cm)
Hand-b u i lt, coiled, and pressed earthenware;
g l azed; e lectric fired
Photo by attist



C 0 I L E D


James Tisdale
Monkey See (Kine tic), 2004

Lisa Clague
In the Nature of Things, 2004

42 x 24 x 24 i nches ( 1 06.7 x 6 1 x 61 cm)

Coi I-bu i It earthenware; electric fired, cone 03; multi-fired g lazes
and underg lazes; found objects

7 5 x 48 x 1 6 i nches ( 1 90 . 5 x 1 2 1 .9 x 40.6 cm)

Coil-b u i lt; metal, g l azes, stains, wax; cone 04

Photo by Chris Za/eksy

l<erry Jameson
Two Sitting Bull Terriers, 2004

1 4Ys x 1 OY4 x 8% i nches (36 x 26 x 22 cm)

Coil-b u i lt g rogged buff; e lectric fired, 1 1 00 F (593C);
sl ips, g laze 1 060F (571 C)
Photo by Howie

Photo by Tom Mills



Wesley L. Smith
Arachnoid, 2000

8 x 1 2 x 26 i nches (20.3 x 30.5 x 66 cm)

Slab- and c o i l-bu i lt white stoneware; e lectric fired, cone 04; g l aze,
l u ster, enamel paint, human hair
Photo by artist

Arthur Gonzalez
The Horizon is Sitting Beside You, 2002

52 x 27 x 1 3 i nches (1 32 x 69 x 33 cm)
Coil-built ceramic; h o rsehair, rope, natural sponge, rabbit's foot,
twine, g l aze, epoxy, gold leaf
Photo by John Wilson White

H olly Wall<er

U nt itled, 2000
9 x 9X x 9X i nches (22.9 x 23.5 x 23.5 cm)
Pinched earthenware c o i l s ; s i n g l e fired cone 04
Photo by Tom Mills

Fran Welch
Pan, 2007

8 x 9 x 3 inches (20.3 x 22.9 x 7.6 cm)

Lisa Clague, white earthenware; slab, coiled, p i nched; h i g h fire
wire; Mason stains, copper wash ; crawl glaze; electric fired;
encaustic, beeswax; steel chain and nails
Photo by Steve Mann



Tec h n iq ue : Ma ki n g Sla bs
Clay is remarkable: stu rdy
after fi ri ng , yet flexible enough
to be d raped l i ke fabric when
wet . Yo u can take advantag e
of these characteristics by
b u i l d i n g strong fu nctional
or d eco rative form s from
flexible sheets of clay, called
soft slabs. To m ake the m ost
effi cient use of you r t i m e and
energ y, use at least a t h i rd of
a brick of clay to m ake a slab.
Th is section d escri bes two


bas ic m ethods for creat i ng

Tossing is the simplest, m ost low-tech method to form a slab. All you

a slab: toss ing (also called

t h rowing ) and rol l i n g .

need a re strong a rms and a flat, non stick work s u rface such as a d rywa l l
ware board (explained o n page 25).
Tossed slabs a re best s u ited fo r the kind of org a n i c forms you get
from h u m p a n d s l u m p molds because the clay particles a re repeatedly
cu rved during the tossi n g . Organic forms a re m ore forg iving of slight
sh ifts i n shape d u ring d rying a n d firin g . I n othe r words, d on't toss a slab if
you 're p la n n in g to build a flat-plane form such as a tile or box.
Start with a sl ice that's no more than a third of a brick: Cut an 8-pound
(3.6 kg) sl ice of clay from a brick with your wire-cutting too l . H old the
ch u n k i n both han ds, and exte n d you r arms until they're straight out at
shoulder level over a nonstick work su rface. (Make s u re that this s u rface

...,_ Tip: A t h i rd of a 25- pound

( 1 1 .3 kg) brick of c l ay y i e l d s a
1 4 x 22- i nch (35.6 x 55.9 c m ) slab
that's 3/s i nch ( 1 c m ) t h ick.
A chunk of c lay can be tossed repeatedly to form
a slab as thick or as thin as you like.

T E C H N I Q U E :



is larger tha n the size that yo u wa nt to


m a ke the slab.) Th row the clay down

This m ethod i s ideal when you wa nt t o m a ke a slab that's a p recise width (but

o nto the surface with a semicircular

not len gth), with an even th ickness throughout. Using a slab roller is the m ost

sweep of you r arms so that it h its the

efficient way to roll clay, but it isn't the only method . If you don't have a slab roller,

work surface with enough force to

yo u can hand rol l . Both m ethods a re described here.

stretch and thin it so mewhat. You can

control the sla b's len gth a n d width by
tu rn ing the piece as you re peat the
tossi n g m otion.
If you need a slab that has
specific d i m e n sions and a n even
th ickness throughout, keep in m ind
that the edges of a tossed slab can be
thin ner. You might wa nt to make the
slab larger than req u i red and then cut
it to the needed measurem ents.
Ofte n , you ' l l need a slab that has
a specific th ickness. Some cera m ists
check the width of a tossed slab with
a needle too l . Sim ply i n se rt the tool
into the clay, place a th u m bnail on the
tool where it meets the clay s u rface,
and then p u l l out the tool with the

The width o f a hand-rolled slab can't exceed the length o f the rolling pin.

t h u m b still i n position . Hold the

needle tool agai nst a ru l e r to check
the d istance from the tip to you r

Hand Rolling

All you need for h a n d rol l i n g a re two

to rest on th e m . Run the rol l i n g pin

lath strips (or na rrow pieces of wood

across the top of the clay. Continue to

that a re the exact same th ickness) a n d

d o this so that the clay thins a bit more

a rolling pin, dowel rod, or piece of PVC

with each pass. Every few passes,

pipe. The width of the strips determines

release the clay from the work surface

the thickness of the final slab.

by picki n g it u p with you r hands and

Place a slice of clay on the wa re

then retu rn ing it to the s u rface. Once

board or oth er nonstick work surface.

you can move the rol l e r across the

Position a lath on each side of the clay.

laths without meeting any resista nce

The laths need to be far enough apart to

from the clay, the slab is the desired

g ive the clay room to spread, but close

th ickness .

enough together fo r the rol l i n g pin ends






Using a Slab Roller

Some slab ro l lers can't be set to create

a slab that's a precise th ickness. Yo u
solve this problem using a shim, which
has a similar function to the wood stri ps
(or laths) employed for hand rol ling (see

Center a slice of clay, very near

the roller bars, on that canvas sheet.


D rape a second s heet of canvas over

the clay, with the leading edge close
to the rollers .

page 24 for instructions to make a set

of s h i m s) . The shim sets the roller bars
Remove the top layer of canva s .

the proper d istance apart to m a ke the


slab the desired th ickness . Let's say

Refer to the next section to learn how

yo u wa nt to m a ke a slab that's 3/s i nch

to sh ift the clay onto a wa re board .

(1 cm) th ick. Place a shim of this width

between the roller ba rs, and then ra ise


or lower the rol lers until the s h i m fits

snugly between them.

Select a ware board that's larger than the

slab, and place it next to the slab. G rasp

Run one piece of canvas through

the leading edge of the canvas, and tug

the ro ller bars until a l ittle of it shows on

on it to pull the slab onto the ware board.

the opposite side.

Keep the slab as flat as possible while

transferring it onto the ware board. Th is
is important because clay has memory: If
you cu rve it during the move it may revert

Tu rn t h e rol l er's rotary handle

clockwise, at the same time pushing
the clay until the roller bars g ra b it.


back to the curved shape during the

d rying or firing process.

Conti nue cra n king the handle until the

clay slab has em e rged from the other
side. Expect the width to increase only
by a couple of i nches (about 5 cm).

U se a large rib to smooth the clay's

s u rface.


Lay a noth er wa re board

that's the same size as the fi rst one on

top of the slab. H old both wa re boards
togeth er, and fl i p them over. Remove
the top ware board and ca nvas to reveal
a perfectly flat slab.


Project : Footed Bowl

It won 't take long fo r yo u to d evelop a feel
for shaping an attractive , wel l - balanced
bowl . I n the meantime , count on the

Look for a kitch e n bowl with a n a ppeal i n g shape

if yo u don't h ave an a p p ropriate s l u m p m o l d .

The bowl doesn't h ave t o have a smooth i nterior

but keep i n m i n d that any texture will tran sfe r onto

s i m ple process explained here to create

the clay. Avo id u s i n g a bowl with a pronounced l i p .

a th i ng of beauty. The secret to su ccess

Place t h e bowl ( o r t h e s l u m p m o l d ) o n a wa re board.

is using a bowl you already own - or a

sl u m p mold -to shape you r soft c lay slab.

I f your chosen bowl is g lass, metal, g lazed clay, or

oth er nonporous material, cover it with a thin p lastic
s h eet. Place a tape
measure flat inside
the fo rm. Measure
the length a n d width
from edge to edge .

_. Tools

Soft r u b ber r i b, compass, need l e tool,

metal ser rated r i b, canvas c l oth


M olds

Remoistening Clay

M oving a Slab





P R 0 J E C T :

F 0 0 T E D

B 0 W L

Roll a slab 3/s inch ( 1 cm) th ick that's wider and longer than the bowl
measurement. The slab needs to be resting on a canvas s heet. U se

the needle tool to cut the slab to the shape of the mold, using the step 1
measurement plus 4 inches ( 1 0.2 cm) for a n ove rha n g . Cradle the ca nvas
a n d slab with yo u r forea rms. Lay the slab, ca nvas side up, over the center
of the mold so that it dra pes i nto the interior. Pull off the canvas. Slide the
soft rubber rib a long the exposed clay s u rface to press it agai nst the mold,
smooth out any wrinkles, and then return the slab to a n even th ickness.

Tip: A 3/s- i nch-t h i c k (1 c m )

s l a b i s g ood for a bowl that has

an 8-i nch d i ameter (20.3 cm) and
i s 5 i nches (1 2.7 cm) deep.

Patch a ny parts of the slab that may have

thin ned (see page 26). Rest the needle tool

on the rim of the mold at a 90 angle. Hold the clay

against the inside of the mold, and s l ide the needle
tool i nward until it pierces through the clay. G l ide
the needle tool around the perimeter of the bowl,
along the ri m , until a l l the excess clay has been
trimmed off. Save the scrap pieces of clay under a
thin p lastic sh eet for use i n step 5.

Let the slab d ry in the mold until it's

leather hard . P lace a ware board on top

of the mold. Hold the ware board a n d the

mold togeth er and fl i p them u pside down .
The clay form will release onto the ware board
so that you can remove the mold. Set the
com pass to half the desired d ia meter of the
bowl's foot. Center the com pass on
the bottom of the bowl and lig htly
sketch a circle . Measure the
circle's circumference with the
measuring ta pe.

P R 0 J E C T :

F 0 0 T E D

B 0 W L

Com bine the m oist clay scraps into a 3/s-inch-th ick ( 1 cm)
slab that can be cut to a width proportionate to t h e bowl's

size a n d the sa me length as the c i rcle's circu mference. The width

of the strip (wh ich will create the height of the foot) needs to
balance the size a n d shape of the bowl. Experiment with the
d i mensions. Place the strip on the bottom of the bowl, shaping
it to the scored circle. M a intaining this shape, p lace the strip
on the ware board. You may need to join more than one strip to
complete the c i rcu mfe rence of the scored circle.

Score o n e len gthwise edge of t h e foot a n d o n the

d rawn circle on the bottom of the bowl, using the

metal serrated rib. Run a line of slip along the scored

clay with a slip appl icator, a n d press the pieces togeth er.
Wipe off any excess s l i p . Roll two thin coils. Apply one
to the ins ide sea m , where the foot meets the bottom of
the bowl, a n d another to the outside sea m . B lend the
coils to rei nforce the sea m .

Tu rn the bowl right side u p . Th e rim i s a n intrinsic part of

the function of a bow l . It should be s m ooth a n d inviti n g , not

coarse or sha rp-edged. S l ide a damp chamois cloth a round the rim
to refine the edg e. Place the bowl on the banding wheel or lazy
Susan, and g ive it a 360 turn to assess the bowl's balance a n d
composition. Make a n y a dj ustme nts, remoiste ning t h e piece, if
needed. Decorate and fi re the piece as desired.
Th e finished bowl shown on page 49 was
pai nted with a generous appl ication of
white s l i p while leather hard. The rim and
foot were decorated a n d, once bisqued,
the bowl was coated with a golden
tra nsparent g laze and then refi red .

The rim was loosely brushed

with black underglaze prior
to glazing.



Project : Wal l Poc ket

A h u m p m o ld can help you form a clay s lab to a
specific shape . This process i s m uch s i m pler than
you m ight expect because a soft-clay slab is so
flexi b l e . The only chal lenge is d eal i n g with areas
where portions of the slab overlap . The sol ution is
p resented in the steps for t h is p roject .
..... Tools

N eed l e too l , scor i n g too l ,

r i g i d r u bber r i b, ro u n d -edged
wood mode l i ng too l , h o l e
maker, metal ser rated r i b

Measure t h e width of

..... Tip: You a l s o

the h u m p mold from

need a n oval s l u m p

edge to edge a n d calcu late

mold (or su itable

half that length . Add 2

alternative) to make

i nches ( 5 . 1 cm) to both the

t h i s bowl.

width and length. Roll out a

114-inch-thick (6 m m ) slab that's twice this size. Use
the needle tool to cut the slab i n half. One h a lf is fo r
the front (or face) of the pocket, a n d the rem a i n i n g
piece is for t h e back. For t h e t i m e b e i n g , set aside
the back piece. Spritz it with water, if necessa ry, a n d
cover i t with a thin p lastic sh eet to keep i t moist until
you 're ready to work on it.

The wooden
mold used for
the ti nished wall
pocket shown here
measures 9 x 21

inches (22.9 x 53.3 x

5.1 cm).

' l'il ' ' 1 1''' '"I'"


M olds

M oving a Slab

Stamp Appliq u e





'..l f

P R 0 J E C T :


P 0 C K E T

Elevate the mold with coddles

(two sou p cans a re s u itable) to

give you access to the u nderside.

Drape the clay shape fo r the
pocket's face over the mold. Use
your hands to push the clay flat
against the sides of the m o l d . Make
a lengthwise cut with the needle
tool a couple of i nches from the end
of the mold to the end of the clay.

Fol d o n e e n d of the cut side of the clay

over the othe r. Press the edges of the

overlapped clay fl ush against the mold. Cut

through both layers of the clay at the bottom of
the m o l d . Gently reach under the cut edges a n d
pull o u t t h e extra laye r o f clay that's closest to
the m o l d on both sides of the cut edge.

Rough u p both sides of the cut edge with a scoring too l .

Use the slip a p pl icator to apply s l i p to one edge. Press

the cut edges togeth er and then wipe off the excess slip.
Press a 3/s-i nch-diameter (9.5 mm) coil to the outside of the
seam, and then stroke it to smooth a n d blend (fuse) it into the
su rface.



P R 0 J E C T


P 0 C K E T

Cut off the excess clay around

the edges of the mold. M easure

from the bottom of the form u p to the

desired position for the wa l l pocket's
ri m . Make two ma rks with a needle
tool , about 2 inches ( 5 . 1 cm) apart
for the rim. Align one long side of a
flexible straig htedge with the ma rks
and across the form . Use this edge as
your guide to cut the rim with
the needle too l .

.,.,. Tip: I f d e s i red, a p p l y stamp a p p l i q u e (see page 7 1 ) o r

other d ecorat ion t o your w a l I pocket now. T h e m o l d h o l d s

t h e form fi r m l y a n d keeps i t f rom g ett i n g d i storted.

Remove the plastic sheet on the

re main ing slab, and place it next to the

clay shape that's sti ll on the m o l d . Let both

sections d ry to the leather-ha rd stage, and then
rem ove the clay face from the mold. Center
the face on the flat slab. Using a needle too l,
trace the face's perim eter wherever clay meets
clay. Place a stra ightedge at the rim, a n d d raw
across the flat slab from edge to edge.

P R 0 J E C T


P 0 C K E T

Lift off the face a n d cut through the slab along the drawn
lines. Set aside the excess slab under a thin plastic s heet.

Keep the back on the wa re board so that it stays flat. Score the
back and the face where the shapes will meet. Add slip to the
scored a rea on the bottom , and press the two shapes togethe r.
Rei nforce this seam on both the inside a n d outside with a coil,
blending the outside coil with a rigid rubber rib and using the
rou n d-edged wooden tool to s m ooth the coil placed a long the
inside of the seam .

.... Tip: You can attach a moist c l ay co i l to a stiff

or l eather- h a rd p i ece despite t h e i r d iffe rent stages

of d ryness, as long as the area to be rei nforced i s
s m a l l a n d t h e co i l i s thorou g h l y fused to t h e form.

Once the seam is fused and strong, carefully lift the piece from the
ware board. Place it facedown on a soft s u rface so that you can access

the back without d istorting the form. Use a hole m a ke r or needle tool to cut
a 3/a-i nch-d iameter (9 .5 m m ) hole in the center of the back, 1 1/2 i nches (3.8
cm) from the top. Th is hole accom modates a screw for h a n g i ng the finis h ed
piece . Place the p iece faceu p on the ware board to help the back d ry flat.

C u t o u t a recta ngle of clay t o t h e depth of the face's opening at the

center. Let this bridge dry to the leather-ha rd stage. Ta per one of the

long edges. This bridge s upports the face while it dries. M a ke s u re the
clay bridge is at the same level of dryness; it must d ry at the same rate
as the wa l l pocket so they w i l l shrink togethe r. Remove the bridge once
the piece is bone dry. Consider how you 're going to use the wa l l pocket:
If it will be used to hold a flower a rrangement, the
interior should be glazed so it can hold water.

Stamp applique can add

beautiful definition to the
rim without distracting
attention from the overall
form. Choose a design
that's appropriate for the
size of the form.



S la b- Bu i lt Ga l l ery

Fran Welch
Red(lower Dream, 2007

1 5 x 6 x 3Y2 i n c hes ( 3 8 . 1 x 1 5 .2 x 8.9 cm)

Slab, pinched, and coiled white earthenware and Clag ue's Clay
sculptural body; h i gh-temp wi re and nails, metal found objects; un
derg laze, Mason stains; electric fired; encaustic and oils, post-fire
Photo by Steve Mann

Sue Tirrell
Persian Rider, 2004

2 1 x 2 1 x 1 0 i nches (53.3 x 53.3 x 25.4 cm)

Slab-bu i It earthenware; el ectric fired, cone 04;
slip, terra s i g i l lata, g lazes, underg lazes, luster
Photo by artist

Sandi Pierantozzi
Salt & Pepper Set, 2006

5 x 7 x 3 inches ( 1 2.7 x 1 7. 8 x 7.6 cm)

Slab-b u i lt porcelai n ; satin g laze; e lectric fi red
Photo by artist



Liz Z l ot Summerfield
Creamer and Sugar Set, 2007

3 x 6 x 2 Y2 inches (7.6 x 1 5.2 x 6.4 cm)

Hand-bui It earthenware; te rra sig i I lata, g laze, under
g laze luster; e lectric fired
Photo by artist

Sandi P ierantozzi
Canister Set, 2006

Largest, 6 x 5 x 4 i nches ( 1 5.2 x 1 2. 7 x 1 0.2 cm)

Slab-built porcelain; satin g l aze; electric fired
Photo by artist

Aaron Calvert
Ray Stone, 2003

4 x 6 x 2 inches ( 1 0.2 x 1 5.2 x 5 . 1 cm)

Slab-constructed earthenware; g lazes, enamel;
electric fired
Photo by artist



Tech n i q ue : Sla b Bu i l d i n g
Slab construction i s al l
about j o i n i n g the shapes to
m ake boxes and other rig id ,
p red o m i n antly geometric ,
form s . A co m m o n way of
worki ng with soft s labs i s
d rapi n g th e m over a form
u nt i l the clay is fi rm . The
con structio n of stiff s lab
fo rms , on the other han d ,
beg i n s with flat shapes
that are cut fro m clay, d ried
slig htly, and then asse m b l ed
l i ke pieces of woo d .

Cut out sh a pes from the slabs using tem plates a n d a

needle too l .

a Carefu l ly pull away a ny scrap pieces of

the slab. O n ly the shapes remain on the wa re board .

Sandwich the shapes between two d rywa l l wa re boards
until the clay reaches the stiff stage. The ware boa rds
prevent the shapes from wa rpi n g while they d ry.

T E C H N I Q U E :



Edges that will b e joined to m a ke a 9Q angle fi rst need to be cut at

a 45 angle. This is easy with a m itering tool : Just sta rt the tool at
one end of an edge and drag it along the length of the edge.

fJ The

wire will cut a perfect a ng l e . Save the rem n a nts from the m itered
edges-with the a n gles a n d lengths i ntact-u nder a thin plastic
sheet to keep them at their c u rrent stage of d ryness . You will use
them later to reinforce the seams.

Stiff a n d leather-hard clay pieces can't be fused togethe r

with you r fi ngers a n d t h u m b , a s you do with m o ist clay.
I n stead, you seam the pieces by scori n g the clay

EJ and

a pplying a slip to essentia l ly g l ue the pieces together. If

you have trouble scoring a l o n g the edge of a shape, slide
it to the edge of the ware board for better accessibil ity.
Any sha pes not being used should be stored under a thin
plastic sheet to reta i n the moisture conte nt.

Apply slip to the scored surfaces with a pai ntbrush or s l i p appl icator.


To attach two prepared shapes, bring the bottom edge of a wal l

toward t h e fo rm 's base shape a t a 45 a n g l e . I t's a good idea to let the
base rest on a ba n d i n g wheel o r lazy Susan d u ring assem bly. Th is lets
you turn the work without to uch i n g the form more than necessa ry.
(Handling shapes as l ittle as possible ensures they stay straight.)
N ow raise the wa l l to its final, vertical position . All vertical
sections should be joined to the base i n this way, to uch ing
fi rst the base a n d then a n adjoin ing wa l l . Don't wipe off the
excess slip inside the joined corner.

Before adding the last wa l l , rei nforce each joined edge, or sea m ,
with the m itered scraps you set aside earlier. Press the scrap
to the interior of the corner. The 90 a ng l e of the m ite red scrap
fits perfectly i nto the seam. Stroke the attached scrap with your
fingertip or the rubber rib tool to smooth the sea m .




Project : G eom etr i c V essel

Stiff slab construction is s i m i lar to worki ng with flexible pieces
of wood . Both are rig i d , but the clay can sti l l be m a n i pu late d , if
n eeded . Yo u ' l l beg i n to u nd e rstand this characteristic of stiff slabs
when you hand l e and join the shapes for this vessel . At the same
t i m e , this p roject s h ows you how to construct an elegant form .

To o l s

Metal r u l e r, need l e tool,

m itering tool, wood - h and l e scor i n g
too l , r i g i d rubber r i b, pad d l e


Making Slabs

Moving a Slab

Geometric Vessel templates



Make the Wa l l a n d Base templates from

card stock.

P R 0 J E C T

G E 0 M E T R I C



R o l l a slab 1/4 inch ( 6 m m ) th ick that measures

28 x 1 8 i nch es ( 7 1 . 1 x 45. 7 cm). Position it on a

ware board. Cut out four Wa lls and a Base from the
m oist slab using the needle too l . Sa ndwich the shapes
between two ware boards and let them d ry to a stiff
stage. Try n ot to bend the shapes if you handle t h e m .

M iter all four sides o f t h e Base, a s

we l l as t h e sides and bottom edges

Tip: Hand l e these

of the Wa lls at 45 angles. Leave the

st iff slab shapes as

top edges of the Wa lls square . Save the

l ittle as poss i b l e to

rem n a nts from the m ite red edges for

ensure that t h ey stay

use in a later step . Score the m itered

stra i g ht.

ang les with a scoring tool .

Place the Base on a small ware board a n d then place both on a banding
wheel or lazy Susan, if available. U se the slip appl icator to apply a small

a m ount of s l i p to the scored edges of the Base . Using too much s l i p could
create excessive moisture and weaken the structure of the p iece. Apply slip to
the scored edges of one of the Wa lls. Holding this Wa l l at a 45 angle, bring its
bottom edge toward the Base to meet one of its m itered edges.

Lift the Wa l l i nto its final vertical position. Apply slip to the
m itered edges of a nothe r Wa l l shape, and place it agai nst

the Base at an edge adjacent to the one with the attached Wa l l .

Tip t h e new Wa l l u p , a l lowing t h e ve rtical edge to touch the
adjoin ing Wa l l . All Wa l l sections should be joined to the Base
this way. Wipe a ny excess slip off the exte rior of the form , but
let s l i p ooze out of the inside of the sea m s .


P R 0 J E C T

G E 0 M E T R I C


Before attach ing the last Wa l l , push the entire length

of a m itered scrap into one of the corners of the

developing for m . Th e 90 a n g l e of the m itered scrap fits

perfectly into the sea m . Rei nforce the other corner the sa me
way. Attach the back Wa l l with s l i p and also rei nforce the
remain ing corn ers with the m ite red scraps.

Tu rning t h e structure as you g o, paddle the Wa l l s

t o m a ke a n y necessary adj u stments t o t h e s h a p e .

Strike t h e o utside of t h e s e a m w h i l e b racing the inside

with you r hand. Paddling a llows you to adj u st the shape
of a form, rei nforce seams, a n d square u p the edges.

Sm ooth the surfaces with you r fi ngers and a rigid ru bber

rib. Soften the rim with a moist chamois clot h . The finished

vessel shown on page 60 was painted with white s l i p . The

design was applied with a slip tra i l i n g appl icator and
then fi red .

After it was bisque fired, the entire form

was dipped in a green transparent glaze
and then fired again.


Project : Carved La ntern

A lantern creates a beautifu l am b ience for both indoor
and outdoor sett i n g s . You can e n h ance the effect
created by the can d l el ig ht placed i n side the form by
cutting shapes out of the wal ls d u ring the b u i l d i n g
p rocess . The i n structio n s for t h is lantern
include g u idance to make
a fitted , rem ovable l i d .

.A Tools:
Need l e tool, m it e r i n g tool,
metal s errated r i b, r i g i d
rubber r i b, pad d l e, loop tool,
rubber-t i pped tool

M a ke the Base, Wa l l , and Roof

tem plates from cardstock,

enlarging or red ucing them to a size

suitable for your des ired p iece .


Remoistening Clay

Making Slabs

Carved Lantern templates





P R 0 J E C T :



Roll a slab 1/4 i nch (6 mm) thick a n d large enough

to accom m odate the size of the te m plates. This

slab will be thinner so that the negative shapes will

be easier to cut. Place the tem plates on the slab, and
use the needle tool to cut out the shapes. Yo u need
th ree Wa lls, one Base, and three Roof shapes .

...,_ Tip: You may need more than one s l a b

i f you su bstant i a l l y i n c rease the s i ze of

the t e m p l ates to make a l arge l antern.

Sandwich the sections between two ware boards

until they dry to the leather-ha rd stage. M iter a l l

t h e edges of t h e Base with 45 a n gles. M iter t h e side

and bottom edges of the Wa l l s as well (leave the top
edges square). M iter the sides of the Roof shapes
(leave the bottom edges square ) . Save the re m n a nts
from the m itered edges for use i n a later ste p.

Score a l l the m itered edges with a serrated rib. Cover

the Roof shapes with a thin plastic s h eet, a n d set

them aside. Place the Base on a bat or small ware board,

and set them both on a ba nding wheel. Use the slip
applicator to a p ply slip to all the scored edges of the Base
and Wa lls. Attach two Walls to the Base a n d to each other,
as described in steps 3 and 4 of the Geo m etric Vessel
project (see page 60) .

P R 0 J E C T :



Before attach i n g the final Wa l l , re inforce a l l of the

sea ms with the m itered scraps saved in step 2 .

Square u p the a n g les of the joined Wa lls by ta pping them

with the paddle, while using your hand to brace the
opposite side of the form. S mooth the surface even more
with you r fingers or the rigid rubber rib, if needed. While
stil l on the bat or ware board, cover the piece with a thin
plastic sheet to keep it moist, a n d set it aside.

Apply s l i p to t h e scored edges of t h e Roof shapes. Leave

one shape flat on a ware board and attach a Roof shape

to each side, rei nforcing the seams with the m itered scraps
as you do the assem bly. Once the two sections are attached,
apply the rem a i n i n g section and re i nforce this last sea m .
Place the Roof o n the wa re board, a n d adjust the a n g les with
a paddle, if needed. S m ooth the surface and edges with the
rigid ru bber rib, if needed .

Ta ke the p lastic off the assembled Base a n d Wa lls, a n d

place t h e asse mbled roof on top of t h e for m . G ive the form

a 360 turn to make s u re the roof is on stra ight. Use the needle
tool to m a rk inside each corner of the roof where the roof
meets the tops of the Wa l l s . The mark is for a flange, wh ich is a
s m a l l attach ment that sta bil izes the roof's position on the Wa l l s .

Remove t h e roof, a n d m easure u p 1 1h inches ( 3 . 8 cm) from t h e m a rk,

toward the poi nted top. M a rk this new position in a l l th ree corners.

You 're going to place the finished flange just a bove th is mark. Roll a coil
4 i n ches ( 1 0 . 2 cm) long with a 1/s-i nch (3 mm) d ia meter, and form it into a
spira l . Pinch the spira l into a tria ngle. M a ke two more tria n g u l a r flanges so
you have one for each corner. Let them d ry to the stiff stag e .



P R 0 J E C T :



Use the serrated rib to score o n e flat side of each flange

and the a reas inside the roof where they'll be attached. Add

a small a m o u n t of slip to the scored a reas on the flanges. Press

the flanges on the roof. Place the roof back on the fo rm, making
s u re the flanges hold it evenly on top of the Wa lls. If necessa ry,
sh ift the position of one o r a l l of the fla nges.


Eve n ly remoisten both the roof a n d the lantern when they

fit perfectly together. N ow wait until they reach the stiff-slab

stage i n a bout a n hour, depending on the relative h u m id ity in your

studio. Once the clay is rem oistened, use the needle tool to d raw
a design for the negative spaces on the exterior of the Wa lls. U s i n g
t h e loop and needle tools and starti n g at t h e corners, c u t o u t the
shapes. Make several strokes along each design line, until you have
cut completely t h rough the clay Wa l l .


Let the piece d ry to the leather-hard stage after you cut out a l l
of t h e shapes. With t h e l i d sti l l i n p lace, clean up a n d smooth

the exterior cut edges with a ru bber-ti pped too l . Remove the lid once
the p iece is nea rly bone d ry, and clean the inside of the la ntern before
bisque firing . G laze the i n side of the la ntern wh ere the candle will sit.
If a ny candle wax spills, it' l l be easier to remove from a g lazed surface.
As with any lidded form, fire the lantern with the lid i n place so that the
sections shrink togethe r. This will insure a perfect fit .

..... Tip: B r i n g an o utdoor l a ntern

i n s i d e when tem peratu res are

be low freez i ng. At mospher ic
moist u re that's trapped in a porous
c l ay body wi 1 1 expand as the p i ece
freezes and may crack the c l ay.

A stonelike matte glaze accents

the slip-trailed design of the
finished lantern.


S la b- Bu i lt Ga l l ery

Chris Theiss
Dummy, 2006

Slab-built earthenware; sg raffito,

vitreous s l i p; electric fi red
Photo by artist

Tae-H oon l<im

Picnic Outward into Space, 2007

34 x 1 8 x 7 inches (86.4 x 45.7 x 1 7. 8 cm)

Hand-bu ilt stoneware and porcel a i n ; g l aze; gas fired
Photo by artist

Myung - J i n l<im
Birdcage Jar, 2007

1 8 x 1 2% x 1 2Y2 inches (45. 7 x 31 .8 x 31 . 8 cm)

Hand- b u i lt porcel a i n ; underg laze, clear g laze
Photo by Tony Cunha


Tec h n iq ue : Maki n g a n d
Usi n g Sta m ps
Stam ps al l ow anyo n e - of
any ski l l leve l -to d evelop the
most creative s u rface d esi g n s .
Stam p i n g is i ncred i bly easy
because m oist clay read ily
accepts the i m pression of
any texture . Whatever yo u r
aesth etic, you ' re bou n d t o fi nd
or create a stamp with textu re
o r a m otif that wlll s u it the form
you want to m ake .


suitable qualities

for a found-object sta m p , how to make

several types of sta m ps, a n d describes
the sta m p applique process.


go on a treas u re h u nt for objects that can

be used as sta m ps . You can find texture in nature as s u btle as tree bark
or as d istinct as a leaf or seas h el l . Look for potential sta mps in jewel ry,
mech a n ical parts, or even a ca rved arch itectural deta i l . Once you sta rt
looking, you'll see texture on objects you 've never noticed before .
Recessed o r carved areas in the finished sta m p will m a ke ra ised a reas
in the clay surface . If an object has a porous surface, such as unfi n ished
wood, ung lazed clay, or p laster, you can impress it d i rectly i nto clay. If
an object has a s u rface that's metal, plastic, g lass, glazed clay, or oth er
non porous m aterial, the clay might stick to that materi a l . You can sti l l use
these objects if you b rush a light d usting of cornstarch, wh ich acts as a
resist m e d i u m , on the sta m p 's s u rface . (Cornstarch residue b u rn s out d u ri n g
t h e f i r i n g p rocess .) Whatever yo u decide to u s e , just m a ke sure that the
surface doesn't have a ny undercuts (see page 2 1 ) .

T E C H N I Q U E :

M a king sta m ps i s a g reat way to util ize t h e scraps of clay that rem a i n
when you cut a shape from a s l a b that's a t least 3/s inch ( 1 cm) th ick.
For a one-of-a-kind sta mp, sim ply d raw a freehand design di rectly
onto the scra p . Use a needle tool for incising the lines in the clay.
Anoth er o ption is to transfer a n existi ng drawing or copyright-free
image. Fi rst, lay it over the clay. Then use a ball styl us to trace over the
design l i nes, a pplying enough pressure to leave im pressions in the clay.
Letters in a design need to be drawn backwards in the clay. This is
easier if yo u make a paper pattern that can be placed on top of the clay
and then traced. Start by using a black ma rker to write as you normally
would on a piece of paper. Place the paper, wrong side u p, on the clay
to see the backward letters that you incise in the clay.
To finish the sta m p, you ' l l need a needle tool, carving tools,
a scoring tool, a n d s l i p . D raw the image i nto the clay with a ba l l
styl us,

and then accentuate t h e tracing by cutting out b its of clay

with the loop and oth er carving tools.

Choose tools that m a ke wider

and deeper l ines than you wa nt for the finished piece, to com pensate
for the shrinkage that happens as the clay sta m p dries a n d is fired.
Va ry the depth or width of you r carving to make inte resti ng designs or
textu res.
Cut a nothe r slab scrap that's slightly large r than the etched piece.
Let both d ry until they're leather hard. Score the back of the etched
shape a n d one side of the plain scrap. Apply s l i p onto the scored
surface of the sta mp,

a n d press them togethe r. Th e plain backe r slab

g ives the sta m p additional strength. After bisque firing, all that tedious
work will pay off with d ozens of identical sta mped i m press ions.







T E C H N I Q U E :





A sta m p can help you leave a u n iq u e a n d
permanent mark, l i ke a pai nter's signature, on every
p iece that you m a ke. This personal identification is
called a chop mark. You in cise i n itials or a small sym bol
i nto a wad of clay that was rolled into a short, th ick coil
with a diameter that's wide enough to acco m modate the mark.
C ut the clay wad to 3 inches (7.6 cm) long so it's comforta ble to hold. Make one
end sm ooth and eve n , to accept you r mark. Make this m a rk a bit larger than des ired
to a l low for shrinkage d u ri n g d rying .

If the carving tool leaves a cru m b ly residue,

o r bu rr, wait u ntil the p iece is bone d ry before b ru s h i n g it off. B isque fire the stam p ,
a n d it' l l b e ready to use.


Once a tra i l of hot g l u e has d ried o n a wood s u rface, you can use the piece to
leave bea utifu l impressions i n clay. All you need is a hot-g l u e g u n and one o r
more g l u e sticks, a scra p of wood with o n e flat s u rface, some sandpaper, a n d a
permanent felt m a rker.
Wipe off a ny dust on the wood scrap, scuff the flat surface with the
sandpaper, and then d raw your design on the s u rface with the ma rker.
Trace over the d rawing with a tra il of g l u e from the hot-g l u e g u n .


very caref u l ; the hot glue and the g u n tip a re extremely hot . ( Keep a small bowl
of water nea rby so that you can douse a finger if hot g l u e lands on it.) Achieve
additional i nteresti ng texture with tendril-l i ke stri ngs that a re left when you
release the trigger and draw the g l u e g u n away from the sta m p . The hot g l u e
d ries as soon as it h a s cooled off. At t h i s point yo u ' re ready to stam p with it.


Always score the area where you will apply the stamp applique.


Yo u can a p ply a sta m p to a m oist clay slab, cut the sta m ped image
from the slab, and then a pp ly this shape to your form. This is ca lled a
sta m p applique.
For this p rocess, gather your stam p , needle tool, and serrated rib
or wire scori ng tools, a n d some slip.
It's best to make the applique with thin slab scraps; 1/s i nch
(3 m m ) is suitable. Once you 've made a l l the stam p i m pressions,
cut a round the sta mps to create interesting shapes. Bevel the edges
with a needle tool to g ive them a tapered look.

If you ' re concerned

about distorting the impressed design, harden it by lightly heating the

s u rface with a h eat g u n or hair dryer. This will prese rve the deta i l of
the sta m ped desig n .
N ow arra nge the applique pieces on the form. Use a metal rib to
shave down the appliques if they're too th ick.

When you 're happy

with the com position, l ig htly mark their placement on the form with
a need le tool .

M a ke sure that a l l t h e pieces a re the same level of

d ryness . Rem oisten, if necessary (see page 1 1 ) .

I f the applique and form a re a t the leather-ha rd stage, score the
matched s u rfaces and apply a small a m o unt of slip to the scored area
of the sta m p applique. If you 're working with large applique pieces,
press from the center out to remove a ny a ir pockets .
If excess s l i p oozes o ut, remove it with a poi nted edge of a
ru bber-ti pped tool . Press down all of the edges to hide them a n d give
the a p plique a more refi ned look.







Project : Ap pl i q u e T i l e
A s i m p l e , flat t i l e is a perfect s u rface for experi menting
with stamps . The m ost challenging part of this process
is keeping the t i l e flat . U se a clay body that contai n s a
large amount of g rog . A c lay of t h i s consistency goes a
long way toward e l i m i nati n g warp i n g .


Need l e tool, fl at-end loop tool,

r i g i d rubber r i b, w i re scor i n g
tool, metal se rrated r i b, poi ntedged rubber-t i pped tool

Make a sta m p fo r the s u rface decoration

on this p iece . Cut a 5 x 8-i nch ( 1 2 . 7 x 20.3

cm) tem plate from card stock. Roll a slab 3/s inch
th ick ( 1 cm) a n d large enough for the n u m ber of
tiles you wa nt to make . While the slab is moist
and sti l l on the wa re board, use the tem plate
a n d needle tool to cut one or m ore tile shapes
from the slab. Set aside the scraps under a thin
plastic sh eet to keep them m oist.

Tip: A th ick t i l e is less l i ke l y to warp

d u ri ng d ry i ng and fi r i n g .


Making and Using Tem plates

Making Slabs

Stamp Appl iq u e




P R 0 J E C T :



Tip: If your t i l es need to be a

specifi c fi n i s h ed s i ze, use a c l ay

r u l e r (see page 1 2) to calc u l ate the
s h r i n kage rate of you r c l ay body.

Measure 2 i nches (5. 1 cm) down from the top edge.

With the tile's bottom edge closest to you, start pressing

down into the clay with the flat-e nd loop tool. When you 're
ha lfway through the depth of the tile, push the tool forward
toward the opposite edge of the ti l e . S lowly ease the tool out
of the tile, at the same time pulling out the excess clay.

Tip: A lways work with t h e t i l e fl at

on t h e ware board unti I it's leat h e r

h a r d , to p revent it from warping.

Swipe the large ru bber rib across the recess to

rem ove a ny ra ised a reas of displaced clay to m a ke

the back of the tile flat. While the clay is still mo ist,
smooth the outer edges with your fingers or a soft rib
too l . Use a second wa re board to flip the tile rig ht side
up. Refine the front edges. Cover the tile with a thin
plastic s h eet, a n d set it aside for the time being.

Toss the slab scraps until they're 1/s i nch (3

m m ) th ick. Sta m p the surface and then cut

out some s ha pes, to m a ke sta m p appliq ues

that you ' l l apply to the s u rface of the tile. Ta ke
the p lastic off the tile and a rra nge the applique
pieces on it. Lightly mark their placement on
the tile with the needle too l .



P R O J E C T :



If necessary, remoisten the tile or sta m p

appliq ues s o that a l l of the p ieces a re at the

same stage of dryness (either stiff or leather h a rd ) .

Use a wire scori ng tool t o score t h e back of the
appliques and the front of the tile at the places they'll
be matched. B ru s h a small a mount of slip on the back
of each applique, a n d place it on the tile. If you 're
working with large appliques, use you r fingers to
press from the center out to remove any a i r pockets .
Ta ke care not to damage the i m print on the s u rface.

If excess slip oozes o ut, rem ove it with a

point-edged rubber-ti pped too l . With you r

fingertips, press down to h ide the cut edges a n d

g ive t h e a p p l i q u e a refi ned a ppearance. Leave the
ti le flat on the ware board until it's bone d ry.

A semiopaque, low-fire cobalt blue glaze looks

especially good on a red c lay body because the
glaze pools in the recessed areas and thins on the
raised areas, highlighting the textured design on
the stamp applique.


Project : Bird Sc u l pture

The trick for creating successfu l sc u l pted pieces that wo n 't col lapse
d u ring form ing or fi ring is using newspaper armature s . These act as
temporary sup ports when scu l pti ng . They remain encased i n the clay
wh i le yo u work, and b u rn out l ater d u ri n g the fi ring p rocess .

Too l s

N ewspaper, m as k i n g tape,
need l e too l , metal serrated r i b,
soft rubber-ti pped tool


Making and Using Tem plates

Making Slabs

Stamp Appliq u e





P R 0 J E C T :



M a ke or buy one or more sta mps for the wings a n d tail feathers. Make
the Body a n d Base tem plates from cardstock, e n larging or red ucing them

to a size suitable for you r desired piece. Roll a slab to a th ickness of 1/4 inch
(6 m m ) and a le n gth a n d width that will a ccommodate the te m plates. Cut
one Body and one Base from the clay slab. Store the clay shapes and scraps
under a thin plastic s heet u ntil you ' re ready to use them .

Crumple a sheet of newspaper re peated ly to

relax the fibers. Smooth out the sh eet, a n d roll

it i nto a na rrow ova l with tapered ends. Make the

d i a m eter n o m ore than half the Body's width a n d
three-quarters of the Body's length. Tape the edges to
prevent the shape from u n rol l i n g . This is the a rmatu re .

Tip: Make armat u res f rom soft

n ewspaper so that the cru m p l ed textu re

won 't gouge the c l ay that's app l i ed .

Place the armature on t h e Body, closer

to the fat end (the bird 's neck). Wrap the

Body around the a rmature to make a cone

shape. Mark whe re the pi eces ove rla p . Open
the Body, a n d score the match ing s u rfaces
with the se rrated rib. Apply slip to the scored
areas, a n d press them together. Stroke the
edges until they're fused . Continue joining
the edges until the clay tota l ly e n cases the
newspaper. If necessary, stroke the ends
until both a re poi nted . The thickest part of the
shape is closer to one end. Let the Body d ry
to the stiff-clay stage.

P R O J E C T :



.,... Tip: P l ace drying s c u l pted shapes o n

a soft s u rface, s u c h a s a sheet of foam, to

prevent the m o i st c l ay from sagg i n g and
i nstead conform i ng to the shape of the fl at
s u rface it's rest i n g on.

Form the Base i nto a cyl inder with overlapped

edges. Score the matched edges, and apply

slip on the scored a rea s . Stroke the edges to fuse

them together. Let this piece dry to stiff-slab stage.

Place the Body on the Base. Lightly m a rk the area

on the bird's u nderside wh ere it will be attached to

the Base, using the needle too l . Remove the Body, and
score the top of the Base and the Body area j ust inside
the marks. Apply slip to the Base, and fuse the two
pieces togethe r. Roll a coil long enough to wra p around
the top of the Base and make the diameter 1/4 i n ch
(6 m m ) th ick. While the Base is sti l l m oist, d ra g your
index finger vertically through the coil. Add a n other
coil around the bottom of the Base to add stabil ity a n d
decorative continu ity.

Ro l l a ba l l of clay the size of a golf ball.

Pinch it i nto a round bowl to start the head.

Leave the bottom 112 inch ( 1 . 3 cm) th ick. Pinch

out the bea k with the excess clay at the bottom
of the bowl. Elongate the o pe n i ng to create
a neck, a n d widen it enough to s l i p over the
short, tapered end of the Body. Place the head
on the Body. If necessa ry, cut and taper the
ope n i n g of the head to ensure a snug fit over
the Body.



P R 0 J E C T :



Aga i n place the head on the Body. Lig htly mark the a rea
where they overlap, using the needle tool . Remove the

head, a n d score both of the matched areas. Apply s l i p on the

inside of the neck. Place the head over the Body, and gently
fuse them together. Use a soft ru bber-ti pped tool to carve
the eyes a n d oth e r deta ils. Use the needle tool to pierce a
small hole i n a n inconspicuous p lace to release trapped a i r
inside t h e Body and h e a d . A i r m ust be a b l e to esca pe d u ri n g
firing or the form w i l l explode.

Toss the clay slab scraps to 1/s i nch (3 m m ) th ick and sta m p
them with suitable motifs for tail feathers. C u t out feather

shapes from the sta m p designs. Experi m e nt with d ifferent sizes

to find one that a ppeals to you . Cut the edges at a severe a n gle
using the needle too l . This undercut g ives the edges a t h i n n er, more
refined a ppearance. Score a n d s l i p the feath ers and the Body at the
positions the p ieces will be joined. Apply the feathers, curving them
to the Body. S i nce these thin a p pendages can be easily broken off,
o n ly extend them 2 or 3 i nches ( 5 . 1 or 7. 6 cm) past the Body.

Sta m p more of the thin slab scraps for the wings. Cut two
free-form wings from the sta m ped scraps. F i n ish these sta m p

appliques with undercut edg es, and a pp ly them to the b i rd 's Body i n
the same way that you attached the tail feathe rs .

The fi n i shed bird was decorated with underglazes

while in the greenware state. A patina solution and
decorative glazes were applied for the fi nal fi ring.


Project : N esti n g Box

Th is box p roject is both scu l pt u ral and fu nctional . I t 's a
l i d d ed form with a b i rd h a n d le on to p . Th is p iece is
made with leather- h ard s labs that are scored and
joi ned with s l i p ped seam s . The b i rd i s scu l pted with
the p i n c h i n g tech n i q u e . Stam p appliq ues are
the fi n is h i n g touch .

Too l s

Need l e too l , m itering

too l , serrated r i b too l ,
po i nted r u bber-ti pped
too l , pad d l e

Make or buy two recta ngular sta m ps : one should be

na rrow and the other should be wide (see step 7 ) .

You a l s o need a circular medall ion sta m p . M a ke t h e Base,

Front and Back Wa l l , Side Wall, and Roof tem plates from
cardstock, fi rst e n l a rg i n g or reducing them to a size suitable
for you r desired piece . Roll a slab 1/4 inch (6 m m ) th ick that's
an a ppropriate length a n d width for the temp lates you've
made. Place the slab on a large ware boa rd.


Pinch ing Forms

Slab B u ilding

Nesting Box templates





P R 0 J E C T :


B 0 X

Place the templates on the moist slab a n d cut out

the shapes, using the needle tool . You need one Base

shape and two of a l l the rest. Carefully remove the excess

clay a rou nd the sha pes, a n d store these scraps under a thin
plastic sheet to keep them m oist fo r use in step 7. Place
anothe r ware board on top of the shapes, and let them d ry
until they're leather hard. Use the m itering tool to cut a l l
of the edges o n t h e Base, Front and Back Wa lls, a n d Roof
shapes to a 45 angle. Also cut this a n g l e on a l l but one
upper edge of both of the Side Wa l l s . Store the m itered
scraps under a thin plastic sheet.

Place a small wa re board on a banding wheel, and put the

clay Base on top of it. Score all of the edges on the shapes

using the serrated rib tool . Attach the bottom of a Front and Back
Wa l l to the Base edge to edge, fi rst a pplying a small a m ount of
s l i p on both of the match ing, scored edges. Wipe off the excess
slip only on the outside of the sea m s . I n the same manner, attach
t h e Side Walls to the Base a n d fi rst Wal l . Press a m itered strip
i nto each corner to reinforce the sea m s . You don't need to score
and slip this scrap.

Attach the rem a i n i ng Front and Back Wal l to the

developing form, again scori ng the edges and

using slip in each sea m . Rei nforce the interior of those

remain ing seams with more of the scraps. Tu rn the
banding wheel to in spect the entire structu re. Trim the
top edges if they a ren't even and leve l . Score, a pply
slip, a n d then place the Roof sections on the top edges
of the Wa lls.

P R 0 J E C T :


B 0 X

Tap the paddle around the form if the shape n eeds

to be adjusted . Air trapped inside the box will

s u p port the form while you 're using the paddle on it.
Pad d l i ng is a g reat way to reinforce seams because the
force compresses the clay particles together. Tu rn the
piece on the banding wheel to inspect all the angles.
Conti n u e to make adj ustme nts as needed.

Decide where you wa nt to cut t h e top o f t h e form to make

a lid. U sing the needle too l , sketch a line around the fo rm.

When you draw this line, include a key (a u n i q u e shape to

indicate the lid's correct orientation on the box). The line is the
gu ide for c utting the lid. Score the l i n e seve ral tim es, g radually
cutti n g completely t h rough the clay. If the clay is too h a rd to cut,
remoisten it (see page 1 1 ). Carefully remove the lid, a n d rei nforce
..,.. Ti p: P i eces of a form that s h o u l d fit

the seams fo r the roof using scraps that you set aside ea rlier.

together when dry must be kept together as

t h ey dry and s h r i n k to ensure a snug fit.

Place the lid back on the box . Use the slab scraps set
aside in step 2 to make long sta m p appliq ues for a l l

of the edges. Create these strips i n m a nageable sections,

match ing their edges so that you have a sea m l ess design
when you p lace them end to end on the box. M a ke a
medal l ion applique. Score the edges of the box and the back
of the sta m p appliques, a n d apply s l i p on the scored surface
of the applique pieces . Press the pieces to the box, gently
shaping them around the angles. Situate the medallion on
the center of the lid.

..,.. T i p : U s e stam ps that are i n proport i o n t o

the overa l l s i z e of the box; decorat ions s h o u l d

accentuate the form w ithout dom i nat i n g it.

Use a wider design for

the border around the
Base to g ive the piece a
sense of solid structure
and visual weight.



P R 0 J E C T :


B 0 X

Shape a slab scrap into a wad

of clay the size of a small p l u m .

Pi nch i t into a n i nverted, elongated, a n d

somewhat fattened tria ngle. Round off
one end to form the h ead of a b i rd . At
that rou nded end, pinch a s m a l l cone to
form the bea k . This is the sta rt of the
bird that's positioned on top of the box
as a handle.

Pinch the opposite end to form the tail feathers

a n d then pinch the bottom of the i nverted

tria ngle to form a skirt for the Base of the bird form .
M a ke it s u bstantial e n o u g h to create a fa i r a m o u nt of
s u rface a rea fo r attach ing the bird handle to the box .
Use the poi nted rubber-tip-edged tool to add eyes,
feather markings, a n d oth er details.


When the handle is leather hard, place it on the lid. U se

the needle tool to lightly mark the a rea o n the roof wh ere

the h a n d l e will be attache d . Score a n d s l i p both a reas, a n d press

them togeth er. Rei nforce this fused area with a small rolled coil,
a n d blend it smooth. The finished box shown o n page 79 was
bisque fi red, then the entire piece was
sta i n ed and g iven a patina with a n
oxide was h . Then i t was fired a
second time.

Narrative drawings were

inscribed into the featured
form when it was leather hard.
When the piece was bone dry,
the drawings were painted
with underglaze.


Sta m ped G a l lery

Lynn Fisher
Tureen, 2007

1 7 x 1 2 x 1 1 i nches (43 . 2 x 30.5 x 2 7 . 9 cm)

S l ab-bu ilt stoneware; cone 9-1 0, oxidation;
i m p ressed bu rdock leaves
Photo by artist

Jennifer A. Everett
Tile, 2006

3 x 3 x % inches (7.6 x 706 x 1 cm)

Extruded stoneware; gas fired i n reduction, cone 1 O;
stamped decoration
Photo by artist

Barbara l<nutson
Oval Pedestal Bowl with Handles, 2001

9 x 7 x 1 6 i nches (22.9 x 1 7 .8 x 40.6 cm)

Slab-bu i lt white stoneware; hol low hand les; pressed;
rolled dots; bisque cone 06; g laze cone 1 0 reduction
Photo by Tim Barnwell




Jonathan N icl<low
Valerie N icl<low
Destination, 2006

8 x 8 x % i nches (20.3 x 20.3 x 1 .9 cm)

Slab-ro l l ed l ow-fire wh ite clay; e lectric fired, cone 04; relief
s c u l pture, stamped elements, o i l paint, tar and varn ish
Photo by artist

Rachel Berg

U nt itled,


5X x 4X x 3 inches ( 1 4 x 1 1 .4 x 7 . 6 cm)
Wheel-thrown and hand-bu i It stoneware; soda
fired, cone 1 O; impressed designs
Photo by artist

l<risten l<ieffer
Rectangular Tile Forms: Cake, Bijou, and Circlet, 2007
Franl< James Fisher
Milk Pitcher, 2005

1 OX x 3X x 6 i nches (26.7 x 8.9 x 1 5.2 cm)

Slab-built porcelain; raku fi red
Photo by artist

Each, 8 x 5 x 1 X inches (20.3 x 1 2. 7 x 3.8 cm)

Hand-bui lt, slab construction, mid-range porcelain: stamped,
carved, and s l i p decoration; m u ltiple g lazes; electric fired
Photo by artist



Maggie Mae Beyeler

Ca 'd'oro, 2007

6 x 6 x o/1 6 inches ( 1 5.2 x 1 5.2 x 0.8 cm)

Slab-ro l l e d wh ite stoneware; electric fired,
cone 6; laser toner image transfer, cone
04; matte g reen/bronze g laze, underg laze
stamped text
Photo by Margot Geist

Lana Wilson
Ceramic Book with Moveable Pages, 2003

8 x 1 0 x 3 i nches (20.3 x 25.4 x 7.6 cm)

White stoneware; hand- b u i lt slab; stamped, d ry
g laze mixtures with two g laze fi rings; e lectric fired
Photo by artist

Kathryn Finnerty
Oval Teapot, 2001

6X x 9 i nches ( 1 6 . 5 x 22.9 cm)

Slab construction with raised-l ine rel i ef; white
s l i p over terra cotta; cone 04
Photo by Tom Rohr


I nsp irat ion

D i scoveri n g a tec h n i q u e and then expressi n g it i n c l ay is the
start of an exciting jou rney i n ceram ics . Yet , after absorb i n g
the bas ics , yo u may fi nd that you want m o re . . . m o re text u re ,
m o re color, m o re than j u st a basic form . H e re 's what
to do when you reach that point.

You find you rself gazing at an amazing p iece in a

s h ow a n d t h i n k, "Where did that idea come from ? "
And you don't have to go fa r to fi nd a ceram ist who
says of a form or s u rface decoration, " It just came
to m e ." Some people have a knack for creati ng
innovative ha nd-built forms, textu re, and painte rly
effects. The resu lts can be magica l . B ut the process
isn't. Artists-either consciously or instinctively
learn to use inspiration to tap i nto their creativity.
You can do t h e s a m e .

Clay tiles have a good

area for exploring surf ace


applications. Here,
they're used to play

Th ere's a very old sayi ng that l uck is when preparation

m eets opportu n ity. The same can be said for creativity:
O nce you 've learned a tech n ique, you can create
o pportun ities that will help you tap into your creativity so
that you can develop work that's u n iq u e and inte resting .
Pick a favorite item, a sunflower for exa m ple, a n d
consider ways that you c a n u s e a tech n i q u e t o i nterpret
this flower. If you ' re having trou ble getti ng started, m a ke a
list of a l l the tech n iques that you enjoy. N ow consider how
each one can be appl ied to that ite m . For a sunflower, you
m ig ht pinch petal shapes that can be attached to a slab
b u i lt form . O r you could pluck a peta l, press it i nto a clay
surface, a n d accentuate the subtle texture with a patina
(see page 1 1 0).

with glazes and colors

that frame and enhance
vintage bird decals.


Don't worry about

the quality of your
drawing. You don't
have to focus on
creating a beautiful

When you see a n i nteresti ng image, cut it out a n d tape i t into
a notebook. Better yet, try sketch i n g it. You r goal is to gain
a n u n dersta nding of the shape of the s u bject, its color or
va riatio ns i n colors, and the s u rface textu re. This knowledge
leads to intelligent decisions a bout types of clay, construction
tech n iques, a n d s u rface decoratio n for a piece based on that
You can see this p rocess of studyi ng a form a n d then
interpreti n g it in a ceramic form in the sketch book and clay box.
N ote h ow the waterco l ors i n the sketch book capture the goat's
neck extension, the shape of the head, a n d the position of the
eyes. Paying atte ntion to these details a n d having the sketches
to refere n ce led to the whimsical creature on top of the box .
(Th is piece is part of a series that includes the Nesti ng Box
project on page 79. As you work on the projects in this book,
consider how you can m a ke them your own . )


Ta ke a bit of time to look around you r
environment a n d t h i n k a bout your life.
What a re you r passions? Are you d rawn
to color or textu re ? For some people,
identifying their favorite textu res, colors,
and passions is d iffi cult. You may find
you r answers in a n afte rnoon or over a
month or two. You may even need to
work with clay for q u ite some time u ntil,
one day, you d iscover that a trend or
theme has been e m e rg i n g all along .
Developing a piece that expresses
a concept you care about isn't always
easy, but many have fou n d success
with free association. Try putting your
concept or idea on paper and then
jot down oth er ideas, words, and
images that come to mind. Some ideas

A series of self-portraits in clay inevitably led to more pinched pieces that express love for
the family pets. These forms were painted with underglaze and slip while in the greenware
state. A patina solution was applied at the bisque stage, and then they were fired again.

translate i nto a color; red is frequently

associated with anger, for exa m p l e .
Some shapes are un iversa l sym bols,


such as a dove for peace. Other shapes

Another way to exp lore a theme is to take a look at you r past works. Yo u may find

m ay have sym bolism only fo r you but,

yourself returning again and again to the same shape or g laze . N ow that yo u ' re

once created in clay, the meaning will

aware of this trend, you can continue to develop it, pushing the appl ication and

become a pparent to others. Don't stop

m ateria ls in a d iffe rent d i rection with each new form . You r m ost successfu l piece

you rself from writi n g down a crazy idea

could be very d ifferent from the earlier ones. To someone outside this process,

th at's form ing, because it might lead

you somewhere interesti n g .
Eventua l ly, a n image will
em erg e . Once you

who sees only the one you l i ke the most, you 've created magic.
Yo u can mull over ideas, but insp iration rea l ly ta kes off
when you take action. I n oth er words, stop thinking,
g ra b a hunk of clay, and g o play !

have a tangi ble

form in m ind, you
can start working
with you r clay.

Identify commonalities in past

works, such as a love for yellow
glaze and birds, and then use the
subject, color, materials, texture,
or theme as continued inspiration.


Tec h n iq ue : S urface D ecoration

This section introd uces you to m aterials that
can be appl ied to g reenware . Later i n t h i s


same chapter, yo u can learn how to u s e these


m aterials fo r seven wel l - known tec h n i q ues:


sg raffito , i n l ay, slip brushwork, s l i p trai l i n g ,


u n d erg l aze (see pages 90 to 99) .




















stenc i l i n g , b u rn is h i n g , and painting with




you have the

opportu n ity to enha nce a form . Yo u 've probably

h eard a bout adding g laze to a form when it reaches
the g ree nware stage (see page 1 1 ) . Yet there are
othe r m ateria ls a n d tech niques that you can apply

before-or i n place of-glazing .

It's easy to become captivated by any of the
mate ria ls a n d tech n iq ues that are i ntroduced here.
If this happens, it won't be hard

for you to track down entire

books about s u rface decoration,
which can guide yo u r f u rther

8 0 010 0

. .

exploratio n .




' '

00 0.0. 0Expand your repertoire with,

top to bottom, burnishing,
stenciling, sgraffito, under
glaze painting, i n lay, slip trail
ing, and slip brushwork.


T E C H N I Q U E :


D E C 0 R AT I 0 N

S l ip, engobe, terra sigil lata, and
u n d erg laze, which a re all explained in
this section, a re kind of like a cera m ist's
paint box. When used with o n e or m o re
classic surface treatment tech n i q ues,
they can g ive you r piece a u n i q u e look
and feel . Before you start using a ny
of these mate rials, it's a good idea to
develop a basic understa nding of them,
so you can choose the one that can best
e n hance your piece.

Slip and engobe recipes begin with a white base, to which colorants, such as natural oxides
or manufactured Mason stains, are added.


a re, essential ly,

thinned down clay. Yo u use one or the

to bisque (but ta ke care applying it to

a smoother, more even fin ish . Use a

the fragile stage of g reenwa re).

th icker s l i p to show confident brush

Both s l i ps and engobes can be

strokes .

other to color a piece, add texture, or act

u sed for sgraffito, i n l ay, slip tra i l i n g ,

as a gro u n d fo r a decorative tech n iq u e .

ste nci l i n g , a n d textu re brushwork,

to a matte fi n ish, similar to bare bisque

E n go bes, wh ich contain less clay than

techniques that a re expla ined on

wa re. If you wa nted a shiny finish, fi rst

slip, can be applied to clay at m any

pages 90 to 97 S l ips a n d engobes a re

fire the appl ied s l i p or engobe, then

stages of d ryness, including bisque

a l so used in a functional way. Some

a pply a temperatu re-compatible clear

ware in some cases. Slips, on the other

tra nsparent g lazes look rath er m u rky on

g laze after taking the piece out of t h e

hand, a re usually a p plied to a leather

a dark clay body. A wh ite background

kiln, and fi re t h e piece yet again.

hard s u rface .

of slip, a p plied first, a l lows the vibrant

Since various clays shrink and fire at

d ifferent rates, the s l i p or engobe should
be chemically compatible with the clay
used to make the form .

Traditional slips a n d engobes fi re

Be aware that applying a

colors of a tra nsparent g laze to show

n oncom pati ble slip o r engobe often

true on the wa re.

yields d isastrous resu lts. If you put a

The method you use to a pply the

low-fire s l i p on a h ig h-fire clay body,

m ateria l-with a brush, for exa m ple

you ' l l end u p with a soupy mess.

W h i l e most s l i p form u lations a re

will be apparent after fi ring . Va ry the

Alternatively, firing a h i g h-fire slip on a

appl ied to leather-hard wa re, some work

consiste n cy of the slip or engobe to

low-fire clay body will proba bly cause

wel l at any stage of d ryness, from m oist

tweak the look. A t h i n n e r slip yields

the slip to crack off.



D E C 0 R AT I 0 N

Terra sigil lata, the middle

layer in this jar, is a slip
made of ti ne c lay particles.
The top and bottom layers
are discarded.


is a type of slip that

contains only the fin est particles of clay.

M ost often used to ach ieve a deep satin
finish by burnishing (see page 98), it can

it's sometimes applied on top of a n

also be appl ied a n d fired fo r a soft waxy

opaque base g laze; majolica decoration

surface .

is a good exa m ple of this treatment.

Terra sigillata is made by

o r brushing it on (see pages 1 1 1 a n d

U n derg laze c a n b e used on a ny type of

com b i n i n g clay a n d water, then adding

1 1 3) . To reta in its natural l u strous sheen,

clay, and m any underg lazes can be fi red

a deflocculant to help the fi ner particles

terra sigillata should be fi red at a low

to virtually a ny temperature.

separate from the h eavier ones. The

tem perature (usually not h igher than

m ixture rests for at least 24 hours

cone 04; see page 1 1 7 to learn more

to paint. You can use it to draw a

so that it sepa rates into three parts.

a bout pyrom etric co nes). Afte r firing,

b ird or a ny other motif. You can m ix

The top is excess wate r, the bottom

you can add glazes on top of it.

u nderglazes of va rious colors to create

This ve rsatile medium is similar

contains the heavie r clay particles,

new colors, s u ch as combining yel low

and the middle laye r conta ins the

and b l u e to make g ree n . ( Beca use

finer particles, or terra sigillata. The

commercial underg laze form ulas a re so

u nwa nted water is retrieved using a

i nexpen sive a n d reliable, m ost cera m i c

siphon. The terra sigillata is siphoned

a rtists choose to p u rchase them rath er

off as wel l . Once the terra sigillata

than m ixing their own . ) U n l i ke glaze,

is collected, the botto m layer can be

the color of u nfired underglaze closely

discarded (see the recipe on page 1 23 ) .

resembles the color it will be after the

p iece is fire d .

As with othe r slips, terra sigillata

can be made in an array of colors.
Trad itio nally, its colors m i m i c the clay

Although underg laze, sl ips,


e ngobes, and terra s i g i l lata don't req u i re


body it came from, so yo u can have

shades of black, red, or wh ite. S m a l l

g lazing, a coati ng of clear or tra nsparent


is a m ixture of fine

g laze can accentuate the look a n d feel

amounts of colora nts c a n b e added to

clay particles and colora nts formu lated

of the surface, as well as make the

a wh ite base to create subtle va riations.

to use on clay at any stage of d ryness

form safe for food. A clear g laze adds

Terra sigillata is applied to bone-dry

or on bisque-fired wa re. Although it's

shine and deepens the colors of both

clay by either d i pping the form i nto it

usually applied under a clear g laze,

the underg laze and clay.



T E C H N I Q U E :


D E C 0 R AT I 0 N

The materials that you learned a bout o n pages 90 to 92
can be used in a tremendous n u m ber of ways. Some of
the most well known a re expla ined here: sg raffito, i n lay,
s l i p b rushwork, s l i p tra i l i n g , stenciling, burnish i n g , and
u n de rg laze painti n g .
W h i l e the i n structions that fol low just scratch t h e
s u rface of what's possible, you ' l l learn enough to g et started
in s u rface decorating . You can experiment with these
techniques using the square plate project on page 1 00 .
O n ce you know t h e basics, you c a n continue to develop
you r skills in tech n iques that you find most appea l i n g . You
may even end u p applying several tech n iq ues to a single
form, for a complex, one-of-a-kind piece.
Consider s u rprising a viewe r with s u rface deta i l on the
back or bottom of a piece. Decorate the back fi rst so yo u
M a n ufacturers p roduce u n d erglazes
in many form s : l iquid, pencil, chalk,
and d ry palette (similar to the palette
for watercolor paints). Each medium
poses special challenges. U nderg laze
can be b rushed, spattered, sponged,
d rawn, or tra i led (squeezed i n a thin
line) onto a fo rm. Yo u can use it i n thin
coats l ike watercolors, or a pply it i n
th ick layers for opaque coverage. U n li ke
slip, underg laze doesn't reta i n a ny
m a rks from the appl ication m ethod,
nor e n hance surface texture. In l i q u id
form, the consistency of u nderg laze
resembles h eavy crea m . It coats the
surface without interfering with a ny of
the clay's textura l deta i l .

won't mar the front.

T E C H N I Q U E :




Etch ing a s u rface is a g reat way to

create bold, g ra p h ic designs. Yo u a ren't
carvi ng d i rectly into the clay with this
tech n ique; i nstead, you work into a
coating that you've appl ied to a leather
hard piece. The coatin g , wh ich is left
to dry before you start worki ng on
the s u rface, can be a slip, engobe, or
u nderg laze (see pages 90, 9 1 , a n d 92).
Any type of clay is s u itable for
sg raffito, but the tech n ique is most
effective with h i g h-contrast colors, such
as wh ite slip o n red clay or black s l i p on
wh ite clay.
Start the process by d ipping a
wide paintbrush i nto a slip, eng obe, or
u n d erg laze. C hoose a material that's
compatible with the clay used to m a ke
the form . The most commonly used
m ate rial is slip, so the rest of these
instructions will use t h is material to
describe the process.
Evenly distribute the l i q u id on the
surface of the wa re .

D Visible brush

marks are accepta ble, although you

don't wa nt the s l i p so th ick that the
surface has defi ned ridges. ( U se an
u nderg laze, rather than slip, if you don't

wa nt a ny s u rface texture at a l l . ) Let the

s l i p dry. B rush on a second layer of s l i p
to e n s u re opaque cove rag e .
Set t h e form aside until it's d ry to
the touch . Lig htly sketch your design
on the p late, using a soft-lead penci l .
A needle tool scratches the surface, so
don't use it u n less you ' re confident or
wa nt a spontaneous desig n .
Ca rve i nto the surface a long the
a p plied design lines, using the ball
stylus and a variety of the metal loop

El You r goal is to scrape off the

slip to expose the s u rface of the clay

underneath. Use tools of d iffe rent
widths to add i nterest to your l i nes.
Keep i n m i nd that the ma rks yo u
m a ke will shrink as the clay dries . For
exa m ple, a needle too l makes a l i n e
so t h i n i t m ay a l most d isappear. A ball
stylus, o n the other hand, has a wider
tip th at's more a ppropriate for line work.

M etal loop tools a re perfect for ca rvi n g

o u t larger shapes.
The slip is too dry if it ch ips. If you
make a m istake, you ' l l have to sponge
off the s l i p and sta rt over. When you ' re
satisfied with your work, bisque fire
the piece. N ow you can a pply a clear
g laze, if desired, and p roceed to the
second firi n g .





D E C 0 R AT I 0 N

I nlay

H e re's an opportu n ity to turn a design into a form . When

it reach es the leather-hard stage, you ' l l carve into the clay
surface a n d then fill the areas with a contrasti ng-color slip
o r engobe. Scraping away the excess s l i p on the surface
reveals the i n laid pattern.
Fi rst sketch your design on the form with a soft-lead
pencil or a needle too l . This a l lows you to play around with
design a n d com position before starting carvi n g . For carving,
choose the ball sty l u s tools or metal loop tools to carve in a
design 1/s inch (3 m m ) deep.


Next, fill the in cised l i n es by bru s h i n g a layer of s l i p of

a contrasting color i nto the carved areas.


S l i p conta ins

q u ite a bit of water so it has a h i g h e r shrinkage rate than the

piece you 're working on. You don't wa nt to fill the ca rved
area with one thick pass of slip because the s l i p will shrink
and poss ibly crack while d ryi n g . I nstead, apply severa l
thinner layers and let each one dry to the touch before
adding the next. Once the s l i p level is even with the s u rface,
let it dry to the leather-hard stage.
Scrape off the excess slip with a rou n ded ri b .

m When

scraping off the excess clay, choose a rib best suited for the
clay body. If the clay has a lot of g rog, for exa m p le, use a
stiff rubber rib. Metal ribs will bring g rog to s u rface, creating
a very ro u g h texture undesirable for food wa re. Th is will
uncover the i n laid desig n .

T E C H N I Q U E :

Slip Texture

S u rface texture is easy to create with slip; its fluid consistency

m a kes it ideal to manipu late on a leath er-hard form . You r piece
will have rich, l uxurious brush strokes if you paint on the slip
with a stiff brush. B ut that's not the o n ly way to add texture: Yo u
can a lso pour slip o nto a form a n d then push it around with your
fingers to make a softly u n d u lating s u rface.
Th e following instructions feature fi n ger-painted conce ntric
squares and a b rush-a pplied spira l . You can, however, create
a ny des ired motif, a n d there a re m a ny ways that you can create
texture with slip.
Th in s l i p contains a lot of m o isture that could make the work
slump, even though it's leather hard. Yo u r best bet when covering
a large a rea is to use a th icker slip that conta ins less water. A
good ru le of t h u m b is to use slip the consiste ncy of ca ke batter.
To make concentric squares, you will have the most control
by holding the plate in o n e h a n d . B rush the p iece with a 1/s-inch
th ick (3 m m ) layer of slip. Tu rn the plate slowly a n d smooth ly
while using you r fingers to spread the slip over the surface.



working on a plate or bowl, also spread the s l i p around the rim .

To create slip texture on both sides of a form, let the s l i p
d ry thoroughly before flipping t h e p iece over. To make a spira l
texture, place t h e piece on the banding wheel and brush o n a
layer of slip. Tu rn the wheel with a steady m otion a n d , starting at
the r i m , d rag a pai ntbrush

El or you r fingers toward the center.

When the s l i p is bone d ry, bisque fire you r work and then
a pply g laze if desire d .


D E C 0 R AT I 0 N



T E C H N I Q U E :


D E C 0 R AT I 0 N

Slip Trails

Lines d rawn with s l i p add wonderful

d i mension to a form 's s u rface. Slip
tra i l i n g is a n ideal tech n i q u e fo r a loose,
gestural desig n .
For this tech n iq ue, you use a slip
appl icator to a p ply the l ines to a leather
h a rd piece. Slip appl icators come i n a
variety of shapes a n d sizes so that yo u
can do a n array of l i n e work. Some of
the fancier m odels can be q u ite costly.
Sta rt with a basic one that has a s i n g l e

as this may gouge the clay a n d clog the

appl icator tip.

appl icator. H ove r the tip over the plate

U n derglaze can a lso be used in

p lace of slip. Since u nderg laze has a
thinner cons iste ncy, use a very na rrow
tipped appl icator to control the flow.
Th e d rawn l ines can't be erased,

as you gently s q ueeze out the slip and

d raw your desig n .

Make your strokes i n a n o utward

m otio n . You can expe riment with l ine
th ickness by a ltering the speed and

so this tech n i q u e req u i res a confi dent

flow of the line. A q u icker stroke that

h a n d . (To repa i r a m istake, let the piece

em its less s l i p p roduces a thinner l i n e .

d ry a n d then sand off the error. )

A s l ower stroke prod u ces a thicker l i n e .

Place the piece on a ba n d i n g

Try a lteri n g the l i n e th ickness t o vary

wheel. Exte nd your a r m s o it's

you r desig n . When you 're fi n ished with

comforta ble and free to m ove across

the appl icator, flush the tip with water

the s u rface. S u pport the forearm with

a n d ru n a thin wire through it to clean

you r opposite hand, if desired .



the t i p of the slip applicator over the

piece, less than 111 6 inch (1.6 mm) from
the s u rface. Don't let it touch the p iece,

out the hole.

When the work is leather h a rd,
bisque fire it and then apply glaze, if
desire d .

T E C H N I Q U E :


Want to repeat the same image several

times on a form , or to block slip or
u nderg laze from parts of the s u rface.

without painstaking hand d rawing ?

Then stencils a re just the things for you .
A stencil can be a leaf, a scrap of lace,
or even a shape cut out of copy paper
o r ve l l u m . Placed on the s u rface of a
leather-hard p iece, a stencil acts as a
mask that shields parts of the s u rface
when you apply s l i p or underg laze .
Almost any flat shape is s u itable
as a stencil, but consider shapes that
create bold designs, wh ich effectively
use negative space. The best fou n d
o bjects won't a bsorb s l i p o r underg laze
and can be peeled off the s u rface
without cru m bling or s h reddi n g A
ste ncil doesn't have to be solid. I n fact,
holes will add more interest.
To mask straight lines, a l l you have
to do is apply a low-tack masking ta pe.
To create you r own design, draw it
on copy paper and then cut it o u t with
scissors or a mat kn ife.

[m Vel l u m is a n

ideal material beca use it's a d u rable,

plastic-l i ke paper that doesn't a bsorb

water. A mat kn ife, particu l a rly if it has

a swivel head, can c ut into corners a n d
trim precise, del icate l i n e s .
U s e yo u r f i n g e r t o h o l d t h e stencil
on the s u rface of a leather-hard piece
while painting the s u rface with a brush
d i pped in a fluid s l i p or u n de rg laze in a
color that contrasts with the clay fo rm .


Di rect you r strokes away from the

edges of the ste ncil to p revent the

medi u m from leach ing u n de rneath .
Apply two thin coats. Don't worry if the
s l i p or u n derg laze covers the stencil.
When the medium is dry, carefully
l ift off the ste ncil to reveal the desi g n .
When the work is leather-ha rd, bisque
fi re it and then a p ply g laze, if desire d .





T E C H N I Q U E :


D E C 0 R AT I 0 N

Bu rnished Surfaces

B u rnishing compresses particles of clay

so that the s u rface is smooth, s h i ny,
and doesn't readily a bsorb m oistu re.
Alth ough this is a labor-intensive

com pletely m ixed before you beg i n ,

p rocess, the rich, deep gleam of a

a n d sti r t h e m freq uently between

finished piece is well worth the effort.

appl ications. Brush a th ick, even layer of

Consider burnishing as an a ltern ative to

the terra sigil lata, in one d i rection on ly,

g lazing a piece .

over the s u rface of a piece .

Prim itive artists burn ished wa re that

was used for food and liquids. These

[E When

the terra sigil lata is d ry to the to uch, it's

ready to be burn ished.

days, burnish i n g isn't recom mended for

Decide if you ' l l use a sm ooth

surfaces that will be in d i rect contact

stone, the back of a spoon, a piece of

with food or liquid.

thin plastic, or j u st you r bare fi nger to

Pre pare a batch of terra sigil lata

polish the s u rface . Experiment with

(see page 9 1 ) while letting a clay piece

d iffe rent too ls to see which one works

become bone dry. It needs to be at this

best for you . Starting wherever desired,

stage so that the clay a bsorbs a th ick

rub your tool of choice over the s u rface.

layer of terra sigi llata . R u n a soft rib over


Apply moderate press u re .

the s u rface when it's stiff, if necessary,

When you 've worked over the

to m a ke it s m ooth . (A smooth s u rface

entire s u rface one or more tim es, you

is i m portant, so you may not want to

can consider the burn ishing finished.

b u rn ish a piece made from clay that has

O r, for more depth, you can add several

a lot of g rog in it [see page 1 1 ] . )

layers of terra sigi llata, burnishing

Pa rticles of terra sigil lata are s o fine

between each coat to ach ieve the

that they q u ickly fa l l to the bottom of a

sm oothest s u rface. F ire the finished

conta iner. M a ke s u re the particles a re


T E C H N I Q U E :

Fired underglaze has a flat matte fi n ish. You may leave

it bare or cover it with a clear or transparent glaze. Not
only does the clear coating add more surf ace sheen, it
significantly deepens, or saturates, underglaze colors
and even bare clay itself.

U nderglaze Application

U n de rglazes change the color of the clay su rface.

You can apply one even layer of color over you r entire
p iece, or brush on several to create a na rrative painting .
Experiment with many colors a n d va rious brus hes to
g ive your piece depth a n d perso nal ity.
M a ke sure that the products you select h ave a
firing temperature that's compatible with the clay piece.
When using u n de rg laze for pai nterly effects, strive for
layers of color to create dimension.
Experiment with the consistency of the u nderglaze:
Water it down to ach ieve a tra n s l u cent watercolor
effect, or apply it straight from the jar for a thicker,
opaque a ppearance. Two to t h ree coats may be
necessary for complete opaque coverag e .
Start your decoration on a p iece by d rawi ng your
design onto the surface, using a soft-lead pencil. Pa int
the l a rger shapes with an overa l l color.

N ow add other colors on top, for detail a n d

d i mension.

Additional details c a n b e d rawn on with

underg laze crayons or penci l s . Alth ough u n derg laze can

be applied to gree nware or bisque wa re, the crayons
and pencils a re easier to use on bisque wa re . F i n ish the
piece by firing to a suita b l e tem perature for the clay.


D E C 0 R AT I 0 N


1 00

Project : Sq uare P late

The open s u rface of a p late is a terrific canvas
fo r experi menting with the d ecorative tec h n i q ues
explained on pag es 89 to 90. I n fact , to p repare
for your s u rface decoration explorations, you could
m ake several ident ical forms , cal led m u ltiples.
I t 's easy to m ake them by u si n g a tem p late and
p rod uction m ethod s , as explained h ere .

Too l s

N eed l e tool, sco r i n g tool,

pony ro l l er


Making and Using Templates


Making Slabs

Slab B u ilding



P R 0 J E C T

M a ke a 6-inch-square ( 1 5 . 2 cm)



..,._ Tip: Uti l itarian obj ects s h o u l d

tem plate with a 3-i nch-square

(76 cm) hole i n the center. Roll a slab

1/4 i nch (6 mm) th ick and l a rge enough

b e su bstantial e n o u g h f o r usage but

be l ig ht enough to hold comfortably.

fo r the n u m be r of plates that you wa nt

to make.

Make the desired n u m ber of squares from the

slab by c utti n g around the perimeter of the

te mplate with the needle too l . You need one square

for each plate. Sti l l using the needle tool, lig htly
sketch the tem plate's inside square on each square
clay shape. This marks the position for the plate's foot.
Store the shapes under a thin plastic sheet to keep
them m oist until you 're ready to work on each one.

To form t h e foot (base for the

p late to stand on), cut a 112 x 8-i nch

strip ( 1 3 x 20.3 cm) for each plate . Cut both of


the ends of each foot at opposite m itered a n gles

with the needle too l . Move the plate shape to a
small ware board, wro n g side u p, and use a scori n g
tool to score a 114-inch-wide ( 6 mm) l i n e along
the d rawn line. Sta nd the foot so the side to be
attached is facing u p . Score this a rea, and apply a
small a m ount of s l i p on it a n d along the scored line
on the back of t h e plate .

..,._ Tip: You can add i nterest to the

foot by u s i ng stamped i m press ions

or cutt i n g o ut shapes.

1 01

1 02

P R 0 J E C T



Th i n k a bout the way you ' l l make m u ltiple plates. You m ight wa nt
to score all of the feet and face shapes at the sa me time, then

slip and join everyth ing at once, and so on. This and the remain ing
steps explain the process for one plate; adapt them as desired . Place
together the sl ipped edge of a foot and a face. Place a line of small
coils of moist clay along the enti re seam along the outside of the foot.
Fuse this coil until it d isappears. Reinforce the interior of the seam in
the same way.

Run a pony roller along the edges of the underside of the

plate . This will taper and soften the edges. It may d isplace

some of the clay, creating an o rga nic edge for the ri m . Run you r
finger a long t h e edge of t h e r i m t o smooth the edge, i f needed .

Set aside the plate to d ry to the stiff stage, a n d then turn it right
side up. If necessa ry, smooth the rim of the plate with your

fi ngers or a damp chamois cloth . Place the plate on a bat o r small

ware board, a n d then set both on a banding wheel or lazy Susan .
Press down on the center of the plate with both of you r thumbs. As
you press down, gently pull u p two o pposite sides of the rim with
your fingers so that they're slightly curved . Rotate the piece a n d
repeat t h i s process . Cover the plate with a t h i n plastic s heet t o keep
it moist until you 're ready to expe ri ment with one of the surface
decoration methods. Apply s u rface decoration to the plate, and fire
it as desired. The set of finished plates shown on page 1 0 0 was
adorned with the surface decoration tech n iques explained on pages
89 to 99, a n d finished with va rious g laze appl ications .

..... Tip: P l ates and other flat o bjects tend to

warp, so caref u l l y place the p l ate on a ware

Make all of the edges the same height
and ensure the center is even.

board to d ry, and try not to m i sshape it.

1 03

S u rface Treatm ent

G a l lery

Lana Wilson
Altar with Drawer, 2001

1 4 x 1 1 x 41;2 i nches (35.6 x 2 7 . 9 x 1 1 .4 cm)

Hand-bu i It wh ite stoneware; stamped words, texture; dry
g laze; e lectric fi red

Barry W. Gregg
Four for the Road, 2007

24 x 9 x 9 i nches (61 x 22.9 x 22.9 cm)

Hand-bu ilt stoneware; underglaze and g laze;
e lectric fi red
Photo by Walker Montgomery

Photo by artist

Nancy Selvin
Still Life with Red Bowl, 2004

26 x 48 x 6 i nches
(66 x 1 21 .9 x 1 5.2 cm)
Hand-bu i It terra cotta; u nde rg laze,
s l i p cast, screened underg laze text,
underg laze pen c i l ; electric fi red
Photo by Steve Se/vin

1 04




Patrick Coughlin
Barn Butterdish, 2006

6 1h x 71h x 311.2 i n c hes ( 1 6 . 5 x 1 9 x 8.9 cm)

Slab-bu i It, extruded, press-molded earthenware;
s i l k-screen transfer, low-fire g l azes, terra s i g i l
lata; e lectric fired
Photo by artist

Paul Frehe
Shazam! TV Teapot, 2007

9 x 6 x 2 inches (22.9 x 1 5.2 x 5 . 1 cm)

Hand-b u i lt, pinched white earthenware; laser decal, glazes, under
g lazes; e lectric fired
Photo by Steve Mann

Jessica Kreutter
Clown Cars, 2006

7 x 7 x 4 inches ( 1 7 .8 x 1 7 . 8 x 1 0.2 cm)

Earthenware; low-fi re l ithium g l aze, s l i p, com
mercial g l aze; el ectri c fired; post-fired assembly
Photo by artist

Cynthia Lee
Zinnia I, 2007

5 x 3% inches ( 1 2.7 x 8 . 6 cm)

Clay, plaster slab; underglazes, g l aze, fiower d i pped i n
s l i p and g l aze; fired
Photo by Steve Mann


Lynne B url<e

U nt it led,


2 1 x 21 x 1 4 i nches (53.3 x 53.3 x 35.6 cm)

Hand-bu i It stoneware; cast, scu I pted faces, im
pressed leaves, slips; e lectric fired
Photo by Walker Montgomery



Melody Ellis
Tricycle, 2006

8 x 5 Y2 x 91h inches (20.3 x 1 4 x 24.1 cm)

Pinched, h o l lowed earthenware, carved; terra
s i g i l lata, underg l aze/sl ip, g laze, black copper oxide
was h ; electric fired; post-fi red assembly
Photo by artist

Nancy l<ubale
Cirque, 2006

1 2 x 20 x 6 i nches (30.5 x 50.8 x 1 5.2 cm)

Slab, coi led stoneware clay; oxides, underg l aze,
terra s i g i l lata, g laze, u nderglaze penci l ; m u lti-fired
Photo by Robert Batey

1 05

1 06

G laz i n g
Behind the s i m p l e appl ications afforded by g lazi ng l i e some
amazing chem istry and fasci n ating processes . H e re 's the general
i nformation you need to know before yo u take the next step with
you r h and - b u i lt form : why g l azes work, what m ight go w rong ,
and how to execute some favorite g lazing tec h n iq u e s .
'''t ' :"'. .,..
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o n its own,

Although there a re some glazes that can be used

but glazing may add j ust the finishing touch you r work

on g reenware, m ost are applied to bisque wa re . You can

needs . After you 've h a n d-built a piece, and perhaps

buy these raw ingred ients to weigh and m ix you r own

deco rated the s u rface a n d bisque fired it, you ' re ready

g laze (see Recipes on page 1 22), or p u rchase prepared

to apply a liquid that, upon firing, yields a g lasslike

products. The m aterials that make the magic, and the

surface that perma n ently fuses to clay.

basics of some tech n iques, a re described i n this sectio n .



The natural colorants, from top,

copper carbonate, cobalt carbonate,

The q u a l ities of glazes-tra nspa rency, degree of s h i ne, color, and texture-are the

and red iron oxide change the

result of the complex i nteraction of g laze ingredients to each oth er, the clay body,

fi nished appearance of clay.

and firing conditions such as the kiln's tem perature and atmosphere (the fue l-to
oxygen ratio). The decisions yo u m a ke when selecting a g laze i nvolve its chem ical
composition, colora nts, a ppea ra nce, and textu re. All these terms a re explained here.

All glazes require three basic components for stability: silica, fl ux, and alumina.


sod i u m . Man ufacturers have also

G lazes can be formu lated from a virtua l ly

developed form ulas for frits, g lass

e n d less combination of ingredie nts.

de rivatives, which a re designed to m e lt

Colora nts, opacifiers, and texturizers are

at specific temperatures a n d a lso l ower

added for other q u a l ities.

silica 's melting point. F l uxes and frits

Sil ica is the primary material i n a

g laze. As a g lass form e r, it's respo nsi ble
for fusing the g laze to the clay s u rface.

influe nce the look, feel, and d u ra b i l ity of

a g laze.
Alumina is a sta bil izer. Without it,


Oxides and carbon ates color a g laze .

Two common types of g lass formers

the g laze wou l d melt and run off the

They m ay also a lter the texture, the

used for glazes a re flint a n d s i l ica.

surface of the clay. Ball clay (see page

opacity, or both of these characteristics

S i l ica's high m e lting point (3200F/

8) and kaol i n (see page 8) a re two

in a g laze .

1 760C) needs to be lowered with

common stabilizing m aterials because

additives known as fluxes. These

they conta i n significant amou nts of

change, the firing tem perature and

substa nces a re fo u n d in the form of

a l u m i n a . Al u m i na also increases the

atmosphere may affect the color of the

feldspar, l ith i u m , magnesium, and

opacity and h a rd ness of a g laze .

g laze . Copper, for exa m ple, turns g reen

I n addition to the natural color

1 07

1 08


i n a common oxidation firing (when

oxygen is a l lowed inside the kiln), but
can turn red when processed i n a
reduction atmosph ere (when the i n side
of the kiln is deprived of oxygen).
Ceramic sta i n s are a noth er type
of colora nt. Like frits and fl uxes,
man ufacturers form u late cera m i c sta i n s


are similar to


a re so saturated

t o p roduce specific, consistent results.

clear or colored glass because light

with colora nts and opacifiers that

They're ava ilable in a wide spectrum

passes thro u g h them so that you

they compl etely cover the s u rface

of colors that may be m ixed l i ke paint

can see the clay surface u nderneath .

underneath . Opacifiers can cha nge the

to create even more colors. Cera m ic

Tra nspa rent glazes work beautifully

look a n d feel of a g laze : they wh iten the

sta i n s a re a lso used to color u n derglaze,

over a bare clay body, or they may be

g laze and decrease the tra nsparency.

slip, a n d terra sigil lata .

appl ied over s l i p or u n d erg laze . When

Tin a n d tita n i u m a re the additives most

a colored tra n spa rent g laze is applied

often used to create opacity in a g laze.


over a textured surface, the g laze pools

As you plan a n d build you r piece, sta rt

in recessed a reas, thus h ig h l ighting the


t h i n k i n g a bout whether it will be g lazed,

s u rface underneath .

G lazes can range from satiny smooth

and what type of g laze will enhance

to crawly and crusty. A sati n , semi

the form or s u rface decoratio n . I n

g loss, o r glossy g laze is a ppropriate

add ition to color a n d texture (see pages

for food ware. This wide ra nge of

7 and 1 0), you ' l l choose transpa rent,

textural va riation can tra nscend mere

semiopaque, or opaque. All t h ree types

functional ity-g laze texture can p lay a

of opacity a re explai ned here. The same

pro m inent role i n d i recting the mood

white clay was used fo r each exa m p l e .

of a piece. A bright, g lossy g laze may

convey a feeling of cheerf u l whimsy,
w h i l e a d ry g laze s u rface may ca rry dark
nua nces of neg lect or decay.

h ave a higher

concentration of colora nts or opacifiers

(or both) than tra nsparent g lazes.
Sem iopaque g lazes perform bea utif u l ly
over a textured surface. The color and
opacity is more concentrated in the
recessed a reas, while the raised a reas
a re m ore tra nspa rent, a l lowing the
s u rface underneath to show throug h .
This additional rich ness and depth
accentuates the textured s u rface.

Matte, rough, or crater-like glaze

is best suited for sculptural work.


G lazing appl ication can b e a s sim ple

Glaze Preparation

as a qu ick d u n k or as intricate as

After your bisque ware has been

m u l ti-layered paintin g . No matter how

p repared, you 're ready to pick the g laze .

knowledgeable you become with the

The glazing p rocess always involves

a rt of g lazing, there will always be an

some suspense, but you can control

element of s u rp rise when you open

the resu lts by considering two factors:

the kiln.

the firing temperature a n d fu nction

of the piece.

Ware Preparation


Si nce glazing can be qu ite a prod uction,


you may find it more efficient to do

forget this g u ideline, b rush a low-fire

many pieces at once. Before handling

g laze on a piece made from a clay that

the ware, wash your hands to remove

matures at a high te m pe rature, a n d

a ny d i rt or oil residue that could transfer

then place the p iece in a k i l n that you

to the wa re . You may wa nt to put on

fire to a high temperature. When you

Let's say you

Yo u can p revent g laze from

open the kiln after the firing, the l ow

collecting in unwanted areas by

fire g laze will have m e lted off the pot

a p plying a liquid wax resist. All you

and onto everything around it. On the

need is a foam brush, wh ich you d i p

other hand, if a h i g h-fire g laze is fired

sponge frequ ently until a l l signs of d ust

in the resist (ava i lable from a cera m ic

at a l ow temperature, the p iece it's on

are remove d . Even the clean est studios

s u pply sto re) and then carefully apply

will be covered with a b u b bly, crusty

have some dust particles in the a i r.

it to co mpletely d ry bisque wa re.

When these settle on the wa re, they

Apply a thin layer on the bottom , where

on a scul ptural fo rm, but it would be a

can act as a resist, causing craw l i n g and

it' l l touch a kiln shelf. Apply the wax

catastrophe on a fu nctio nal p iece .

adhe rence p roblems (see page 1 1 4).

only where you wa nt it because o n ly a

Let the ware dry for at least a n hour.

kiln firing will remove it.

d isposable gloves to protect you r hands

from any potentia l ly toxic g lazes.
Next, use a damp sponge to ge ntly
wipe down the wa re.

R i nse the

Any m oisture left in the clay may


If you ' re using a g laze that tends to

s u rface. This result m ay be fantastic



You have the liberty of

adorning a sculpture with a ny g laze

prevent a sufficient amount of g laze

ru n, a p ply the wax u p onto the side of

that spea ks the voice of you r piece.

from coating the surface.

the pot a bout 1/2 i nch ( 1 .3 cm) from the

Functional wa re, however, requ i res

bottom . I m mediately rinse you r brush

more careful thought. C hoose a g laze

turns i nto a fluid that sticks to anyth ing

when yo u ' re fi n ished. Don't use it for

that will be pleas i n g to touch . A satiny

it touches. So if you fi re a piece with

a ny other purpose. If the wax d ries on

finish is soft enough for a handle and

g laze on the bottom (whether on

your brush, melt it off in boiling water.

sti l l provides enough traction to ensure

D u ri n g firing, g laze gets so hot it

pu rpose or inadve rtently), the piece

Let the wax dry com pletely (it'll

a good grip. A bowl coated with a

will likely stick to the kiln sh elf

take a bout a n hour) before glazi n g . If

g lossy fi nish may offer i rresistible


any g laze slops on the waxed areas, it' l l

appeal to the hand of its user.

just sit o n the s u rface u ntil you wipe it

off with a damp sponge.

Once you decide on the type of

g laze to use, read the label to see if it

1 09



co ntains a ny dangerous ingred ients . Toxic g lazes a lways

need to be handled with care a n d should o n ly be applied
to nonfunctional work. Always check to m a ke sure the
g laze is food safe before a pplying it to a piece that will
come i n contact with food or drink. Wea r gloves and a
resp i rator when a pplying toxic g laze to a form .
When yo u 've chosen a n a ppropriate g laze, stir it until
it's s m ooth and l u m p free. A drill with a m ixer attach ment
is ideal for a large amount of g laze that's kept in a bucket.
S m a l ler conta i n e rs of g laze can be stirred with a handheld
m ixer or even a recycled chopstick.


Pou r the g laze through a sieve to e l i m i nate a ny excessive l u m ps . Most g lazes

should have the consistency of butte rm i l k. If the g laze is too th ick, g radually add a bit
of water until it reaches the proper consistency. If the g laze is too thin, a l low it to settle
com pletely and then ca refu l ly scoop some water off the top.
G lazes have a finite shelf l ife . M ost will last at least a yea r, but some u ndergo
chemical changes faster. If you suspect a ny a lterations, test-fire a sample prior to using
it on a n i m po rtant piece.


Clay, l i ke wood, can be sta i n ed to e n hance its natural

beauty. A patina is s i m ply a wash of color that's applied
to bisqued clay to en rich its bare s u rface. It l ooks nice on
smooth clay but performs best on texture, where it rea lly
h ig h l ig hts the deta i l .
To a pply a patina sol ution, you ' l l need a paint brush
a n d a sponge. A patina solution can be easily m ixed by
vol u m e {follow the recipe on page 1 23 ) .
Pa i n t t h e solution over t h e des ired a rea.

II Try not

to dip the brush past the ferru le {the metal band that

beautifully, but a

conn ects the bristles to the handle). If the pigment

clear or transparent

collects there, it's very d ifficult to re m ove and can leach

out to conta m inate oth er mediums you might dip the
brush i n .
Let t h e patina d r y for a t least a n h o u r before you
wipe off excess sol ution from the ra ised a rea s .

Use a

damp sponge that's freq uently rinsed i n a bucket of water.

Always wipe with a clean area of the sponge.

Patina stands alone

glaze can be applied



Dipping is the most

popular way of applying
glaze to utilitarian ware
and small objects.

Dipped Ware

For the q u ickest, easiest cove rage, d i pping is the best m ethod . For
m ost g lazes, one d i p is u s ua l ly enough to g ive a sufficient and even
coat. You can use tongs when dipping. (Before sta rting, experiment
to find the most comfortable, yet secure, way to hold onto the
wa re.)


M a ke s u re you r g laze is thoroughly m ixed beca use

some glazes settle q uickly. Also check the consistency freq uently
between dips.
Submerge the piece for three seconds, gently swishing
it around in the g laze to m a ke s u re it gets into a ny noo ks a n d
cra n n ies.


Remove the piece from t h e g laze a n d caref u lly shake

off a ny excess .


If you r piece has a n interior space, pour out a ny

captu red glaze. Allow the g laze to d ry for a few seconds before
setting it d own.
If you r fingers or tongs left small ma rks in the g laze, dot
a small a mo u nt of g laze on that spot.


Once the g laze is

completely dry, in spect your work. U se a damp sponge to remove

a ny g laze that might cause the piece to stick to the k i l n or a n other
section of the sa me piece d u ring firing (for example, a form that's
fi red with its lid in place . )




Pouring is a good
alternative for ware
that's too large to dip
i n a glaze bucket.

Pou red Glaze

Use this method for a smooth, even coat of a single g laze,

or to a pply additional glazes to sections of a piece.
Find a shal low container l a rge enough to hold the
ware and catch g laze run off. Place you r work i n the
conta i n er with you r hands or tongs. Scoop a cup of g laze
from the g laze bucket and pour it eve n ly over the piece .

Don't let the piece sit in the collected g laze, as the wa re

will a bsorb an u n even a m ount of g laze .
Sometimes u n even coats of g laze a re intentiona l .
H owever, too m uch g laze can be qu ite problematic,
especia l ly if it settles toward the bottom of the piece .
D u ring firi n g , th ick g laze can ru n onto the kiln she lf. When
you 're finished pouring, hold the piece just inside the g laze
bucket a n d shake off a ny excess g laze before setting the
piece down to dry.
If you wa nt to a lso coat the interior of the piece, pour

llJ Tilt and

rotate the ware until the entire inside is coated. II Wait
in enough g laze to coat the entire s u rface.

no more than th ree seconds a n d then pour the rem a i n i n g

g laze back into t h e g laze bucket. Be careful not to let
too m u ch g laze collect in the bottom of you r piece . If
your p iece is large enough that it ta kes more than t h ree
seconds to coat the inside, wipe a wet sponge around the
bottom of the piece before you sta rt. This prevents the
bottom from a bsorbing as m uch g laze, so you ' l l have more
time to swirl the g laze around the form 's wa l l .


The easiest way to

place glaze in specific
areas is to brush it on.

Brushed Glaze

B rushing can be a m ore creative approach to g laze

decoration. Spontaneous m ovement of a brush stroke can
g ive character to a blank s u rface.

IE You can even laye r

brush strokes on top of a d ifferent, yet co m patible, base

coat g laze . Don't make the g laze too th ick.
If you ' re glazing a large area, use a wide b rush that will
cover m u ch of the a rea i n a few stro kes . Lon g , thin brushes
can dance across the surface of a piece, to make a gestural
Apply two or th ree even coats, letting the work d ry
after each layer is added. The a mo u nt of g laze appl ied can
vary depending on the individual g laze formula and the
desired effects. If you 're u ncerta in about how m uch to
a pply, test the g laze fi rst. On a test piece, a pply two coats
in one area, three coats to another section, then fou r coats
to the re maining section .
The d i rections fo r most comm ercial glazes recommend
two to fou r coats . In small areas you can bypass this time
con s u m i n g p rocess by floating the glaze: Saturate the brush
a n d a pply it to the s u rface to create a m a nageable pool of
g laze .

Reloa d the brush frequently to float and coat one

perfect, even appl ication.

Choose a long, plump, fl uffy brush

that can hold a lot of glaze.




The res u lts of a g laze firing can leave you fee l i n g elated . . . or baffle d . Eve n with
proper knowledge and preparation, problems can occur. Here's a list of possible
causes and solutions to common g laze defects .

Crawl ing


Pin holing

D u ri n g firi n g , the g laze can p u l l away

During the firing a n d cooling process,

Tiny holes or pits in the g laze surface

from the clay body. You ' l l see a n uneve n

both clay and glaze expa n d a n d

is a defect known as pinholing. These

surface of pools or beads, known as

contract. W h e n the g laze doesn't fit (or

imperfectio ns a re usually a result of

crawling. Some g lazes a re form ulated

rest) properly with the clay body, you

applying too m uch g laze or firing too

to create this i nteresting texture for

get crazing. Although this is tech n ically

fast. I n oth e r words, you h eated the kiln

sculptural forms, but this would n't be

conside red a defect, some g lazes a re

too q u ickly fo r the volatile gases i n side

desirable for food wa re. As d iscussed

actu a l ly formu lated to craze or crackle.

to escape. In this situation the g laze

in Ware Preparation, g laze m ust be

It's a lovely aged look, but u ndesirable

doesn't have enough time to mature. I n

appl ied to a clean s u rface . If there's

for food ware because those tiny

the future, try coating the ware with a

d ust or oil on the clay, proper ad hesion

cracks can be a haven for bacteria . To

t h i n n e r layer of g laze a n d then fi re the

can not occ u r. Th is is one of the causes

avoid crazing, choose a g laze that has

work at a slower rate .

of craw l i n g . The problem can a lso occur

a compatible firing ra nge with the clay

when the g laze is too th ick.

body. Also, prevent the thermal shock

that causes crazing by never ope n i n g
t h e k i l n w h e n t h e te mperature inside
exceeds 200.
Bl istering
Blistering causes bubbles a n d craters i n the g laze s u rface . It's often a

sign of a thick g laze that hasn't matu red or has been under-fired (not
heated to a h ig h e n o u g h temperature ) . B l istering can a l so be caused
by a g laze that has been over-fired. To prevent this defect, use a
t h i n n e r glaze application and m a ke sure the kiln is fi ri n g properly.
Pinpoint a ny problems by using pyrometric cones (see page 1 1 7) to
help monito r the accuracy of a kil n's atmospheric firing temperature.


F iri n g
Whether yo u ' ve been
working with clay for years
or j ust a few d ays , it 's
l i ke ly that you get a t h ri l l
open i n g a ki l n and seeing
you r newly fi red work.
Even veteran ceram ists
ad m it that there 's an
element of su rprise in this
largely scientific p roces s.



firing turns a bone-dry clay form (greenware) i nto

m ust be fired. You place your clay form into a kiln

bisque wa re; it's often called bisque-fi ring . You

with oth er forms and heat them to what a non

take these bisqued ite m s out of the kiln, perhaps

cera m ist would consider very high te m peratu res,

add surface decoration and finishing coati ngs l i ke

over an exte nded period of time. This time in the

glaze, and then load them i nto the kiln a g a i n . This

k i l n , called firi n g , causes the clay to undergo a

second firing (often called glaze-firing) permane ntly

m olecu l a r change ca lled quartz i nversion, wh ich

affixes the coati ngs to the s u rfaces of the p ieces.

turns the clay i nto a ceramic materi a l .

Sometimes there's a third-or even more-firings

I n a n utshell, then, firing i s a bout making a pi ece

to achieve the look you want.

of clay harder a n d stronger. But there's m u ch

The way that you approach fi ring is to a g reat

m ore to the process, because firing can a lso

extent dete rm i n ed by the type of kiln you ' re using .

help yo u permane ntly fuse g laze to a form's

(To gain a n understa n d i n g of the types of kil ns, see

surface o r, at an ea rlier stage in the process,

page 22.) Most beginn er-and some professional

prepare a form to accept a g laze or other surface

ceram ists use a n electric kiln. For this reason, the

treatment. Firing isn't a one-step process.

process described here focuses on a n electric

Depe n d i n g on you r piece a n d the des i red finish,

kiln firi n g . At the e n d of th is chapter, some other

a form can undergo two or more firings. An i n itial

common firing methods a re expla ined.



a n d glazes m ust be fired no higher than

Ware that's coated with a raw

the specific te mperatures they've been

( u nfired) g laze req u i res extra care when

form u lated for.)

the pieces are l oaded for a glaze-firi n g .

If you 've looked inside a kiln,

See page 1 09 for g u idance o n a pplying

you're proba bly wondering h ow to

g laze to a wa re. That page a lso exp lains

load the wa re because the chamber is

how to coat the bottom of a piece

bas ica l ly just an open a rea. Depending

with a liquid wax resist. This resist

on the shape and firing stage, some

p revents a piece from sticking-often

p ieces can be stacked on top of one

permanently-to a kiln s helf.

a n other. The rest of the work can be

U nfired g laze is fragi le, so handle

a ccommodated by in serting kiln sh elves

the pieces careful ly. Any p laces you

that a re held in place with posts a n d

d istu rb the g laze (even with a touch)

stilts. These kiln accessories a re m ix

will be visible on the piece after fi ri n g .


a n d match , so you ca n confi g u re them

M a ke sure that t h e pieces a re spaced

F i rst you need to build enough forms

to best s u it you r needs. I nsert s helves

at least 112 inch ( 1 . 3 cm) away from the

to fi l l the ki l n . It's a rea lly bad idea

as yo u pack the k i l n , staggering them

kiln walls, posts, and other work. G laze

to run a kiln with o n ly one piece in it

for sufficient air circulation.

sticks to a nything it touches d u ring the

because it's a waste of electricity or

La rge tiles or platters that have

fuel. A full kiln a lso protects you r ware

a significant bottom s u rface need to

from thermal shock, wh ich causes

m ove freely as they shrink d u ri n g a

surface cracks when the wa re cools too

bisque firin g . You can help them move

q u i ckly. ( D u ring a cool-down phase of

a round by spreading g rog on the shelf

the p rocess, wa res in the kiln gradually

wherever you wa nt to place such a

release the h eat they a bsorbed when

piece. G rog's sandlike particles help

the kiln was gett i n g h otter, thus

the wa re sh ift a lo n g the shelf with out

regu lating the temperature . )

resista nce .

Clay forms that a re undergoing

With g reenware, it's i m portant to

a fi rst firing m ust be bone-dry (see

a l low sufficient a i rflow between the

page 1 1 5) when they're p laced in the

pieces . They can touch, but shou ldn't be

kiln. If one isn't d ry enough, it cou ld

packed too tightly. Crowding interferes

exp lode when h eated. Yo u don't wa nt

with even heat d istri bution. Start by

this to happen beca use the detritus of a

placing larger pieces at the bottom of

p roblem piece can damage the kiln a n d

the k i l n . Ware can be placed on top

the other wa re.

of one a nothe r, but too m uch weight

All diffe rent types of clay can be

firing process.

stacked on a lower piece can cause it to

fired together fo r an in itial bisque-fi ring.

break. I nvert and stack plates a n d bowls

(When g laze-fi ri n g , h owever, the clay

ri m-to-ri m .

Photo by David Gamble


Leave room i n you r kiln for a pyrometric
cone. This is a pyramid-sha ped piece

of ceramic material (sometimes a

pyrometric bar is used i n stead) that
you use to monitor the condition
in side a kiln that's firing. Each cone (or
bar) is designed to monitor a precise
temperature ove r a specific length of
tim e . When it reaches the maturing
range (opti mal conditions), the tip

ben ds, slowly, ove r a bout 20 minutes.

I nformation that's usua lly included with
the box of cones you purchase g ives you
a genera l idea when it's time to start

Electric Kiln. Photo courtesy of Skutt Kilns

mon itori ng your kiln.

Th e cone that you put in the kiln
is selected accord ing to the firing


tem perature of the type of clay a n d

You don't just fill a kiln with forms, flick

g laze you have used . Look a t the

a switch, and wa l k away. I n order for the

kindling: After l oad i n g the wa re , you

package that your clay came in: the

clay material to become cera m ic-or

leave the kil n's lid slig htly ajar and heat

m a n ufactu re r's label will usually tel l

for a glaze to fuse properly to a bisq ue

it at the lowest possible setting for four

you the suitable cone, as i n d icated by

fired surface-the temperature of the

to six hours. This d ries the greenware

a n u m be r. Low-fi re earthe nware, for

kiln m ust be raised slowly, held at a

sti l l more.

exa m ple, ge nera l ly fi res at cone 04.

peak temperature, a n d then lowered

Cone 022 is for the lowest tem perature

in a controlled fash ion. This procedure,

to rise faster d u ring a glaze-firing, as

of 1 1 1 2F (600C) . Cone 1 3 is for

known as the firing schedule, depends

com pared to a bisque-firing, and there

the h ig h est temperature of 2455F

on the clay body and the type of kiln.

isn't a n i n itial kindli n g . You susta i n the

( 1 346C).

The entire firing could be an overnight

peak tem perature for a specific length

process, or take several days, depending

of time, wh ich is called giving the kiln a

and time-setting devices should include

on the size of the kil n . It's most

soak, to a l low g laze to fully mature.

a cone in every firing. I n fact, some

important that you follow the specific

In any type of kiln fi ri n g , you

kilns a re equipped with a kiln sitter,

information in the kiln man ufactu rer's

always wa nt to mon itor the process.

wh ich sh uts off the firing when a cone


N ever leave a kiln u nattended. Eve n the

Even kilns that have tem perature

bends the desired a mount.

A com puterized electric kiln will

A bisq ue-fi ring begins with a n i n itial

The temperature is usually set

m ost m odern com p uterized kilns can

a djust a n d hold i nterior te m peratu res

malfunction. This m a lfu nction can result

as p rogra m me d . With a m a n u a l kiln,

in the kiln ove rh eati n g , ru i n i n g the ware

however, you could be adjusting the

i n side, the kiln itse lf, and even causing

tem perature six or more times over

a fire.

i nterva ls of one, fou r, or more hours.




Pit firing i s a s i m ple, primitive
method . D ig a hole in the ground
that's large e n o u g h for t h e wares
a n d combustibles l i ke sticks, leaves,
a n d (sometim es) d u n g . Ware going
into t h e pit is often pai nted with terra
s i g i l l ata (see page 9 1 ) a n d fi rst bisqued
at a very low tem pe rature to keep
the clay open (porous) . The pieces
a re then n estled i n the p it among the
combustibles. When the pit is i g n ited,
the carbon fro m the b u r n i n g materials

A pit for fi ring can easily be dug in your own yard. Choose an open site where you can
safely contain the fire, and check local ordinances before digging or burning.

pass over the clay s u rfaces, c reati n g

ra ndom, o rga n i c patte rns. A fire with

to bisque-fired pieces. (Red uction is

flames isn't the g o a l . I n stead, you want

a genera l term used to i n d icate the

the p it to smolder for seve ral hou rs,

fue l-to-oxygen ratio inside the closed

a n d then cool down enough to safely

atmosph ere of the k i l n . ) The gas-fueled

u n e a rth the ware s .

raku kiln is typically a s m a l l one, and

Artists w h o wood fire take g reat

h eats to around cone 05 i n a bo ut 45

p ride in this long, laborious process.

m i n utes, wh ich is very q u ick. Once the

The wood-fired kiln is typically a l a rge,

g laze has matured, the kiln is opened.

hand-built cha m ber that burns at least a

Then the glazed ware is retrieved and

cord of wood in a single firing . The firing

set in a chamber (such as a pit or metal

can ta ke 20 to 30 h ou rs and requ i res

ca n ) full of combustibles l i ke sawdust

constant mon itori n g . The burning wood

or newspaper. This p rocess ind uces

turns to ash and is allowed to rest on

thermal shock, causing intentional

the wa res, often producing rich, ea rthy

cracks in the s u rface of some types

flashes of color on the surface. Such

of g lazes. Once ignited, the cha m ber

flashes a re the hallmarks of the wood

is sea led , thus a l lowing carbon to

firing process.

pen etrate the bare clay and turn it black.

Raku is an a ncient Japanese firing

Ca rbon also inte racts with g lazes that

p rocess that uses a low-fire red uction

conta in copper and creates beautiful

m ethod to add uniq u e su rface effects

flashes of meta llic color.


Tem plates


Enlarge 250 %

Enla rge 285%



..,.. cut 1 from ca rdstock

..,.. cut 1 from ca rdstock

..,.. cut 3 from clay

..,.. cut 1 from clay



..,.. cut 1 from cardstock


..,.. cut 1 from clay




..,.. cut 1 from cardstock

..,.. cut 1 from ca rdstock

..,.. cut 4 from clay

..,.. cut 3 from clay






1 20


Enlarge 200 %


cut 1 from cardstock

cut 1 from clay



cut 1 from cardstock

cut 1 from clay






Enlarge 200 %



..,... cut 1 from cardstock

..,... cut 2 from clay
Front and Back Wall

..,... cut 1 from cardstock

..,... cut 2 from clay



Side Wall

..,... cut 1 from cardstock

..,... cut 2 from clay


..,... cut 1 from cardstock

..,... cut 1 from clay



R ec i p es
H e re are a few reci pes to whet you r ap petite for m ixing you r own s l i p ,
base, and m o re . Before making a selection , note t h e type of ware that
it 's i ntended for, and always consider the ware 's fi ring temperatu re .
With the exception of the Patina Was h
and Terra Sigil lata, the numbe rs in the
ingred ients are percentages of the total,
wh ich enables ceram ists to m ix a ny
vol u m e desired. M oreover, the glazes
can be a ltered by adding reco m m e nded
percentages of colora nts to create a n
exciting palette. The ingredients of a l l but
one of these recipes (the terra sigil lata)
a re measured by weight.
To mix u p a recipe, you ' l l need
a scale, two buckets, a m ixer, ru bber
gloves, and a mask or respirator. Measure
the d ry ingredients into a bucket and
mix in enough water to achieve the
consistency specified in the i nstructions.
Pour the liquid through a sieve that's
resting on the second bucket. If
necessa ry, push the g laze through the
sieve with a rubber rib. Sieve one more
time. Let the contents rest for 24 hours
before a pplication to a form .



CONE 04-1 0

Apply to leather-hard clay.

Apply to bone-dry clay.



Ball clay or red art clay

Kaolin (EPK)




1 5.0

Sodium silicate


1 0.0

Pyrophyl I ite

1 00.0


CONE 08-04

200 g
840 m l
25 g

M ix the ingredients well in a large, clear glass container, and

let the contents settle for 24 hours . The mixtu re will settle
into three d isti nct layers. S i phon off the top laye r of wate r and

S ieve a n d mix the ingred ients to

d isca rd it. The middle layer is the terra sigil lata; siphon it into a

the consistency of split pea soup.

lidded conta iner. Discard the bottom layer.



Apply to b isque ware.

Apply to bisque ware.

N ot e : T h i s rec i pe is m i xed by
vo l u me.


Gerstley Borate


B l ue: Add 2 % cobalt ca rbonate



G reen: Add 3 % copper ca rbonate a n d

Oxide o r stain

1 part

Kaolin (EPK)


2 % red iron oxide

Kaolin (EPK)

1 part

Nepheline syenite


Ye l l ow: Add 4 % red iron oxide

Frit 31 24

1 part


1 0.0

M ix the ingredients, adding enough water

1 00.0

M ix the i n g redients to the consistency

to ach ieve the consistency of butte rm i l k,

of skim m i l k.

and then sieve .


CONE 1 0


CONE o&-04

Apply to bisque ware.

Apply to bisque ware.



Gerstley borate


Kaolin (EPK)

1 5.0





Kaolin (EPK)

1 0.0





1 00.0

1 00.0

B l u e : Add 2 % cobalt carbonate

B l u e : Add 2 % cobalt carbonate

Gree n : Add 3% copper carbonate

Gree n : Add 3 % copper ca rbonate

Ye l l ow: Add 4 % red iron oxide

Ye l l ow: Add 3 % red i ron oxide

M ix the ingredients, adding enough
water to ach ieve the consistency of
butterm i l k, a n d then sieve.

M ix the ingredients, adding enough water to achieve

the cons istency of buttermilk, and then sieve .

1 24

G lossary of Ceram ic Terms


A sta b i l izing ingredient used in

g lazes that have a h ig h melting point.


A fra mework u pon wh ich a

clay scu l pture is bu ilt.

B a n d i n g wheel.

A mobile tu rntable that

enables the a rtist to freely turn work

without handling it.

A small ware board on wh ich work

is made, transported, a n d d ried.

B i s q u e ware.

Cera m ic material that has

undergone a low i n itial firing process to

prepare it for g lazi n g .

A finishing process


An elongated pyra mid of cera m i c

m aterial fo rmu lated t o bend a n d melt at

g lass former that is applied to the

a specific tem perature in a kiln fi ring .

surface of a clay body. Once fired, it


An image made from ch ina

paints that is tran sferred o nto a fired

g lazed s u rface and fi red between cone
01 8 and cone 017

An additive used to lower

the viscos ity of a liquid mediu m .


A common clay body that

m atures at a low tem pe rature ra nge.


A type of slip used to decorate

the s u rface of a ceramic form .

i nvolving rubbing leather-hard or bone


d ry clay to a polished s h i n e .

that turns clay i nto a cera m i c materia l .

Cera m ic.

Clay that h a s been fi red t o

a state of ch emical conversio n . Th is

The essential heati n g process

The adh erence relationship a g laze


An add itive used to help

by a sta m p with a personal signatu re

prevent i ng redients from settl ing i n

or mark.

a glaze.
M aterial that's used to lowe r the


with va rious organic mate rial s . When

m e lting point of a g laze and to help it

fired, clay p roduces a cera m ic medium .

fuse to the clay body.

Cod d l e .

Ra ises wo rk for access to the

Co i l i n g .

A hand-building technique using

rol led pieces of clay.


A n unfired clay form .

Sandlike particles of fi red clay

graded in va rious sizes. It is added to a

clay body to texturize, and to decrease
shrinkage and warpag e .
Hand building.

Constructi n g work i n

clay by p i nch ing, coi l i n g , or shaping

a n d joining slabs, without the use of a
potter's wheel.

A device used to fire cera m ics .

materials coated on kiln furniture to

has to a g iven clay body.

A type of pu lverized rock combined


decorative m ateria ls to the clay surface .



permanent coati n g .

K i l n wash.


An i m print i n clay made

fuses to the ceramic s u rface, creating a

I t i s also used to fuse g laze a n d oth er

process g ives the m aterial strength a n d

Chop mark.

A liquid m ixture conta i n in g a



The base of a cera m ic sculpture

or utilita ria n object to g ive l ift or stabil ity

to the form .

A type of flux man ufactured to

m e lt at specific tem peratu res.

A mixtu re of refractory

protect it from melting g laze.


An object used to g ive clay

structure o r defi nition. It can be i n

t h e form of a s l u m p , h u m p , sprig , or
press mold.

Natural mate rial used to color

clay, g laze, and other decorative

Pat i n a .

Colored wash used to sta i n a

bare ceramic s u rface.


A ha nd-bu ilding method of

squeezing clay between fingers a n d

t h u m b t o form a sculpture or pot.

G L 0 S S A R Y

The state of damp clay, with

P l asticity.

a consistency pliable enough to be

formed u n de r pressure without cracking
o r brea k i n g .
Porce l a i n .

fire clay body capable of reach ing the

h ig h est vitreous state.
Porosity. The

state of clay fi red to a

low temperature; pores remain open

enough for water to seep t h roug h .
A device used to measure

the i nterior tem perature of a k i l n .

Refractory materials.

Content used in

clays, kiln f u rn iture, and kiln insulation

that resists h i g h heat and meltin g .

The l i p o r top edge of a form .

Sg raffito.

A mecha n ical device used

to form slabs of clay.


A liquid form of clay coated on a

clay s u rface for decorative effects .

A wh ite, transl ucent, h i g h


S l a b roller.

A decorative tech n ique


A low-relief decoration taken

liquid decorative m e d i u m s .
S i l i ca.

The most co m m o n g laze

ing redient that acts as a glass fo rmer.


A hand-bu i l d ing method using

sheets of clay in va rious thicknesses to

form a tile, sculpture, or pot.

The process w h e n a

glaze or clay body is fired to a dense,

nonabsorbent stag e .

constructing a n d transporti ng work.

Sta i n .

A man ufactured colorant used to

Wa r p i n g .

A mobile, porous,

U n intended bending of a

tint underg laze, slip, and g laze . Sta ins

form caused by ra pidly drying o r firing

come in a wide variety of colors a n d a re

a piece.

more reliable than natural oxides.


A dense, h i g h-fire clay body

that's suitable for food ware.

Terra s i g i l l ata.

A decorative coati ng of

the finest clay particles, wh ich produces

a satin sheen.

te m perature changes; can result in

A wire mesh utensil to stra i n


still m oist.

u nderneath .

S i eve.


flat s u rface used as a base when

exposing a ceramic form to extre me

tem perature.

resistence to flow in a

surface of a fo rm w h i l e both pieces are

s l i p to reveal a contrasting clay color

as it dries a n d is fired to a g iven

V i scos ity. The


Ware board.

Therm a l shock.

The rate clay s h ri n ks


from a s m a l l mold. It's applied to the

m ade by scratch ing though a layer of

S h r i nkage.

0 F

A p rocess of q u ickly

cracking or breaking of the surface

U n dercut.

Negative space cut into

a form to create an overhang, to be

avoided when making sta m ps or molds.
U n d erglaze.

A decorative medium

applied to greenware or bisque wa re,

used alone or u nder a g laze .

Wax resist.

A coati n g that's appl ied to

bisque ware to block g laze a bsorption .

Wed g i n g .

Kneading clay to m ix it

thoroughly, remove a i r, and i m p rove

worka bil ity.

1 25

1 26

Contri buti ng Artists

Allen, Jill

Fisher, Frank James

Kim, Myung-Jin

Theiss, Chris

Portland, O regon
Page 33

M i lford, M ich igan

Page 84

Torra n ce, Cal ifornia

Page 67

Mount Ve rnon, Was h i n gton

Page 67

Ballard, Alice

Fisher, Lyn n

Kim, Tae-Hoon

Tirrell, Sue

G reenville, South Carolina

Page 32

Bellaire, M ich igan

Page 83

Lon g Beach, Cal ifornia

Page 67

Livingston, Monta na
Page 56

Berg, Rachel

Frehe, Paul

Knutson, Barbara

Tisdale, James

Taconic, Con necticut

Page 84

Ashevi lle, N o rth Carolina

Page 1 04

Woodstock, Vermont
Page 83

Austin, Texas
Page 44

Beyeler, Maggie Mae

Fritts, Debra

Kubale, Nancy

Walker, Holly

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Page 85

Roswell, Georgia
Page 42

Rutherfo rdton, N orth Caro l i n a

Page 1 0 5

Randolph, Vermont
Page 45

Bidwell, Penney

Gentithes, Carol

Lee, Cynthia

Wee, Hong-Ling

Denver, Colorado
Page 32

Seagrove, N orth Caro l i n a

Page 43

Barnardsvi lle, N orth Caro l i n a

Page 1 04

N ew York, N ew Yo rk
Page 33

Bu rke, Lynne

Gonzalez, Arthur

Mendes, Jenny

Welch, Fran

H a rtwell, Georgia
Page 1 05

Alameda, California
Page 45

C hesterla nd, Ohio

Page 42

Asheville, N o rth Carolina

Pages 45, 56

Calvert, Aaron

Granados, Juan

Nicklow, Jonathan

Westby, Lars

Arkadelphia, A rkansas
Page 57

Lubbock, Texas
Page 43

Everg ree n , Colorado

Page 84

Baltimore, Ma ryland
Page 43

Clague, Lisa

Gregg, Barry W.

Nicklow, Valerie

Wilson, Lana

Bakersvi lle, N orth Caro l i n a

Page 44

Decatu r, G eorgia
Page 1 03

Evergreen Colorado
Page 84

Del M a r, California
Pages 85, 1 03

Coughlin, Patrick

Harper, Edwards

Pierantozzi, Sandi

Wunderlich, Janis Mars

G a i nesvi lle, F lorida

Page 1 04

Ashevi lle, N o rth Carolina

Page 42

Phi ladelph ia, Pe n n sylva nia

Pages 56, 57

Col u m bus, Ohio

Page 32

Ellis, Melody

Jameson, Kerry

Selvin, Nancy

Edwa rdsville, I l l inois

Page 1 05

London, U n ited Kingdom

Page 44

Berkeley, California
Page 1 03

Everett, Jennifer A.

Kerrigan, Thomas

Smith, Wesley L.

Gorham, M a ine
Page 83

Tucson, Arizona
Page 32

Knoxvi lle, Te n n essee

Page 45

Finnerty, Kathryn

Kieffer, Kristen

Summerfield, Liz Zlot

Pleasant H i l l , O regon
Page 85

Ba ldwi nvi lle, Massach usetts

Page 84

Ba ke rsvi lle, North Carolina

Page 57

1 27

About the Author


she was su rprised and

delig hted . S i nce that day more than 17 yea rs ago, working
with clay and teach i n g its mysteries have become the g reat
passions of her l ife .
Shay is a cera m ic a rtist who works exclusively with
ha nd-built forms. She holds a degree in cera m ics from
Ringling School of Art and Design, com p leted a th ree
year reside ncy at Odyssey Center fo r the Ceramic Arts,
a n d received a scholarship to Watershed Center for the
Cera m ic Arts.
Shay owned and operated the Collective Hand
Studio/Gal lery where she taught classes a n d cu rated
ceramic exhibitions. She l ives in Asheville, N orth Caro l i n a .

Photo by Craig Childs

As a n a ctive a rtist a n d teach er, h e r wo rk i s displayed i n

g a l leries a n d permanent co llections national ly. To see more
of Shay's work, visit her website at www.shayamber.com.


My mother, E l a i n e R e i c h , who has g ive n me stellar

g u idance and shared her g ra m matical expertise;

David B o l lt, for his ongoing patronage and many years

of bel ieving in m e ;
M a r k Bu rleson, for ope n i n g m a ny doors o f o pportun ity

1 n my career;
My best frie nd, Tom Metca l f, who re m i nded me to

laugh d u ring the toug hest of times;

C r a i g C h i lds, for the support, assistance, and patience

that went a bove a n d beyond the call of duty; a n d

M y father, Jesse Reich, who g ifted me with the a b i l ity

to teach .



Thom Gaines, Timothy H a n ey,

Susan H uxley, Steve M a n n ,
Kathleen M cCaffe rty, Nathalie M ornu,
Beth Sweet, Suzanne Tou rtillott,
M a rgot Wa l lston, Fra n We lch,
C h ris Bryant, Jeff H a m ilton,
Jackie Kerr, Shan non Yokeley

1 28

I nd ex

Reci pes,

Ball clays,

Recla i m i n g clay,

B isque wa re,
B l istering,

B u rnout materials,


C rawl i n g ,
C razing,



Earthenwa re,


9, 1 1 , 1 1 4-1 1 8

G lazes,

G lazing,

1 06-1 1 4

G ree nware,





10, 1 2

H a rd clay,
I n l ay,

9, 2 2




1 2, 1 1 0

Pinch i n g ,







Shay Amber
Crossroads, 2004

1 8 x 1 1 x 4 inches (45. 7 x 2 7 . 9 x 1 0.2 cm)

Stiff-slab, pinched, and carved earthenware;
stamp applique; underg l aze, patina, g l aze
appl i cation; cone 06
Photo by artist


46-48, 58-59

1 0- 1 1 , 90, 95-96



S l i p,

34-4 1


G rog ,





S u rface decoration,


S h ri n kage,




Sg raffito,


B u rnish ing,
Coi l i n g ,



1 2 2- 1 23


Terra sigillata,



1 6-20, 24-25

U n derglazes,


1 0, 9 1 -92, 99