It has been a few weeks since I got muddy in the studio. Before I begin the new commissions, I decided to warm up with a simple breast bowl made of porcelain. I though you might like to see How I Do It. Click on each picture to see it bigger.
I press the clay into the bowl until it is smooth and the thickness I want. The edge of the clay is higher than the supporting bowl. I trim the extra clay against the bowl rim with a cutting tool. It makes a nice edge to work from.
Looks like I am going for the breast bowl! So far, other than the trim tool and the modeling tool for attaching the spiral, I have made this bowl using only my fingers.
I am almost done. It is being supported in the porcelain bowl. The clay is still too soft to finish the edges and refine the surfaces. I'll let the clay harden just a bit while I take a walk in the very last light of this November day. Feels like Thanksgiving.
The bowl is now leather hard. In this state, I can carve any details, burnish surfaces, set the foot and finish the rim. I take care with the rim because a wide open bowl shape like this is susceptible to cracking as the clay dries, and again during firing. I like to roll the rim up and inward a tiny bit to take some of the strain off. First, I set up the foot---
I let it get a little too dry, and I am having to very delicately scrape away the bottom to make a flat level surface for the bowl to sit on. This takes a while to get right. I have to feel my way through it and test it a lot. Finally I am satisfied, and I turn the bowl over to...
shape the rim--- oops. I delicately smoothed the rim with moistened finger tips. So delicate, like a fine buttery wafer cookie. A little bit broke off. I have to be so careful at this stage. The drying clay is very brittle.I think I can fix it.
See the fat bandage of clay I made at the top of the picture. I scored the clay and and wet it, then attached a small coil of wet clay. I'll trim and smooth that, and it will look like the rest of the rim.
The bowl looks good. The rim broke again while I was fixing it. I just kept patching with wet clay and smoothing. I used some tools to help me out. I hope it will survive the stress created by shrinkage during drying and later in firing.
I finished the breast bowl with some carving to refine shapes and some burnishing for a smooth surface. Now I have to wait for the clay to dry to bone dry state before I fire it in the kiln. I think this breast bowl is beautiful . Thanks to the spiral it is different from any other I have made. I have about a dozen new ideas for bowls just from the process of making this bowl . I'll do well to make two or three, because the clay will have its own ideas about what to become, just like this bowl did. In a few weeks, I show you the rest of the process--firing, glazing and firing some more. We have a way to go yet.