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Ceramic Art Lesson Plan: Pots Designed for Specific Foods

Posted By Steve Davis-Rosenbaum On June 25, 2010 @ 1:09 pm In College Level Ceramics Assignments,Education,Lesson Plans 9-12 | No Comments

Much of Steve Davis-Rosenbaum’s pottery originates from the basic human joys of eating and cooking with all the overtones these activities evoke: fireside, nourishment, camaraderie. For Steve, beautiful pottery dishes are synonymous with love of food and its presentation, and his pottery production focuses on everyday dishes for use in cooking, dining and home decoration.

Much of Steve Davis-Rosenbaum’s pottery originates from the basic human joys of eating and cooking with all the overtones these activities evoke: fireside, nourishment, camaraderie. For Steve, beautiful pottery dishes are synonymous with love of food and its presentation, and his pottery production focuses on everyday dishes for use in cooking, dining and home decoration.

Goals

 

  • Identify specific foods and the typical way they are served and paired with other foods.
  • Find examples of historical and contemporary vessels or serving dishes that would be suitable for the specific foods and pairings you have identified. Contemporary examples should be made by studio artists or individual designers.
  • Design a utilitarian vessel that enhances the typical pairing or serving of these foods both visually and in terms of function. For example, the chip and dip server on the left has an unusual and interesting presentation strategy, at the same time that it functions well.
  • Create variations of your design in clay prototypes to work out building techniques, proportions, surface design and any functional issues like balance, weight, appropriate glazes, etc.

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Pots Designed for Specific Foods


Fig.A

Fig.A

Things to Consider

 

Practical issues based around comfort, convenience and food are a rich source of inspiration for functional work. As a potter focusing on function and form, what could you create to ease the schlepping of chips and dip in separate bowls? Are there food combinations you like, but elements of the presentation that you’d change? For example, do you like warm apple pie with ice cream on the side, but hate how the ice cream starts to melt? How could you design a dish that solves this problem?

 

Fig.B

Fig.B

Ideas, research and designs begin by asking questions about function and form that assist our special needs or uses. By choosing function as a guiding limitation, you’re free to explore alternative forms, evaluating them by their function, proportion, line, shape and space (both negative and positive). Begin the process for developing a new form by drawing preliminary sketches, and experimentation and play in the studio building parts and prototypes, which results in a 3-D “sketch book” of shapes and forms.

 

Fig.B

Fig.B

Developing a Form—The Chip and Dip Example

 

Before beginning the design for my Chip and Dip, I had been creating multiple vessel forms for more than fifteen years. In addition, I had researched the historical multiple vessel forms from a variety of cultures throughout time. Over the ages, potters have had the impulse to put two pots together creating new forms and uses for them. For example, multiple vessel pots have been found as early as the Neolithic period in locations such as China, Peru and Iran. Many of these pots had a variety of functions in religious and marriage ceremonies, as decoration or for daily use. My multiple vessels also revolve around a defined function and the relationships between the individual pots when placed together creating new space, line and volume. Successful pots are created by understanding the function and constantly evaluating how the pieces go together.

 

The challenge here is not to just remake the Chip and Dip, but to use the explanation of the process as a jumping off point to inspire new forms and designs for holding and serving other foods.

 

Fig.1 Marking the location of the handle on the large bowl.

Fig.1 Marking the location of the handle on the large bowl.

Designing a Chip and Dip

 

When deciding on size, envision the amount of chips and the quantity of dip required for the chips before you start making bowls. I usually make five sets of bowls and straps then mix and match the parts until each becomes aesthetically pleasing. If needed, I go back to the wheel and remake some of the bowls.

 

Timing is Everything!

 

For multi-piece projects, all parts need to dry at the same rate. Depending on studio conditions, spraying the form with water throughout the process might be necessary. After adding each piece, wrap the piece in plastic to slow the drying. It might be necessary to wrap sections of the pot if one area starts to dry faster than another. It is best to work on the Chip and Dip over a few days, leaving time for areas to set up to support attachments and desired forms.

 

 

Fig.2 Scoring the rim.

Fig.2 Scoring the rim.

Throwing the Bowls

 

I throw all the pieces in the same sitting and create 4–5 sets at a time. Depending on the firmness of the clay and rate of drying, I plan my studio schedule to have a 3–5 day period to work on the multiple forms. I also throw multiple parts for each Chip and Dip, allowing myself to make critical aesthetic decisions during assembly. By working on several Chip and Dips at the same time, new ideas develop while I work on each pot. This design requires two bowls for the construction/assemblage, which should be proportional to each other and, when placed side by side or held on top of each other, give the sense of belonging together.

 

Fig.3 Checking the fit of the handle.

Fig.3 Checking the fit of the handle.

Throwing the Bowls

 

I throw all the pieces in the same sitting and create 4–5 sets at a time. Depending on the firmness of the clay and rate of drying, I plan my studio schedule to have a 3–5 day period to work on the multiple forms. I also throw multiple parts for each Chip and Dip, allowing myself to make critical aesthetic decisions during assembly. By working on several Chip and Dips at the same time, new ideas develop while I work on each pot. This design requires two bowls for the construction/assemblage, which should be proportional to each other and, when placed side by side or held on top of each other, give the sense of belonging together.

 

Allow the bowls to set up and reach the soft side of leather hard. Completely finish the large bowl by cleaning the rim and trimming the foot before adding any other parts. Cut and manipulate the small bowl to fit the shape of the strap later.

 

Fig.4 Attaching the handle to the large bowl.

Fig.4 Attaching the handle to the large bowl.

Making the Strap/Handle

 

Throw the strap as a donut, opening the clay all the way to the wheelhead and pulling the walls of the clay to the edge of the bat (fig. A). To finish the walls of the strap, taper the rim (fig. B). Cut and let set up to the soft side of leather hard. Turn the donut upside down and trim the bottom of the strap then shape it to match the thrown end. Place the strap on a canvas and cut one end, then move each end to create a shape for the desired design (fig. C). Remember, the top will hold the smaller pot and the shape needs to allow hands to enter and leave with chips. Let stand to set up more so it can stand on its own.

 

Fig.5 Adding a support of leather-hard clay to the center of the handle.

Fig.5 Adding a support of leather-hard clay to the center of the handle.

Assembly

 

Since there are multiple pieces to the Chip and Dip, timing and attention to the attachment areas is very important. Before the pot can be assembled, all the pieces need to be at the correct stage of leather hard. To control the drying time, the pot stays covered in plastic until the desired firmness is reached. Sometimes spraying pieces with water and covering to maintain correct firmness is necessary.

 

Fig.6 Cutting the bottom edge of the small  bowl to match the curve of the top of the strap.

Fig.6 Cutting the bottom edge of the small bowl to match the curve of the top of the strap.

When the pieces are ready, mark the location of the handle on the large bowl (fig 1), score the rim (fig. 2). Shape the handle making sure the ends of the strap are wide enough to straddle the large bowl (fig. 3). When the handle can stand on its own, score and slip the ends and attach it to the large bowl (fig. 4). Using a soft sponge, chamois or fingers, stretch the strap (like pulling a handle) into shape to change the tension of the clay and prevent warping and twisting. Support the handle in the center with a prop made from leather hard clay (fig. 5). Place a piece of paper between the prop and the clay parts to ensure easy removal. With the prop still in place, hold the small bowl up to the handle, making sure the shape and proportion work well. Cut the bottom edge to match the curve of the top of the strap (fig. 6). I rework the tension, alignment and shape of the strap and check all previous attachments.

 

Fig.7 Attaching the small bowl after scoring and slipping edges of bowl and handle.

Fig.7 Attaching the small bowl after scoring and slipping edges of bowl and handle.

Attaching the Small Dip Bowl to the Handle

 

Score and slip the edges of the bowl and handle before attaching the small bowl to the handle (fig. 7). Place a coil around the inner and outer seams to help secure the bowl. Be sure to work in the clay and blend it so the coils disappear. After the bowls set up to leather hard, add handles to top bowl and trim the rim of the large bowl. I find that this visually finishes the form creating one new form from many parts. Make sure the strap can support the top bowl and will not lean over. Check it often and adjust as it dries. Clean rims and attachments. Cover and let the piece dry slowly.

 

Fig.8 Blending in a coil around the outer seam to help secure the bowl.

Fig.8 Blending in a coil around the outer seam to help secure the bowl.

Finishing Touches

 

I go back to the attachment of the strap and add coils of clay to blend in the edges and round the rim, leaving no gaps or unfinished edges. I let the pot dry slowly to minimize warping and leaning.

 

Acknowledgments

 

I would like to thank the Phillips University Legacy Foundation for their funding that has supported my research and experimentation with multiple vessel forms. Process shots taken by Joe Molinaro, Lexington, Kentucky.

 

 

Steve Davis-Rosenbaum has been a potter since 1978 and operates SDR Pottery in Lexington, Kentucky. He works in earthenware and decorates in the majolica style. For questions or comments, contact Steve at darogallery@insightbb.com.


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