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The Perfect Cure for Cabin Fever: A Potter Shares a Cool Technique for Making Texture Stamps with Natural Objects

Spring is right around the bend so I thought today would be a good day to present a project that involves getting outside. This technique for making simple plaster texture stamps out of found objects comes from Woodstock, New York, ceramic artist Meg Oliver. To make the stamps she uses to create texture on her pottery, Meg usually takes a nice walk in the woods and picks up objects that will make interesting marks in clay. Then, she uses pinch pots and plaster to transform them into fun, free-form stamps.


I thought this would be a great project for teachers with students who are bouncing off the walls! Get ’em outside! – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.



Mark Maker, Mark Maker, Make Me a Mark:




Cherry Blossom Mugs, thrown and stamped porcelain with inlaid glazes, by Meg Oliver.

My mark-makers, so to speak, are plaster stamps. Most have a biological origin. Some are marks from found tools – a broken paintbrush, a grapefruit spoon, to name two of my favorites. Most of the marks are unrecognizable from their original source. On stamp-making day, I generally go for a walk, pick things from the garden or use a flower from a bouquet that is about to go. I basically collect a whole bunch of things. I then make little pinch pots and embed my treasures into the clay or decorate the inside of the pot with repeated marks. If you are trying this at home, remember that undercuts are no fun in plaster.



Stack of Sorbet Bowls, thrown and stamped porcelain with inlaid glazes, by Meg Oliver.

The plaster is then dolloped into the little pots. Any extra gets poured out onto a bunch of leaves or pine needles, or anything that could be interesting later. For a while, I was enamored by the mark left by air bubbles caught in the plaster, so I intentionally added air to the plaster mix so I could get as many as possible because they wear out quickly. I make about thirty or so stamps at a time. I peel away the little pinch pots when the plaster is still quite soft. This makes it that much easier to remove things that get embedded in the plaster. Some are amazing as little vignettes, but as stamps, are not quite what I was looking for. Some will always be what they are and do not transcend into a mark. And some, if I just cut in half or break off an appendage and rub with a green scrubby – Aha! A new favorite!


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After making a selection of pinch pots and embedding them with various found treasures (as shown at top of page), plaster is dolloped into the pots (as shown at left). Then, they are left to stiffen up.



Meg removes the pinch pots when the plaster is still a little soft because it is easier to remove things that get stuck. This stamp is ready for clean up.



The plaster mold on the right was stamped into the soft clay on the left.
For a video demonstration on mixing plaster see “Plaster Mixing 101
in the Ceramic Arts Daily Video Archives.