I have been sort of obsessed with plates lately – I haven’t been making any (too busy lately for the studio!) but I have been looking at the plates of other potters and thinking about the form a LOT. Something tells me, the first thing I do when I get back to the studio will be to make some plates.
I was super excited by the plate technique of Todd Hayes in the May 2013 issue of Ceramics Monthly. In today’s excerpt, Todd contrasts the refined look of thrown work with the more tactile surfaces of pinched pottery to create plates I want to possess. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.
Even though the process is the same for every plate, each one takes on its own character throughout the making process. I start by throwing my plates on the wheel and trimming them while the clay is still relatively soft. This way, I can proceed with the rest of the steps without too much resistance. I use a template to transfer lines for squaring off the plate and cut the rim with a fettling knife (1). The cut edge is then softened with a radius tool made from brass tubing. This allows more surface area for the added coils to adhere (2).
About seven years ago, John Neely showed me how to make these really simple but effective radius tools for rounding off the edges of leather-hard clay. The radius tool (3) is made from modified brass tubing—any diameter tubing will work, but I prefer to use ½ inch as it fits well in my hand. I cut a length of tubing approximately 4 inches and grind both ends off at 45º angles. I use the edge of a bench grinding wheel or a round file to create the radius for the cutting blade. While filing the tubing, I play around with different depths until I find the right radius for my specific application.
I file a different radius on each end of my tools. To use the tool, I simply hold it against the edge of the work and draw the blade toward me in a quick and decisive manner. The waste clay will curl out of the tip (this is why it is ground off at 45º) and I am left with a clean, chip resistant edge on the work.
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After preparing the edge, I add the first layer of the new rim by pinching on a coil (4). For this dinner plate, I roll out coils that are 5⁄8 inch in diameter. This allows me to pinch out a fairly substantial rim. The plate is then set aside so the rim can dry out a bit. After the first layer of the stepped rim has set up, I add and pinch a second coil to finish off the rim (5).
Todd Hayes currently lives and works in Logan, Utah, where he is the Ceramic Studio Coordinator and Adjunct Faculty Member at Utah State University. He earned his MFA from Wichita State University. You can see more of his work at toddhayesceramics.com.
For fabulous forming techniques, be sure to download your free copy of Five Great Handbuilding Techniques: Variations on Classic Techniques for Making Contemporary Handbuilt Pottery.