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Hip to be Square: Making Squared Casseroles

These squared casseroles were made using the method below, which can easily be adapted to make any non-round shape.

Do you ever feel like you’re just watching the wheel spin? Around and around go the pots, and off the wheel they go to the drying shelf, only to dry round, be bisque fired round, be glazed round—you see the pattern. But no longer!
Now, I’m not going to say that making square pots from the wheel is easy, even though Mike and Karen Baum make it look easy, but I will say that it can become easy, especially if you follow their simple instructions presented here. For a bit more depth, check out the expanded version of this article that was published in the November/December 2008 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated. Heck, while you’re at it, you may want to subscribe. You know what they say; be there or be…well, not round anyway. — Sherman Hall, Ceramic Arts Daily
Many years ago, someone asked me to make a rectangular open casserole suitable for baking lasagna, brownies, etc. The design I came up with is made so that when it comes out of the glaze firing, it is the right size to fit a lasagna noodle. The following technique can be used to make all kinds of differently shaped pots.



Making the sections
Using a bat rather than the bare wheel head, throw a flat slab for the bottom of the casserole. I use 5¼ pounds of clay to create a 16-inch-diameter slab.
Center 4¾ pounds of clay on another bat and throw the top section as a low wide cylinder, 14½ inches wide by 2¾ inches high. I like to have a thick, round rim at the top, which helps protect the finished pot from cracking and chipping. Cut the bottom out using a wooden rib to shave away the excess clay, leaving a ½ inch lip around the whole inside. This bottom inside lip makes it possible to attach the top and bottom sections without using a coil.
After the top piece has stiffened a bit, run a wire underneath it and shape it into a rectangle. The clay should be slightly tacky at this point, but firm enough so it doesn’t slump when shaped. Hold your hands about nine inches apart, grasp the rim at the top with your fingertips and pull your hands gently away from each other. While the top is still flexible, hold two yardsticks on opposite sides of the form and push all the sides in slightly.
When the top is leather hard, pick it up and place it on the bottom slab. Cut around the outside with a fettling knife. Remove the cut pieces from the bat.

This article appeared in the November/December 2008 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated.
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Lift the top from the bottom slab. Using a fork, score and slip the area where the top was sitting and apply slip.
Place the top back on the bottom and align the two sections. Press the bottom lip of the top section onto the bottom slab. Smooth with a sponge and flexible rubber rib until they are seamlessly joined together.
Pull the tines of a fork upward along the outside from the bottom slab into the top piece. The resulting lines will look like stitches all around the bottom seam. With your fingers, smooth the marks out and meld the two pieces together. Keep the pot on the bat to stiffen up a bit.
Place a bat over the top and flip the pot so its bottom is facing up. First with a metal then a stiff rubber rib, smooth out the roughness where the two sections were attached.
Whatever your final handle or lug design looks like, make sure they will not extend far from the profile of the finished piece, otherwise they will be prone to cracking due to heating and cooling (and therefore expanding and contracting) more quickly than the rest of the piece. Wet the handle sides that face the pot and press them firmly on. Push the handle ends flat and pinch off the excess. Decorate with your fingertips or stamps.

Note: Many clay bodies are not suitable for use as ovenware. For more information on claybodies that can withstand thermal shock from heating and cooling in the kitchen, as well as information on how to use handmade ovenware, see Pottery Making Illustrated‘s archived articles and select “Ovenware.” Also, check out Robbie Lobell’s article on Flameware in Ceramics Monthly.

Mike and Karen Baum are studio potters and the owners of Baum Pottery in Lebanon, Ohio. For more information on their work, visit their website at www.baumpottery.com.