While attending a workshop, I watched Mark Issenberg create one of his
signature pieces: a tall vase, thrown in three pieces, embellished with
decorative handles. The making of the vase is described in the following process.

This technique is included in Three Great Pottery Wheel Throwing Techniques: Tips on Throwing Complex Pottery Forms Using Basic Throwing Skills, which is free to Ceramic Arts Daily subscribers.

For the main body, throw 4 pounds of clay into a bulbous shape about 9 inches tall with a bowl-shaped bottom. Leave enough room to comfortably get your hand inside the pot. Leave the piece attached to the bat and set aside to stiffen to soft leather hard. The piece should be dry enough to support the top section, but still soft enough to manipulate.

Monitor the drying carefully (avoid areas with drafts to prevent uneven drying).

When the body section of the vase is appropriately stiff, open a 1-1/2-pound ball of clay all the way down to the surface of the bat, moving outward to form a solid ring. This piece will form the top of the vase and is thrown upside down.
Use a rib to scrape away any excess clay that remains on the bat inside the ring. Bring up the wall, but leave the base fairly thick to strengthen and emphasize the top rim (figure 3). Use calipers to measure the top of this piece, which will be turned upside down over the body of the vase. This measurement should be slightly larger than the opening in the top of the vase body previously thrown. Cut off the piece with a braided cut-off wire, but leave on the bat.

This technique is included in Three Great Pottery Wheel Throwing Techniques: Tips on Throwing Complex Pottery Forms Using Basic Throwing Skills, which is free to Ceramic Arts Daily subscribers.


Place the body of the vase and its still-attached bat onto the wheel head. Score and moisten the rim using slip. Turn the second bat, with the top section on it, upside down, and very carefully (since it has already been cut loose from the bat) place onto the top of the body.
Remove the bat from the top section. Adjust the alignment between the two sections, carefully moving the top piece as close to center as possible. Use your ?ngers both inside and outside the vase and, with the wheel turning very slowly, pull the top section downward onto the rim of the body, smoothing the join between the two pieces both inside and outside the piece (figure 5). Be careful not to touch the top rim, so there is no damage to the design from the braided cutting wire. The body and top section are now joined together. Cut the piece off the bat, cover in plastic and set aside to dry to medium leather hard-generally overnight.
The piece should be dry enough to be turned upside down without damaging the design on the top rim, but moist enough to trim the bottom of the vase. Center, fasten securely, and trim the bottom of the pot to match the bowl-shaped interior. Score a 2-3- inch circle at the center of the bottom of the piece and wet with slip. Place a 3/4-pound ball of clay onto the center of the bottom of the piece and carefully press into place (figure 6). With the wheel turning very slowly, center the clay using as little water as possible so you do not soften the pot’s base (figure 7). This step takes concentration, skill and practice. Alternatively, you can throw a separate ring for the base in the same way you made the top.

This technique is included in Three Great Pottery Wheel Throwing Techniques: Tips on Throwing Complex Pottery Forms Using Basic Throwing Skills, which is free to Ceramic Arts Daily subscribers.


After centering, open the clay in the same manner as if you are throwing a new pot. Pull up a wall and shape into the foot. Again, don’t use a lot of water or the surface of the pot will be damaged from the excess moisture. Set aside and allow this area to become leather hard. After the foot has stiffened, turn the piece right side up.

You can now add the decorative handles. One way to do this is to roll out a 3-4-inch slab of clay. Roll a drill bit over the clay to create texture. Then roll the clay around a pencil or small dowel rod with the texture on the outside. Slide the clay off the pencil and attach the handle to the vase by scoring and using slip.

You also can add more texture around the shoulder of the vase, using stamps and/or a sewing tracing wheel. Clean up any unwanted marks or bits of clay with a sponge.

Wrap the vase in several layers of plastic and set aside for several days to allow the moisture content of each section to equalize. Then remove the plastic and allow the piece to dry completely before ?ring.

 

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