Handmade Asian Ceramic Dishware

Toss, fire and glaze clay into functional and beautiful dishware pieces inspired by Asian design.

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Materials and Tools:

stoneware clay
potter's wheel
pottery tools (wire clay cutter, sponge, needle, rib tool)
foam mat
rolling pin
square plaster hump mold
Sur-form
2 glaze colors
Sumi-e brush
hot wax
rubber gloves
kiln

Steps:

Mug

1. Use the wire tool to cut off about 1 pound of soft stoneware clay. Wedge the clay on the foam mat using the Oxhead kneading technique; then shape the clay into a ball.

2. Place the clay in the center of the potter's wheel and pat the clay down with your hands to secure it to the wheel. Turn on the wheel and begin the centering process with hands and water. Open the clay and begin the pull and form a cylinder shape. During the process, use the sponge to hold water and use as needed. Use the rib tool to define and shape the mug.

3. Once complete, use the wire tool to cut the vessel base from the wheel. Set the mug aside to dry.

4. To create a handle, roll about 1/4 pound of clay into a ball. Form a carrot shape. Hold the carrot-shaped clay in one, dry hand. Wet your other, pulling hand and form a hole between your thumb and finger. Draw downward in swift strokes, keeping the pulling hand wet. Once the desired length is reached, shape the handle and place it aside to dry.

5. Just before the mug and handle become leather-hard, add the handle. (Leather-hard is when the surface is no longer tacky and you can work on the piece without damage.)

6. Using the needle tool, cut the handle at both ends. Score the handle at both ends and apply slip slurry left over from the potter's wheel. Prepare the surface of the mug where the handle is to be attached by scoring with the needle tool and applying more slip.

7. Stick the top end of the handle firmly in place and attach the bottom of the handle to the mug. Use the sponge to clean away unwanted marks in the clay. Set aside to dry for a week.

Rice bowl

1. Using the wire tool, cut about 1-1/2 pounds of clay. Wedge the clay on the foam mat using the Oxhead kneading technique; then shape the clay into a ball.

2. Place the clay in the center of the potter's wheel and pat the clay down to secure it to the wheel. Turn on the wheel and begin the centering process with hands and water. Open the clay and begin the pull and form a cylinder shape. During the process, use the sponge to hold water and use as needed. Use the rib tool to define and shape the mug.

3. Once the cylinder has reached the desired height, use the rib tool inside the form to open the clay. Repeat this step a few times until the desired bowl shape is formed.

4. Once complete, use the wire tool to cut the bowl's base from the wheel.  Set the bowl aside to dry.

5. Once the bowl is leather-hard, the bottom of the rice bowl can either be trimmed on the wheel to create a nice foot or the sponge can be used to remove any unwanted marks. Trimming a foot is optional.

6. Using a sharp tool, cut indentations away from the rim of the bowl to create a place for the chopsticks to rest.

7. Use the sponge to smooth edges and remove any unwanted marks. Place the rice bowl aside and allow it to dry for one week.

Square plate

1. Using the wire tool, cut about 5 pounds of clay. Place the clay on the foam mat. Using the rolling pin, apply pressure to the middle of the clay and roll outward. Continue rolling out the clay, being sure to roll both horizontally and vertically, while keeping a square shape in mind.

2. Once the clay is 1 inch thick, flip it over and continue using the rolling pin in a horizontal and vertical rolling motion until the clay is about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick.

3. Place the square plaster mold near the clay slab. Using both hands, gently lift the clay slab from the foam mat and lay it over the square plaster mold. Trim the excess clay away from each side and place the form aside to dry to leather-hard stage.

4. Once the square plate is leather-hard, remove it from the plaster mold. Using the Sur-form tool, trim each side until the edges are even.

5. Use a wet sponge to further smooth the edges. Place the square plate aside and allow it to dry for one week.

Finishing all pieces

1. Once the pieces are dry, place them in a kiln and bisque fire to 1890 degrees F (cone 05). This usually takes about 15 hours in the kiln. Remove the pieces 24 hours after the firing ends.

2. Apply both hot and cold wax to the bottom of the pieces to keep the glaze from adhering. (At high temperatures, glaze will stick to the kiln shelf and ruin both the pot and the shelf.)

3. Put on rubber gloves. Stir the first glaze to be applied. Take each piece of bisque ware and individually dip them into the glaze bucket with one single, quick dip.

4. Use a sponge to clean away any undesired areas of glaze, usually on the bottom of the pieces.

5. Stir the second glaze color. Dip just a small area of each piece into the second glaze color.

6. Dip the Sumi-e brush into the second glaze. Hand paint bamboo stalks and leaves over the surface of the first glaze.

7. Once all the pieces are glazed, place them into the kiln for the glaze firing of 2200 degrees F (cone 6). This usually takes about 8 hours in the kiln. Remove the pieces 24 hours after firing.

Tara McGree, Raleigh, N.C.
Web site: www.TaraMcGeePottery.com

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