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Press-Molded Lidded Box With Wire Handle

Niel Hora from Apex, N.C., creates a beautiful press from a box using clay and a plaster mold.

Materials and Tools:

moist clay
plaster press mold
paper template
fettling knife
plastic mold knife
wire clay cutter
slab sticks
electric kiln
large rubber bands
scoring tool
serrated potter's rib
metal potter's rib
high-temperature wire
block of wood
banding wheel
spray bottle
Terra Sigillata
clean water
plastic buckets
cordless drill
wire pliers
clay shaper
razor blade


1. Wedge a lump of moist clay to expel air bubbles, even out moisture variations, and improve workability. Next, form wedged moist clay into a square 'loaf.'

2. Cut 'loaf' of moist clay into slabs using slab sticks and wire clay cutter. Peel away two individual slabs of moist clay and place onto a clean work surface. One slab of moist clay will become the left side of the box and the other, the right side.

3. Using a fettling knife and paper templates of the box, cut each slab of moist clay into the box shape.

4. Press each slab of moist clay into the corresponding half of the two-part plaster press-mold. Cut away excess clay using plastic mold knife. Score edges of pressed slabs and apply the slip with a brush.

5. Join the plaster mold halves together and secure with two large rubber bands. Set aside to dry to the leather hard stage.

6. Remove the large rubber bands, pry mold apart and remove the box. Make necessary corrections to the outside of the box with a metal potter's rib and moist clay.

7. Using the fettling knife, block of wood and banding wheel, cut the box into two pieces. One piece is the body of the box and the other piece is the lid. Make the flange by rolling out a coil of clay and flattening with a brayer. Score the inside of the box and apply clay slip to scored area. With the box on the banding wheel, press the flange onto the scored and slipped area. Return the lid to the body of the box and adjust the flange with clay shaper for a snug fit, if necessary. Set aside to allow the flange to dry.

8. While the lidded box is drying, prepare the pieces of paper resist and the wire handle. With scissors, cut pieces of paper into the desired shape. Place cut pieces of paper into a bucket of clean water to soak.

9. Take a piece of the high-temperature wire and twist together, using the drill and vise. With the wire pliers, cut and form the twisted wire into the handle. Insert the wire handle into the lid of the box.

10. Lightly spray the outside of the box with clean water. Remove the pieces of cut paper from the bucket of water and apply to the outside of the box. Set aside to dry long enough so that the paper does not slide when touched.

11. Separate the body and lid of the box. Dip the exterior of each box part into the bucket of slip. Wipe any excess slip away with a clean, wet sponge. Set aside to dry. Once the slip on the exterior of each half has dried to the touch, remove the strips of paper. Set the lidded box aside to dry completely (bone dry stage).

12. Separate the body and lid of the box. Using a brush apply the Terra Sigillata to the lip, flange and bottom of the lidded box. Return the lid to the body of the box.

13. Place the lidded box into the electric kiln and bisque fire to approximately 1850 F degrees. Once the kiln is cool, remove the lidded box.

14. Separate the body and lid of the box. Dip each box piece into the bucket of glaze. With a clean wet sponge, wipe excess glaze from the bottom, lip and flange of the box.

15. Place the lidded box into the electric kiln and glaze fire the pot to approximately 1940 F degrees. Allow kiln to cool and remove the finished lidded box.

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