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Floral Ceramic Wall Pocket

Bob Donaghy makes a floral ceramic wall pocket with beautiful calla lilies attached.

About 15 years ago, Bob Donaghy and his wife decided that night ceramics classes might be fun, so they tried it. Donaghy found that it came naturally to him, and he's been at it ever since. Amongst his former hobbies are skydiving, scuba diving, and stock car racing. Nowadays, when Donaghy isn't working on his clay, he and his wife enjoy visiting national parks in their motor home, even dabbling in gold mining! Donaghy will be making a wall pocket with calla lilies.


Everyone can make wonderfully detailed Calla lilies using just a few basic tools. It is nice to have clay slab rollers and other ceramic tools, but they are not necessary. A common wood rolling pin and a steak knife will do wonders. Then add a couple of paintbrushes and you are ready to go. Nearly all of the artwork is done with your fingers. The only other thing you need is a way to fire your work. Many local hobby ceramic stores have a kiln that you can use for a modest price, if you do not have your own.

If you want to use the exact tools and supplies I use then visit your local ceramic supply store and purchase the following:

cone 06 white clay body, smooth, no grog
needle tool
rubber ended clay-shaping tool
wire tool
1/4" rounded dowel
small water bucket
2' x 3' heavy-duty 21 oz. canvas
rolling pin or slab roller
fat fan brush
Mayco #6 Filbert AB60 Brush
Mayco #3 round AB703 Brush
Mayco # 2 detail liner CB202
under glazes for greenware
clear cone 06 glaze
large plastic drinking cup
household strainer


1. Place the canvas on the work surface. Cut a fist size piece of clay and place it on the canvas. Using a rolling pin or slab roller, roll the clay in all directions to flatten it to an even thickness of two nickels stacked on top of each other or 3/16 inch.

Figure A

2. Using a knife or a needle tool cut a straight section off the top edge of the clay. Place the piece centered over a curved surface such as a large plastic drinking cup that has been cut in half lengthwise.

3. Roll out a second piece of clay similar to step one but do not cut it.

4. To make slip, break up some scrap clay and place it in a bowl with a little water. Use a fork to mash the clay in the bowl and stir it until a thick paste is formed. Strain the slip through an ordinary household strainer to remove any large chunks. Tip: Slip will be used like glue throughout this process.

5. After waiting a few minutes to allow the first piece of clay to firm up in the shape of the cup, remove the cup and place the clay on top of the second slab. Position the top slab so the straight area is roughly two inches inside of the bottom slab.

Figure B

6. After deciding on the desired shape of the wall pocket, draw that shape firmly with your finger on the clay, compressing the top piece into the bottom. Wet your finger to help your finger slide easily.

7. Cut the shape with the needle tool, following your finger lines.

8. Turn the wall pocket so you can see inside. Roll another piece of scrap clay into a thin long snake about the diameter of a knitting needle. Dip this rolled clay into the slip completely covering the roll. Using the dowel, slide the slip covered roll into the inside of the wall pocket, and out to the edges all the way around. Supporting the clay on the outside, using the dowel, firmly compress and smooth the roll into the edges of the wall pocket.

Figure C

9. Smooth the outside seam with a rib tool.

10. Cut the top part of the bottom slab into its final shape with the needle tool. Soften and round the edges with a damp sponge.

11. Set the wall pocket aside and lightly cover it with plastic.

Figure D

12. Roll out another slab of clay. Freehand cut a teardrop flower shape with a needle tool.

13. Remove excess clay leaving only the cutout piece. Wet your finger with water and flatten out the edges of the clay until it is quite thin. It is important to flatten only the very edge as the center thickness gives it strength. Make sure not to alter the shape as you thin the edge. You will end up with a slightly larger shape.

Figure E

14. Form the flower by curling the bottom of the piece, overlapping the edges slightly to form a funnel-like shape. Use your fingers to compress the clay together insuring that the edges are attached to each other.

15. To create the stamen, roll out another piece of scrap clay into a 1/2" x 2-1/2" pencil-shaped piece (the diameter of an AA battery). Taper one end to a point. Create texture by scratching the surface all the way around with the needle tool.

Figure F

16. Dip the pointed end of the stamen (clay roll) into the slip, and insert it into the flower.

Figure G

17. To attach the flower to the wall pocket, score the clay by scratching the back of the flower and the main piece where the flower will be added. Apply slip to the back of the flower and attach the two pieces together firmly without damaging the flower. Be sure it is facing the way you want it.

18. For the flower stem, roll out a scrap piece of clay 1/4 inch in diameter and attach it using some slip to both the flower and the wall pocket.

Figure H

19. For the leaf, roll out another fist size piece of clay until it is about 3/16 inch thick. Freehand cut out the main shape of the leaf and thin the edges.

Figure I

20. Add veins to the leaf by scoring the clay with the end of a small paintbrush.

Figure J

21. Attach the leaf to the wall pocket using slip. Curl the leaf to make it look more natural.

Figure K

22. To under glaze the piece, brush on the various colors following the instructions on the glaze bottles. Let the piece dry.

23. Bisque-fire the piece to cone 04 (1945 F or 1063 C).

24. Once the under glazed piece has been bisque-fired, you are ready to glaze the wall pocket. It will be fired again to cone 06 (1828 F or 998 C). Choose a matching temperature clear glaze (gloss, matte, semi matte, etc). I generally use Mayco cone 06 clear. The clear glaze can be brushed on following the manufacturer's instructions. Note: Additional options for applying clear glazes include spraying, dipping and pouring. The base of your piece (where it will sit in the kiln) should not have glaze on it unless you are using stilts during the firing process.

25. Place it in the kiln and fire to cone 06.



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