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Spiral Ceramic Bottle

Kay Nguyen creates this ceramic bottle and decorates it with a spiral design and gold enameled text.

Kay Nguyen scored an apprenticeship with a potter and kiln builder to perfect her craft, which she now teaches at a local college in Houston.

Materials and Tools:

porcelain clay
wire tool
potter’s wheel
potter’s rib
white and black glazes
wax resist
gold enamel pen
mineral spirits


1. Cut about two pounds of clay with a wire tool to make this ceramic bottle.

2. Wedge the clay into a ball shape.

3. Center the ball of clay on the potter’s wheel. Compress the ball up and down, and then open up the form to create a cylinder with a base of 1/2-inch thickness. Move the clay upward into a taller cylinder shape (figure B).

4. After about three pulls of getting the height out of the cylinder, begin to shape the clay into the bottle form by enlarging the lower portion of the cylinder. Push out on the wall of the cylinder (figure C).

5. To make the narrow neck of the bottle, coax it inward toward the center until it becomes balanced with the lower portion (figure D).

6. Remove the bottle from the potter’s wheel with the wire tool (figure E) and let it dry until it is "leather" hard.

7. Remove the excess clay from the bottom of the bottle. Let dry. The drying time for each stage is probably about six hours depending on the temperature and humidity inside the studio.

8. Bisque fire to cone 06 in a kiln (1850-degrees F). Allow for a cooling period of about half a day for the piece to be cool enough to remove from the kiln.

9. Lightly draw a spiral design on the bottle. Then, apply dark glaze paint in the spiral (figure G). Let this dry and then apply a wax resist on the design to protect it from the contrasting glaze. This takes about 15 minutes to dry.

10. Brush on the second glaze (white). Let this dry for about 10 to 15 minutes.

11. Fire to cone 10 (2350-degrees F) in a high-fired kiln. The firing will take about 10 hours and at least a day to cool. Once the piece is cool enough to take out of the kiln, it is ready for the final part of the glazing process.

12. The piece has to be very clean and free of dirt or grease to complete the next step. Clean the piece with mineral spirits if necessary.

13. Write desired words on the bottle with a gold enamel pen.

14. Let this dry and then re-fire the piece at cone 019 (about 1350-degrees F enamel temperature).

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