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Sculpt a Musk Thistle Flower

Small, medium and large triangle clay shapes are used to cultivate this ceramic musk thistle flower.

As a kid growing up on a farm in rural Nebraska, Jess Benjamin's main job was to cut down musk thistles, the pervasive weed growing on her farm. Every Saturday she and her brother would spend a couple of hours completing this hated chore. Later in college, she took a pottery class and fell in love with the medium. It was then that the image of the musk thistle came back to mind, this time as an object of inspiration; the thing that was once her nemesis had transformed into beautiful pieces of art.

Materials and Tools:

- 75 (pounds) fire clay
- 75 OM4 ball clay
- 75 Goldart clay
- 50 30 mesh grog
cement blocks
lazy Susan turntable
Wook Chung white slip base
- 30 (grams) OM4 ball clay
- 30 EPK kaolin
- 20 flint
- 15 nepheline syenite
- 5 Borax
Mason stain base
- 50 (grams) frit 3134
- 50 Gerstley Borate
Mason stains
- 6244 Deep Sea Green
- 6600 Black
manganese carbonate
silica sand
small basketball mold
fabrication tables
2- and 4-mill plastic
spray water bottle
potter's wheel
heat lamp

Figure B


1. Pound out six slabs of 8" x 24" x 1/4" clay for the musk thistle flower.

2. Cut apart one slab and place it into the half sphere basketball mold.

3. Blend the slab pieces together by smoothing the edges with your hand to form the half sphere in the basketball mold. Then flip the mold until the half sphere shape pops out onto the board.

4. Set the slab on the potter's wheel and dry with a heat lamp. Flip the half sphere and create a flat bottom.

5. Score the half sphere form using a fork. Cut out five small leaves from another prepounded slab, score and spray with water.

Figure D

9. Cut out five large triangles, score and spray with water. Attach the large triangles to the lip of the sphere and bend them over the sides of the sphere.

10. Cut out five small triangles, score and spray with water. Attach them to the inside of the sphere and shape. Fine-tune each triangle as desired to form a musk thistle flower.

Figure E

6. Loosely place the small leaves around the half sphere form. Small and medium leaves will be alternately positioned around the sphere.

7. Cut out five medium leaves, score and spray with water. Loosely place the medium leaves around the half sphere form, alternating the small and medium leaves around the sphere.

8. Begin attaching all 10 leaves and manipulate them up along the outside of the half sphere form.

Figure H

11. Dust dry Wook Chung white slip base onto the flower with a large brush.

12. Dust Deep Sea Mason stain on the musk thistle flower.

13. Squirt the flower with water. Redust with Wook Chung white slip.

14. Dust Mason stain base on the musk thistle flower. Let dry.

Figure I

15. Place the flower on a shelf on silica sand. Let dry for several weeks.

16. Place shelves in kiln.

17. Sprinkle the flower with silica sand. Load the musk thistle piece in the kiln and fire to 1775 degrees (cone 08). Let cool and remove from kiln.

18. Mix manganese dioxide with water and brush on the musk thistle flower.

19. Wash the flower piece in the sink. Let dry.

20. Continue dusting with slips and stains until the desired color is achieved on the musk thistle flower.

21. Reload the flower piece into the kiln and fire to 2160 degrees (cone 06).

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