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Design a Decorative Ginkgo Leaf Teapot

Nancy Brigg shows how to sculpt a decorative ceramic teapot with a gingko leaf pattern.

As a high school student, Nancy Briggs thought she had her career as a musician all planned out, but when a momentary case of stage fright hit during a school performance, she decided it was time to explore a different creative outlet. Fortunately for her, she had artistic parents, including a mother with a potter's wheel. The moment she put her hands on the wheel she knew she had found her new path, and nowadays, when she isn't busy making unique, incised ceramic sculptures, she loves teaching her skills to students of all ages.

Materials and Tools:

stoneware sculpture clay with 8-10 percent grog
patina glaze in large container
small and large ribbon tools
wood paddle tool
wire clay cutting tool
various scrub brushes
needle tool
electric kiln
raku kiln with propane torch
bisque pottery kiln
slab roller
container with water
ginkgo leaves
trashcan with lid
long metal tongs
1-cup sawdust
heavy leather gloves
garden hose attached to water


1. Draw the teapot design on paper to make a pattern, including the back, front, sides, spout and bottom. Cut out the paper templates.

2. Cut a piece of clay from the stoneware clay block with a wire tool. Wedge the clay to remove any air and pre-flatten by hand.

3. Flatten the clay by rolling it through the slab roller.

4. Place the paper teapot templates on the clay and cut them out using a needle tool.

5. Set the parts aside to dry overnight to a leather hard stage.

6. Wedge another piece of clay to remove the air and pull it into a long handle. Shape the handle by placing it on a template. Let the handle dry to a leather hard stage.

7. Roll balls of clay to form four round feet. Form a handle for the top of the lid from another ball of clay. Let the clay dry to a leather hard stage.

8. The next day, assemble the parts by scoring the edges and applying liquid slip to them to seal them to other pieces of clay. Press the edges of the front and back of the teapot to the sides. Press the base to the body of the teapot.

9. Connect and reinforce the seams with coils of clay attached to the inside joints. Smooth the clay with water and your fingers to smooth the ribs.

10. Attach the spout to the front side of the body after poking holes in the clay, scoring and applying slip.

11. Attach the feet to the base, again by scoring and adding slip.

12. Attach the handle to the top of the teapot by scoring and applying slip. Smooth with your fingers.

13. Cut a lid in the topside of the body. Add pieces to form a ledge for the lid. Roll another clay ball and shape it for the lid.

14. Place ginkgo leaves on the side of the teapot body and draw around the patterns with a needle tool.

15. Remove the leaves. Remove the clay around the leaf patterns at various depths with loop-carving tools.

16. Carve openings in the side of the teapot body with a clay knife and remove the clay to form slits.

17. Carve the feet. Carve the lid.

18. Allow the ginkgo leaf teapot to dry for two weeks.

19. Bisque-fire the teapot in an electric kiln to Cone 010.

20. Wipe the dust off the surface of the teapot.

21. Brush two coats of copper patina glaze to the ginkgo leaf areas, the sides of the teapot, handle, base and spout. The unglazed areas will turn gray black in the glaze firing.

22. Place the teapot in the raku kiln. Heat the kiln using a propane torch. Leave the teapot in the kiln for about 1 1/2 hours.

23. Remove the teapot from the kiln using long metal tongs and place it in a metal trashcan containing sawdust and newspaper.

24. The heat of the teapot will set the paper and sawdust on fire. Put the lid on the trashcan to smother the flames. The carbon creates the wonderful smoky clay and shifting pink to green tones of the glaze. Spray the outside of the trashcan with water from a garden hose to cool it a bit. Cool the teapot for one hour.

26. Remove the teapot from the trashcan.

27. Clean the ginkgo leaf teapot with water and a soft towel. The teapot is not functional but is a great looking decorative piece.


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