How to Make a Stoneware Plate With a Crab Impression

Create your own crab stamp and imprint the fossil into an elegant dinner plate.


Materials and Tools:

crab shell
stoneware clay
light gray semi-matte glaze
dark gray matte glaze
white glossy glaze
slab roller or rolling pin
various clay working tools
6" x 6" piece of 3/4" thick plywood
12" x 12" Masonite board
electric skillet and melted wax
natural sponge
container of water
squeeze bottle
scrubby pad
spray applicator for glaze 


Make the Crab Stamp

  1. Empty, wash and dry a cooked crab shell. Separate the crab shell into the following parts: main body shell, left and right claws (front legs), left and right paddle fins (back legs) and one pair of left and right skinny legs. Discard the remaining parts.
  2. Carefully press the crab shell parts into a clay slab. The crab shell is very brittle, so handle with care. Make the impressions as deep as possible. 
  3. Let the clay slab dry for two or three days. Press fresh clay into the crab impressions to form the stamps.
  4. Make a separate stamp for each segment of the crab. Make seven total stamps, one for the body and one for each of the six legs.
  5. Push the clay up a little on each stamp to make a handle.
  6. Fire the stamps to a bisque temperature in a kiln, approximately 1900 degrees F.

Make the Plate

  1. Using 3-1/2 pounds of clay roll out a slab of clay about 1/4 inch thick, then measure and cut a 9" x 9" square. Smooth the cut edges with a damp sponge.
  2. Impress a crab image into the clay with the crab stamps.
  3. Carefully lift and transfer the clay onto a 12" x 12" Masonite. Place a 6" x 6" plywood block in the center of the clay. Flip everything upside down, so the plywood block is on the bottom. Remove the Masonite and place it on a table. Set the plywood block down on the Masonite so the clay is now on top.
  4. Press the edges of the clay down against the Masonite to form the sides of the plate. Sponge the edges smooth as necessary. Roll the brayer across the bottom of the plate, to ensure that it is flat.
  5. Allow the plate to dry to bone dry for at least a week.
  6. Fire the plate to a bisque temperature in a kiln, approximately 1900 degrees F.
  7. Dip the bottom of the plate in melted wax to prevent the glaze from sticking to the bottom of the plate.
  8. Use a squeeze bottle to apply white glossy glaze inside the crab impression. Clean the edges of the white glaze with a scrubby pad and sponge.
  9. Dip the entire plate in a light gray semi-matte glaze. Apply a dark gray glaze with the sprayer and brushes, lightly and unevenly, to create the natural and rustic appearance of a rock's surface.
  10. Fire the stoneware plate with the crab fossil impression to a glaze temperature in a kiln, approximately 2200 degrees F.

Mea Rhee, Silver Spring, Md.

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