How to Make an Ornate Ceramic Platter

Create intricate details with carving tools, dye and your bare hands to make an ornate ceramic platter.


Materials and Tools:

Potter's wheel
electric kiln
gas kiln
25-pound block of stoneware clay
porcelain slip
bucket of water
glaze and overspray
needle tool
cutoff wire
divider wheel
plastic wrap
iron oxide
hole punch
rubber ribs
sanding wheel
air compressor
50-grit sandpaper
scrub pads
trimming tool
dye bottle (for squeezing dots of slip)
wedging table
bat and bat pins
cutting blade
various carving tools
wire for hanging


1. Cut about 18 pounds of clay off a 25-pound square block with cutoff wire.

2. Wedge the clay on the wedging table to condition and pre-shape it.

3. Firmly attach the clay onto a bat that's been attached to the potter's wheel head via bat pins.

4. Have a bucket of water and sponge at the wheel to lubricate the clay in the throwing process. Slowly turn the wheel, building speed as you get a feel for how well-attached the clay is to the bat. Center the clay at high speed by pressing with the heel of your hand while pushing inward with the other hand.

5. Flatten the clay into a pancake shape the desired width of the platter bottom.

6. Poke a hole in the middle of the pancake with your fingers to move the wall a little to check the thickness of the bottom and make adjustments. Leave enough thickness for a hefty foot rim to be trimmed later. Use the bottom of a screwdriver and a needle tool to help compress and to check the thickness of bottom. The thickness should be about 3/8-inch.

7. Use your hands and fingers to pull or push the walls outward, leaving the bottom as flat and even as possible. Run a rib back and forth to compress the bottom. This is an important step, as the base is under tremendous stress when drying and may crack if not tended to properly. Add a detail swirl to the middle of the platter by pressing one finger in the middle of the bottom and, as the wheel turns, lifting up. This forms a nice swirl.

8. To pull up the walls of the bowl, use your fingers and a wet sponge to squeeze and pull the mound of clay upward. It takes three or more pulls to thin this area out and attain the height. After each pull, compress the rim to give it strength.

9. Flatten the standing wall outward and downward with the palm of your hand to make the wide rim. Remove excess clay on the bottom of the platter with a hook tool.

10. Make an indentation mark that visually separates the rim from the bottom with another small hand tool.

11. Set the platter aside to dry enough so that it will not distort when the divider wheel is used to mark out the location of the handle cutouts.

12. Cut a half-circle shape in the clay where the handles will be placed. Carve swirls in the rim of the bowl with a carving tool.

13. Apply four-pointed star shapes of slip from a squeeze bottle in a pattern around the rim of the platter. Tint additional slip with iron oxide to give it a rich brown color, and apply dots of slip from a squeeze bottle between the designs. Cover the platter with plastic and let it dry to a leather-hard stage.

14. Place the platter upside down on the wheel on a clean bat and trim a foot rim on the bottom.

15. Compress the foot rim for strength, and smooth with a rubber rib.

16. Mark the holes for hanging with a needle tool. Flip the platter back over and poke holes through the foot rim with a hole punch.

17. Run conditioned clay through an extruder and use a template to make the handles. Lightly trace around the area of the handles on the platter with a needle tool, and use a serrated rib to scratch the clay areas where the handles will join the rim. Apply slip and attach the handles.

18. Add extra clay around the handles and shape it with your fingers. Carve details around the handles.

19. Cover the platter in plastic to even out the moisture content, and dry it slowly to a bone-dry stage. This will take about 30 days.

20. Lightly sand the platter with a scrub pad. Blow off any dust with an air compressor and air nozzle.

21. Load the platter into an electric kiln to bisque-fire. Slow-fire the platter to 1,940 degrees Fahrenheit.

22. Remove the platter from the kiln. Apply wax to the foot rim.

23. Mix glazes and dip the whole ceramic platter into the mix. Remove it. Wearing a respirator and working outside, airbrush the piece to add more color. Let it dry for a full day.

24. High-fire to 2,300 to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slow-cool by allowing the kiln to cool for two full days.

25. Add picture wire to the back of the ceramic platter where the holes were made through the rim.

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