Saturday How-To: Smallpurpose Dish

As I scramble to finish a few more things before the wood firing next week, I’m having a lot of fun making these small dishes and thought I’d post a photo tour. I made these for the first time last year and was very happy with the results. They can be used for any small purpose, such as spoon rest; tea bag holder; dish-under-the-honey-so-the-counter-doesn’t-get-sticky; soap dish for the mostly clean (it’s a small dish); sushi accessory, etc. I have to wait for my Japanese Maple to leaf out before I can start them in the spring.

I love the way wood firing transforms an ordinary painted object with fire and ash, creating lots of surface variety, areas of ash glaze, and random markings that add depth. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always show up in photos.

Here’s how I make the smallpurpose dishes:

I use 2 bisque slump molds. Roll out a slab about 1/4″ thick and wide enough to minimize waste. I roll slabs on canvas, then smooth the clay with a big putty knife. Cut clay a little bigger than the mold. I rarely measure things because I don’t find that fun.

Next, I place a leaf in a random position on the bisque mold, then place the cut clay over it and whack it a little with a wooden spatula. Those cardboard centers from packing tape rolls also work well for this, rolling the clay onto the mold.
Once the clay is firmly on the mold, I turn it over and trim the edges with this handy knife tool.
If the edges are lumpy, the same wooden spatula can be used to tap them to an even consistency.

Then the piece spends a few minutes in the warm New Mexico sun, bottom-up. By the time I go inside and make another one, the first piece is ready to be removed from the mold and dry a little more in the sun, top-up.

When it’s mostly dry, I peel off the maple leaf with the help of a needle tool. The leaves usually stay surprisingly intact, especially if you take them off as soon as the clay is dry.
Finally, I paint the leaf impression on the greenware with Coyote Clay’s Really Red and Red Orange cone 6 underglazes. It stands up well to high temps. (The finished piece at the top of this post probably reached cone 10-12, or 2300 deg.) The painted pieces are then bisqued and put into the wood kiln without further treatment.

Thanks, tree!


4 thoughts on “Saturday How-To: Smallpurpose Dish

    • Thanks! I hope so too… maybe I’ll make some more today, just in case! This is the last day to make anything new and have it dry & bisqued in time for loading. I encountered a wild apple tree this weekend that sent me into a tailspin of inspiration, but I’ll pull myself away…

Talk to me! I spend too much time alone in the studio.

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