Search the Daily

Published Aug 3, 2022

ceramic templates 1Many potters use paper templates for ceramics so they can make a form consistently over and over. Nancy Zoller came up with a great idea that combines the texturing step with the templating step in her slab-construction process. She made ceramic templates in the size and shape of each wall of a slab-built vase with the texture already on them.

In today’s post, Nancy demonstrates how her ceramic templates do double duty serving as a texture tool and a sizing tool in a great slab clay project. Smart! - Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

PS. To see how Nancy Zoller adds a foot and finishes this piece, pick up your copy of Handbuilding Techniques.

Making Bisqued Ceramic Templates

To make your bisqued ceramic template, roll out a ¼-inch thick slab of clay. Stamp your design on the surface then determine the dimensions of the finished piece. First cut this pattern out of paper then transfer it to the rolled clay. Cut or impress a pattern in the clay that is ½-inch larger than your desired finished piece. The dimensions of my vase mold are 5 inches across the top edge, 11 inches along the sides, and 3 inches along the bottom. Allow it to dry slowly so that it does not warp, then fire the slab in your next bisque firing.


Fig 1 Fig 2


Constructing a Vase From Textured Ceramic Templates

Roll out a large ¼-inch thick slab of clay. Smooth it with a rubber rib, making sure there are no other textures on the clay. Place the bisqued ceramic template under the smoothed slab and roll over it vigorously with a small roller. Repeat this four times (figure 1). Flip the large slab over and cut out the forms with a needle tool.

Allow the slabs to dry to leather hard so that they are firm enough to stand up straight on their own. Place the first side (pattern side) down on a piece of foam to preserve the convex leaf pattern (figure 2). Score and add slip to the edge of both pieces, then connect them. At this point, extrude a ½-inch coil of clay. With your fettling knife, cut the coil in half and then in quarters (figure 3), giving you a lovely 90°-angled, quarter-round piece to place in the inside corner of the two joined slabs.

Fig 3 Fig 4

Place something behind the upright slab as you connect it to the bottom piece to provide support as you add this coil. A brick or a 4×4 piece of wood works well.

ceramic templates 6Smooth the coil evenly along the seam and blend into both slabs, reinforcing this interior connection. I like to use a flat-edge wooden tool, finishing with a firm rubber rib to finish the seam (figure 4). Repeat this on all inside edges while constructing. Extend the coil over the top corner of the two joined pieces to strengthen the corners of the top rim where cracking is likely to occur. Repeat this step, joining all four pieces together. Add a bottom and your vase is finished!

Check out this post on textured bisque molds that mimic thrown pieces in the archives!

P.S. To see how Nancy Zoller adds a foot and finishes this piece, pick up your copy of Handbuilding Techniques.

**First published in 2015.