Published May 16, 2022
While chattering marks when trimming wheel thrown pottery are sometimes seen as a flaw, many potters deliberately make chattering marks on their pots for decorative effects. In this post, an excerpt from the May/June 2022 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, Delores Farmer shares how she makes her own chattering tools out of metal strapping, and then uses them to make great marks on her work. –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor
PS. To learn another one of Delores' techniques for creating crackled texture, check out the May/June 2022 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated!
Trimming and Chattering
When the piece is leather hard, trim the bottom. After trimming, I use the trimming tool to make a chattering pattern on the surface to blend the rough texture of the outer walls with the bottom of the piece. I use metal pallet strapping, which is just under 1 inch wide, to make my chattering tools. I prefer these tools to be stiff, but with enough give that I can bend them by hand with some force. To create smaller markings, you can use other metals like a dull band-saw blade.
To make chatter marks, hold the tool like a wand with your pointer finger pressing firmly in the middle of the tool (1). To create the right amount of give during chattering, hold the tool at the end, leaving the top half open and free to move.
Place the tool at roughly a 135° angle to the piece (past vertical and leaning away from you). Press firmly with your pointer finger while spinning the wheel as fast as it will go. Because of the sharp angle and the amount of applied pressure, the tool should catch or snag the clay instead of trimming or carving off clay. This continuous catching will vibrate the tool and form chatter marks (2). Move the tool up and down the base to blend the wall texture with the trimmed foot. If no chatter marks appear, adjust your pressure or the angle of the tool.
Bisque fire your piece when it is fully dry. To further enhance the color and texture contrast, apply a patina or wash to the outer walls of the piece. This will stain the slip and fill the fissures with a darker color. Once added, apply a high-gloss glaze to the interior and fire to the appropriate temperature. The finished pieces remind me of geodes, which have such a contrast behind their rough outer appearance and polished inner beauty.
Delores J Farmer is a native of Durham, North Carolina, and a graduate of North Carolina Central University, where she studied English and art. She is self taught and has been working as a full-time potter since 2013. She currently runs her own pottery studio, where she teaches classes and workshops, makes her own pieces, and offers assistantships to new potters. To learn more, visit www.delorespottery.com.