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Published Jun 19, 2024

I first saw Sam Briegel's pots at an NCECA conference and immediately wondered how she created these lovely patchwork pieces. Turns out, her patchwork plate forms were developed out of a need to make use of scraps from her slab-building process. 

In today's post, an excerpt from the September/October 2023 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, Sam explains how she slab builds the rims of the plates from screen-printed slab scraps, cutting down on her reclaim and creating something beautiful at the same time! So smart! –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

Printing and Texturing Slabs 

To mimic fabric-like surfaces, I use two techniques to decorate soft, porcelain slabs. The first way is to screenprint one or more layers of underglaze onto a soft slab. I use EZscreenprints (www.ezscreenprint.com) to create my own screens from images of patterns on clothing, and I use Amaco underglazes as the ink. 

The second way consists of monoprinting texture from a plaster slab. I do this by creating a low-relief plaster slab from a section of fabric. I can layer colored slips into the texture recesses and by using wet slip, I transfer the colored slip layers onto a slab of porcelain. I build with the slabs once the texture or print is dry enough to not ruin the design, but still wet enough to handle and bend into shapes. Both slabs are rolled out by hand with a rolling pin on a smooth sheet of drywall to about 516 inches in thickness and compressed on either side with a rubber rib. 

Creating a Patterned Rim 

Patterns are key to replicating forms. When designing the dessert plate form, I determined that the rim of the plate would be the best place to add slab components because rims are typically decorative and flat. 

Begin designing a pattern for your plate rim by first making a template from craft foam. Using a compass, draw one circle with the same diameter as what you want the interior diameter of your plate to be. Then, without moving the compass leg with the point, extend the compass leg with the pencil out an additional inch or two and draw another circle larger than the first. The width between these two circles will be the approximate width of the your patterned rim. 

1 Draw and cut a scallop-shaped template from craft foam. 2 Place the template on a printed slab, then cut it out with an X-Acto knife.

Next, cut a section from the ring to create a single shape (1). This shape will be repeated around the plate rim to create a circular motif. Tip: If you are interested in using up scrap slabs like I am, cut your pieces on the smaller side so you can fit more of them on a slab with less waste. Diagonal seams work best for attachment because they distribute tension well and provide ample surface area to score and slip when joining. Additionally, they add a nice decorative touch. 

Arrange the cut craft-foam shape on a scrap of pre-decorated slab to strategically fit as many as possible. Use a needle tool to lightly trace the outline of the foam pattern piece (2), then use an X-Acto knife to cut the seams of the piece at a bevel in opposite directions. This allows for maximum surface area at the attachment point. Finally, score the seams on each piece. 

3 Arrange the pieces in a circle. Contrast patterns and textures next to each other. 4 Apply slip then overlay the seams so they all sit on the same level.

5 Flip the ring over, wet the edge, and compress it to create a tapered edge. 6 Score around the base of the slab interior to attach to the wheel-thrown base.

After you have a bunch of shapes cut out and prepped, choose enough of them to make a compelling composition as the rim around one plate (3). Apply a layer of slip using a small brush on one side of the seam. Excess slip will squeeze out and potentially ruin the design, so be careful to not add too much. 

One by one, attach the seams bevel to bevel to create a patterned ring, then and carefully press them together, pressing from the top down (4). Leave the last seam open, flip the whole ring top side down, and, using a sponge and your pointer finger, press down at an angle to soften the harsh line the straight-cut slab creates (5). Then, use a serrated rib to score a ½-inch section around the interior of the ring where the ring will attach to the wheel-thrown base (6). Now, flip the newly formed slab ring over and attach the last seam (7). 

7 Attach the last seam. When combined, the ring has a slight angle upward.Deco Floral Printed Collection with homemade raspberry macarons, 2023.

To see how Sam throws the plate bottom and attaches the rim, check out the September/October 2023 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated.

Process photos: Matt Nierenberg. 

Sam Briegel (she/her) is an artist and educator based just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Briegel splits her time between making pottery for shows and sales and teaching part time at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and Montgomery College in Rockville. She has exhibited her work across the country and enjoys teaching workshops on her techniques. To learn more, visit www.samanthabriegel.com and on Instagram @sambriegel