Published Dec 6, 2021
We've featured several casserole projects in the Daily over the years, and most of them happen to be wheel thrown. So today, I thought I would share an entirely slab-built casserole project for all the handbuilders out there.
In today's post, an excerpt from the December 2021 issue of Ceramics Monthly, Danielle Carelock shows us how she makes her lovely slab built casserole dishes. - Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
PS. Find out how Danielle finishes these dishes with handles and glaze, plus learn how to determine if your clay body is suitable for bakeware in the December 2021 issue of Ceramics Monthly.
One of the forms I have made for shared meals is an oval, lidded dish. There were several iterations before I happened upon the one I make now, refining my technique and measurements along the way. As makers, our work almost poetically weaves itself into the lives of our patrons, becoming a part of daily rituals and shared memories. With this in mind, I am constantly considering the vessel and how it functions. Taller vessels are best for parfaits and layered desserts, shallower vessels become best for baking and roasting. This vessel, I find to be best for baking and casseroles.
Note: I preheat my casserole dish slowly, starting with a room-temperature oven. When making bakeware, it is important to test the clay body’s performance when heated and cooled in an oven. You can find tips for testing ovenware, as well as flameware clay body recipes, linked here.
Constructing the Vessel
I begin the process of creating this serving vessel by rolling out a slab of red earthenware clay that has a thickness of approximately ¼–⅜ inch with a length of more than 30 inches and height of around 4 inches. For this particular vessel, I used a slab roller; however, a rolling pin and two square wooden dowels used as thickness guides when rolling out the slab will also suffice. While the slab is still on the same canvas used for rolling it out, I gently compress the slab using a metal rib and a rubber rib, holding the tools at a 45° angle. Compression helps to mitigate the chance of splitting and/or cracking during construction while also removing the remaining texture left behind from the canvas and slab roller. I complete this step on both sides of the slab, using a board or the slab-roller canvas to flip the slab over.
Once the slab has been compressed on both sides, I then begin to measure and cut a rectangle with a length of 28 inches and a width of 3½ inches. Once this is cut, I use a bisque-fired ceramic stamp to create a repeating leaf motif on the bottom length of my slab, alternating between smaller and larger leaves (1). Using a ruler and needle tool, I hold my needle tool against the ruler at a 15° angle, gently marking the slab to create a soft, shallow line midway across the surface. I then use the ruler as an edge to trim away any excess clay that had been pressed out during the stamping process (2).
One of the most important aspects of any utilitarian object is to have a comfortable lip and soft edges. This not only refines the form but also makes it suitable for daily use. Softened, rounded edges are much less likely to chip over the life of the object, creating a more durable vessel. To create this softened lip, I use a pony roller held at a 45° angle to create a gentle bevel on both sides at the top of the slab (3).
Applying light and equal pressure, I roll out a ⅜-inch-diameter coil, using the slab’s thickness as a guide. This coil will serve as the gallery on the inside wall of the serving vessel that keeps the lid stable and in place.
On the back of the slab (opposite side from the leaf impressions), I use a serrated rib to score across the length, approximately ½ inch below the top. I also use the rib to score along the length of the coil, then add slip to both sides. Using my thumb and index finger in a gentle downward pinching motion, I compress the coil against the slab’s surface (4). This creates a secure attachment and ensures that there are no gaps, which could later lead to cracking and/or weakened areas in the gallery. Later in the process, I also compress this area with a dampened sponge to refine the gallery.
Using a bevel-cutting tool, I cut a 45° angle on one of the short ends of the slab and then flip the slab over like a page in a book and bevel cut the other short side (5). This parallel bevel allows for a nearly seamless join. Lifting the slab upright, I score and add slip to both ends and join them together (6). Using the palms of my hand, I shape the pot, opting for an elongated oval shape. To form the base of the pot, I place the oval form onto another slab, trace a line around it that is ⅛ inch larger than the oval, and cut along this line (7). While the bottom slab is still on the work surface, I use a sponge to soften the outer perimeter. I score and slip both the bottom edge of the form and the bottom slab. I attach both surfaces, using a pony roller to compress and seal them together (8). Now with the vessel upright, I use a rubber rib to compress the inner base of the pot to reinforce a flat bottom, which helps prevent warping during the drying and firing stages (9).;
the author Danielle Carelock is a ceramic artist and educator located in Charlotte, North Carolina. To learn more about her work and her business, Danielle Carelock Studio, visit her website, daniellecarelock.com.