We have one of Lars Westby’s platters hanging here in our office (acquired as a Ceramics Monthly Purchase Award from the Strictly Functional Pottery National a few years back), and I love it. I keep lobbying to have it moved closer to my office (to no avail). Anyway, when we got it, I added ceramic wall pieces to my list of things I want to experiment with in the studio. In today’s post, Lars explains how he makes his sculptural platters. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.
I work primarily in sculpture as a ceramic artist, but I have created platters and other functional works in conjunction with my sculptures. My work has an industrial/nautical/biomorphic aesthetic, which I believe translates to my platter series. These platters are also inspired by mid-century modern design as seen in tables, ashtrays, and other household/industrial objects from that time period, and various architectural styles. The discovery of found objects has often played an important role in my designs. With their strong sculptural influence and functional pedigree, I tend to see these platters both as sculptures and functional objects. No matter how one defines the notion of function, I believe these pieces serve within that realm.
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Not surprisingly, I create these platters in the same manner as I make my sculptures. I normally start by picking a drawing from my sketchbook. From that sketch, I create an outline of the form on a board to scale. In the case of the Quatrefoil Platter, using solid clay, I model one of the four repeated petal shapes that make up the general shape (1). I then make a mold of that shape, and from that mold press four petals that I put together on my board with the outline to create the whole platter form. Next, I make a mold of the upside down solid platter form to create a basic press/slump mold. A slump mold allows me to control the thickness of the outside rim, varying it from thick to thin. I use a rubber rib and small coils of clay to get this effect and to also form the inside contours and edges (2). When the platter sets up to leather hard, I flip it out of the mold and attach feet to the bottom (3). I then flip it back over and clean up the edge with a rib and sponge.
I use a red earthenware clay body, firing it to cone 04 in oxidation. The glaze surface for these platters comes from my sculptural work as well. I apply the glaze in a single thick coat using a small Chinese bristle brush. Once the whole piece has one coat of glaze, I will go back and add hatching marks or other simple patterns to melt over the first coat (4). One unique aspect of this glaze is how it pulls away from itself as it melts and flows downward to create a dual shiny and matte surface. This layered effect and the pooling of the glazes on the bottom areas of the form creates movement and a dynamic surface quality that I feel really brings the pieces together.
Lars Westby received a BFA in cermics and a BA in art history from Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, and an MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is currently a resident artist at Baltimore Clayworks in Baltimore, Maryland. To see more of his work, visit www.larswestbyclay.com.