A Smart Hanging System That Helps Functional Pottery Double as Ceramic Wall Art

In the handmade pottery world, sometimes it’s the little details that can clinch a sale. Cristine Boyd realized that her customers responded well to the idea that a plate could be used for food service or as a wall decoration. So she devised a cool hanging system that doesn’t interfere with the plate’s food-related functions.

In this post, Annie Chrietzberg explains the hanging system and the home-made tools Cristine invented to make the system easy and quick to construct. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

The wonderful thing about Cristine is that she naturally dwells on more than form and function and doesn’t attempt to rein it in. In addition to surrounding herself with decoration and pattern, she has a mind that travels beyond the usual boundaries and an innate sense of engineering. These interests are clearly evident in the efficient system she’s designed for hanging everyday plates that’s easy to use and remove (figure 1).

Cristine’s system uses common sewing snaps and picture-hanging wire (figure 2) to create removable hanging devices for serving pieces and everyday plates. She carves keyhole-shaped grooves into the backs of her plate rims when they are in the leather-hard stage. The grooves have a bevel or undercut below the surface to hold the snap on the hanging device in place (figure 3).

Cristine made three special tools for creating the slots that correspond to the shrinkage of her clay body and the size of the snaps. She makes these tools out of long straight pins (the kind used for quilting), dowels and lots of hot glue. “I don’t make tools for reasons of economy, but rather because the things I need don’t readily exist,” she explained. “I’ll come up with an idea that needs a specific shape, and rather than spend weeks looking for something, I’ll just get out some metal and pliers and make what I need.”

Tool #1 is used to start the slot and it looks like a square trimming tool with a wire extension on one side (figure 4). This longer wire acts as a pivot point to facilitate the cutting and removing of a disk of clay (figures 5 and 6). The other end of the tool is used to smooth out and compress the cut surface.

This post was excerpted from Studio Ceramics: Advanced Techniques,
which is available in the Ceramic Arts Shop.

Once the disk of clay is removed, she uses tool #2 to cut the slot (figure 7). She makes three cuts with this tool. For the first cut, she holds the handle horizontally, level with the surface of the plate (figure 8). Starting at the circle, she cuts a groove that’s about an inch long towards the top edge of the plate. She finishes the cut with a quick upward flick, and carefully removes the trimmed clay (figure 9). This cut goes through the surface of the clay and exactly matches the depth of the circle, but doesn’t cut through to the front side of the plate rim.

The second and third cuts are made by holding tool #2 vertically to create cuts that run beneath the surface on either side of that first slot, to create a channel beneath the surface of the clay that will allow the snap to travel up to the top of the slot and hold the wire securely in place (figure 10).

Cuts two and three are started at the top of the channel and cut back towards the circle, by inserting the cutting edge of the tool through the channel and rotating it clockwise for the right side, and counterclockwise for the left side (figure 11). This is the only way to cut these, as the bit of clay cut away with each stroke needs to be removed through the circle. It’s very important to note that all these cuts are meant to create a smooth and level gallery or channel for the snap below the surface of the back of the plate.

Cristine then uses tool #3 to tamp down, gently widen and smooth this internal space so that the snap may travel freely in and out (figure 12).

TIP: Bits of grog can obstruct or hinder the smooth operation of a sliding snap so be sure to press bits of grog left behind into the surface.

To get the correct amount of wire, Cristine stretches the wire across the back of a finished plate, measuring roughly 2½ inches past each slot (figure 13). She uses 15-pound weight, plastic-coated picture-hanging wire rather than the uncoated type because it’s kinder to her hands as well as the user’s hands. She recommends you also buy one of the special picture wire winder tools available at frame shops and hardware stores that make tidy, secure coils. The last thing you want is for that wire to unravel and have a plate come crashing down!

Cristine first feeds the wire through the front side, then through the back of the snap, so that the loop of wire is at the back of the snap (figure 14). Then she takes a pair of snub-nosed pliers and gives the wire and the snap a good crunch to compress both the wire and the snap itself (figure 15). She uses both the male and female sides of snaps, they both work fine. Next, she feeds the wire into the coil-winding tool, which secures the snap in place (figure 16).

After one side of the wire is complete and put in place, Boyd presses the middle of the wire up to the point she wants it to be when the plate is hanging on the wall (figure 17). She then bends the other side of the wire where the snap should seat, and repeats the process of threading a snap, crunching it and creating the wire spiral.

When Boyd sells a piece with a hanging mechanism, she demonstrates how to install and remove it. She also includes a card that says, “This hanging device is designed to be removed easily, to allow the plate to be used for serving food.”

It’s the little extra things like Boyd’s hanging devices that go a long way toward opening up dialog with a stranger who approaches you and your work!



  • Paul F.

    Nice technique, thanks for sharing it.
    I can’t find the wire winder you mention. Is there another name for it?

  • A response to Robert and others above in relation to hanging the crow platter (and any others one may make that have a definite horizontal direction): Make two short hangers, one for each end of the platter/whatever it is you’ve made, and hang it from two wall hooks. That way you avoid the need for the longer wire going across the back and possibly not being able to center it as needed on a single wall hook.

    Just a thought.



  • Nancy: If you filled in those holes with, for example, soft or melted candle wax before glazing to resist glaze, that should keep them from clogging.

  • Kate B.

    Figs 16 and 17 are reversed. Fig 16 should have the wire winder.
    Otherwise, a great explanation of a very good idea!

  • Jharnetty@ceramics.org H.

    Dianne – Oops! I should have included Christine’s website above: Here it is: http://allclay.com/


  • Eric W.

    Another method I use when creating the foot is to create an undercut on the inside rum of the foot. With hand-built items, just create an inner lip where you want the hanging point(s) to be. Or around the entire foot, if you like. When trimming a foot on the wheel, it’s a matter of cutting in on the inner wall of the foot.
    One benefit of an all-around hanging lip, whether trimmed in or hand-built, is it gives the owner hanging options of how to display a piece. With more abstract designs/finishes, sometimes what is “up” is a matter of personal taste. Also, even if there is a definite “up” direction, sometimes hard-cut specific hangers can be a problem if the design didn’t quite level with the hanger as expected.
    Just another option.

  • Alice H.

    Thanks for the great idea. I’ve been putting hanging hole in another piece I make and to glaze, I found that what works is to tear off a bit of paper towel and wet it, wade it up and press it into the hole. It stays there while I glaze and then I pull it out after before it’s fired.

  • Subscriber T.

    Thanks for sharing a great idea.I love the crow plate.Do you have a website where I can see your work? D

  • Love this idea almost as much as Christine’s work. Well done!

    Mary Cay

  • Jharnetty@ceramics.org H.

    Hello all!

    Just a friendly reminder that clicking on the images on the site will enlarge them!


  • Nancy G.

    The backs of your plates look glazed. Any tips to keep this slot from being glazed shut and still blend in with the rest of the glaze?

  • Sylvia T.

    Thank you for sharing such a good idea.
    I am now wondering how I could hang a casserole!

  • Grit S.

    Hi from France,
    Merci! Thanks for this demonstration. Will be very very helpful for many thinks. Au revoir et à bientot! Grit

  • Subscriber T.

    Sewing snaps are called press studs in Aus.

  • Mary B.

    I looked at some of my sewing snaps and think I could also use a small button.

  • Susan P.

    Tienne, the sewing snaps are (were) used in dress making, to hold two sides of a garment together, although I have not seen them used on many clothes these days.
    Check in your local sewing or fabric notions department, they should be there.
    Great idea and good photo’s once you zoom in.
    Thanks for sharing. blessings! s

  • Hi from Australia,
    Looks great, but what on earth is a sewing snap. The pictures are to small to see. Cna anyone translate into Australian english or even describe what it is used for.

  • the thought of eating from a platter , then hanging it back up on the wall reminds me of the old movie “Goin South” , w/ Jack Nicholson/Mary Steenburgen , where she made him hang chairs back on wall after each meal —to prevent sitting “except” during meals! hanging platter might be a good diet idea!

  • Robert S.

    Great demo … with two exceptions. The crow platter shown would be hung in a horizintal orientation however, most of the demo photos are for an object that will be hung in the vertical orientation as in Fig. 1. A bit confusing, especially about exactly where to have the circle relative to the slot. Obviously the circle has to be oriented such that the wire hanger is pulled into the slot and away from the circle when the piece is hanging on the wall … in fact, Fig. 13 shows this for a different piece being hung in the horizontal orientation. Also the photos for Figs. 16 and 17 are reversed.

  • Charles A P.

    Nice idea. Woodworkers have been suing this sytem for a long itme to create slots for hanging stuff. I think that it could be formed with a single tool made from a bent paper clip. I’ll have to test that theory however.

  • Linda M.

    the instructions were clear, and clicking on the pictures will magnify the immage so it is clearer. So the tools can be seen easily.
    Very well done and a great idea. I will not make another plate without that option.

  • Lately I have been into tiles and picture-plates and this post really helps and gives a good solution to the problem of hanging on the wall.
    Thank you

  • Penny R.

    Double clicking on the picture to enlarge will give you a larger view of the tools.

  • wendeys@telus.net

    What a great idea! I wish the pictures of the tools were better as they are difficult for me to make out.

  • Paula C.

    thank you so very much for sharing this brilliant idea. Your generosity is inspiring as is your art!

  • If you structure your pieces with an attached foot (I handbuild and usually attach a coil as a foot) you can also put holes through the foot to place a hanging wire. But I have to say, this is elegant!

  • Melanie G.

    Thank you Christine for sharing your technique and thank you Annie for presenting it here. I’m just getting into ceramic arts and have not quite made anything worthy of hanging yet, but Hope springs eternal and I will definitely try to replicate this hanging system in anticipation of my first masterpiece!

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