Miranda Thomas has been making handmade pots for 32 years and her beautiful designs have made it into the hands of presidents, popes, and other dignitaries. In today’s post, an excerpt from the October 2020 issue of Ceramics Monthly, Leigh Taylor Mickelson shares how Miranda creates her beautiful slipped and carved platters. –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
Before beginning to apply slip to the surface, prepare your work area. Have a board or bat ready to place your slipped pots on so that you can move them around, as you won’t be able to touch them after you slip them. Always wear an apron, and have a small bucket of clean water, a sponge, and small towel within easy reach for quick touch up. Keep your hands as dry as possible before and during slipping.
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After making, the slab dishes are dried evenly to a leather-hard stage before fluting the rims (1). This is the stage where the pots must be dipped or poured in slip. It will not work with bone dry pots because the slip will just fall off.
The slip must be extremely well stirred before dipping a pot into it or ladling it out into the pot’s interior (2). Water tends to settle on the surface of the slip. It might not look like it, but it will be too thin on the pot if not mixed properly, which you can only tell after glaze firing. To mix, bring the bottom of the bucket liquid to the top in a strong, circular, plunging motion.
Ladle slip into the dish and turn and tilt the dish to cover the entire interior up to the rim edge, then pour it out (3). Use a squeezed-out sponge to clean any slip that dripped onto the exterior before placing the dish down on the table.
When dipping a pot, make sure your fingers and hands are dry before taking the plunge. Always stop before your fingers holding the pot reach the surface of the slip. Draw the piece out of the slip bucket slowly as you reach the rim of the pot. Shake off by bending your knees up and down rather than moving your arms, as you could easily drop the whole pot into the bucket!
Set the pot aside until leather hard (4), or decorate directly into the slip by combing or dragging with a blunt-ended tool like a porcupine quill, as we did at Michael Cardew’s pottery. Once leather hard, using a round-ended tool, a blunt pencil, a piece of bamboo, or a porcupine quill, draw directly into the slip (5). Do not worry about burrs or crumbs at this stage. Once drawn, carve out the negative spaces through the slip, back to the clay (6). The tools we use are 4-inch lengths of bamboo, with the inner pith shaved down to a ¼-inch end (not touching the smooth side of the bamboo) in the shape of a flat-head screwdriver.
Dust off any crumbs using a soft shaving brush before they get too dry, then remove burrs with a green kitchen scouring pad before bisque firing (7).
Glaze with your favorite glazes. Remember the slip colors the glaze from underneath, adding extra depth to your pieces (8, 9).