Biomimicry: Using Slabs, Coils and Other Handbuilding Techniques to Create Lively Sculpture

With their rounded, odd shapes and dotted surfaces, the forms of Kent, Ohio, sculptor Eva Kwong often bring to mind micro-organisms, resembling microscopic bacteria you might find in a Petri dish. But they also have a cuteness to them that makes them look like they might scurry across the floor to give you a hug. Indeed, some of her forms are larger, huggable-scaled pieces. But regardless of whether they are creepy or cute, they are definitely imbued with energy and life.

Today, we’ll explain how Eva uses slabs and coils and other handbuilding techniques to make her biologically influenced sculptures. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

For the legs, make a thick cone from newspaper and tape it so it holds its shape. Then cover the entire cone in a plastic bag so the clay won’t stick to it.
Place the plastic-covered paper cone on the edge of a clay slab and begin rolling the clay around the cone. Once the clay is completely formed around the cone, trim and bevel the edge so that it’s easier to put the seam together. Score and apply slip to the seam, then work the clay together with your fingers. Roll the cone of clay several times to smooth out the seam line.


An expanded version of this process is in the March/April 2009 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated.

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To make the body of the sculpture, cover a cardboard tube with plastic and roll a slab around it. Old mailing tubes or larger cardboard tubes from flooring stores that carpet rolls come on work well. The tubes should be big enough for your hand to fit inside.
Next, create a temporary slab bottom for the piece that acts as a support while you stretch the cylinder into a more rounded shape. Stand your completed cylinder on the slab with the cardboard tube still in place, then trim the slab to the correct size and attach. Begin to “blow” the form out by pushing from the inside of the cylinder as shown at left. Be patient as the clay can sometimes be too soft and will distort as you work with it.
To narrow the form, cut diamonds out and close up.
To close up the form completely, cut out darts and rejoin.
To create a rounded bottom form, once the clay is leather hard, invert the piece and remove the slab bottom used to support the cylinder while expanding it. To do this, and to add to the bottom end without distorting the rounded top, you’ll need to make a chuck to hold the form. A great way to do this is to use an old coffee container. Roll out a thick coil of clay and push it on to the rim of the container. Cover the coil with strips of wet newsprint so the clay form will not stick to the clay ring and place the piece in the coil (as shown).
Finally, attach the legs or other appendages that were made with the cone form when all are leather hard. Slip and score to attach.

filmed at the Potters Council workshop “Surface, Form and Substance,”
in the Ceramic Arts Daily archives!


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