Clay Plate Designs That Are Both Rough and Refined

Todd Hayes is able to create a balance of both the polished look of wheel throwing with the distinctly handmade look of handbuilding in these clay plate designs!

clay plate designs

I have been sort of obsessed with plates lately – I haven’t been making any (too busy lately for the studio!), but I have been looking at the clay plate designs of other potters and thinking about the form a LOT. Something tells me, the first thing I do when I get back to the studio will be to make some plates.

I was super excited by the clay plate designs of Todd Hayes in this post. Because of combining wheel throwing and handbuilding, his clay plate designs are both rough and refined. In today’s excerpt, Todd explains how he makes his pinched rim plates. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor. 


Clay Plate Designs that are Both Rough and Refined

clay plate designs 1Even though the process is the same for every plate, each one takes on its own character throughout the making process. I start by throwing my plates on the wheel and trimming them while the clay is still relatively soft. This way, I can proceed with the rest of the steps without too much resistance. I use a template to transfer lines for squaring off the plate and cut the rim with a fettling knife (1). The cut edge is then softened with a radius tool made from brass tubing. This allows more surface area for the added coils to adhere (2).

clay plate designsAbout seven years ago, John Neely showed me how to make these really simple but effective radius tools for rounding off the edges of leather-hard clay. The radius tool (3) is made from modified brass tubing—any diameter tubing will work, but I prefer to use ½ inch as it fits well in my hand. I cut a length of tubing approximately 4 inches and grind both ends off at 45º angles. I use the edge of a bench grinding wheel or a round file to create the radius for the cutting blade. While filing the tubing, I play around with different depths until I find the right radius for my specific application.

clay plate designs 3I file a different radius on each end of my tools. To use the tool, I simply hold it against the edge of the work and draw the blade toward me in a quick and decisive manner. The waste clay will curl out of the tip (this is why it is ground off at 45º) and I am left with a clean, chip resistant edge on the work.

After preparing the edge, I add the first layer of the new rim by pinching on a coil (4). For this dinner plate, I roll out coils that are 5⁄8 inch in diameter. This allows me to pinch out a fairly substantial rim. The plate is then set aside so the rim can dry out a bit. After the first layer of the stepped rim has set up, I add and pinch a second coil to finish off the rim (5).

Todd Hayes currently lives and works in Logan, Utah, where he is the Ceramic Studio Coordinator and Adjunct Faculty Member at Utah State University. He earned his MFA from Wichita State University. You can see more of his work at

 **First published in 2013
  • Michelle M.

    How wonderful! I’ll try this with slab plates in a few days. I’m always looking for inspiration. The glazing design is what drew me in.

  • Shelley M.

    Excellent. I can throw little plates and enlarge them with this technique. No reason to square them off.

  • Susan M.

    I really like the look but what a lot of work! But I made give it a try. I like the rounded squares and the combination of smooth (thrown) and pinched, almost subtley ruffled.

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