Combining Wheel Techniques and Handbuilding Pottery for Great Results

Yonic Double Seed Server, 21 in. (53 cm) in length, red earthenware clay, with layered slips, terra sigillatas, and glazes, fired to cone 03 in an electric kiln, 2017. Photos: Kathryn Gremley. Courtesy of Penland Gallery.

When exploring ideas for hand building pottery forms using smaller wheel thrown parts, Ronan Kyle Peterson discovered something pretty cool: Cutting a wheel-thrown piece in half and reassembling it, can double the length of the piece! In today’s post, Ronan explains how he cuts a wheel-thrown cone in half, reassembles it, and ends up with a good-sized (and good looking!) serving dish. –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

P.S. Learn how Ronan Kyle Peterson uses terra sigillata, slips, and glazes after handbuilidng his pieces to create his finished surfaces in the September 2017 issue of Ceramics Monthly. You’ll find Peterson’s recipes in the issue as well!



Handbuilding Pottery Using Wheel Thrown Parts

I take 4 pounds of red earthenware clay, and on a plastic bat, throw a bottomless cylinder into a peaked closed form, shaped like a bullet, and cut the form free from the bat with a cut-off wire.

I let the closed form dry overnight uncovered, except for a small piece of plastic over the top to prevent it from drying too much. The plastic bat prevents the form from drying too much from underneath.

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Altering the Form with Handbuilding Techniques

Using a ruler or straight edge, I roll a straight mark up the side of the form (1). This line guides me as I take a fettling knife and slice the form in half (2). I lay down the form horizontally on a rectangular board, cut-side down (3), and slip and score the edges that were the bottom when the piece was upright. I slide the slipped and scored edges together and wiggle them to help the score marks grab on and hold onto one another. I blend the seam together with my fingers (4) and then smooth the joint with a flexible rib.

1 Use a ruler to help make a straight cut on the closed-off cylinder.

2 Using a fettling knife, cut the thrown form in half.

3 Lay both halves cut-side down on a long board.

After joining and smoothing the seam, I flip the form over with the curved side down and the cut side up. I take pieces of foam and wedge them in place to support the upward curve of the ends of the joined form. I pinch and blend the seam inside of the form, making sure to compress and join the seam thoroughly (5). I like to leave a raised bead of clay where the seam meets, which hints at seed chambers within a nutty shell.

Handbuilding a Foot

I take a sheet of plastic that is much larger than my rectangular board, lay it down on the board and then flip the form back over and place it (cut-side down) onto the plastic. The plastic helps keep the cut edge moist, so I can add a rim later. I cover the form with plastic overnight and then uncover it the next morning. After the piece dries to a stiff leather hard, I roll out a thick coil and form it into an oval that fits the center of the curved form (6). I miter cut the ends of the coil for a stronger joint. After getting the coil centered and situated, I use a needle tool to trace the outline of the coil. I remove the coil, slip and score the body, and score the bottom of the soft coil. I then join the scored surfaces, blend the seam (7), and pinch a tall, oval foot.

4 Use your fingers and a flexible rib to blend the outside seam together.

5 Pinch, then smooth the inner seam with a flexible rib, leaving a ridge at the joint to reference seed chambers in a nutty shell.

6 Roll out a thick coil for the foot.

7 Blend the seam into the body of the form.

After the foot has stiffened, I cut a seagull-shaped notch out of the center of the longer side of the oval foot (8), and smooth the cut edges. The wide-to-tapered, curved notch fits the sensibilities of my piece, with its floral and plant life references. A V-shaped cut or U-shaped cut would not have the same reference. The shadow inside the cutout draws the viewer’s eye to it.

Handbuilding a Rim and Handles

I flip the form over onto the foot, place it on a bat or board, and level the top by pushing gently on the form. I roll out two thick coils that are longer than each side of the rim, using a string to help get the right measurement. I lay the coils on the rim, (9) place the ends one on top of the other, and cut through both coils at the same angle to get a mitered cut. I score the coils, lay them off to the side, slip and score the top cut edge of the form, then attach the two pieces together. Working with the piece on a banding wheel, I take the coils and place them firmly on the scored rim of the piece and pinch and blend the seam. After joining the seam and blending the connection, I slowly start pinching the thick coil up (10), trying to maintain an inward motion so that the rim doesn’t spread out as I pinch it into a taller wall.

8 Cut a curved notch out of the foot.

9 Lay out thick coils on the rim, slip and score both the rim and coils.

10 Pinch and compress the coil to the rim of the form, then pinch the coil in to make a tall rim.

After the wall sets up, I make two puffy seed-pod handles out of pinch pots, one for each point of the elliptical form. These hint at functioning handles, but I use them to continue the line of the rim and draw the viewer’s eye into the space around the form. I trace their outline, slip and score the pod and its resting place, then attach and add texture. I cover the whole piece overnight with plastic and let all the parts equalize in moisture to prepare for slip decoration the next day.


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