Heating and Stretching Slabs to Create Organic Texture


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Most potters do their very best to avoid cracks in their work. But some deliberately try to create cracking, and the results can be gorgeous.

In today’s post, an excerpt from our Ceramic Arts Handbook Surface Decoration Techniques, Eric Seritella explains how he creates beautifully textured trays by heating and stretching rough slabs of clay. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.


 Heating clay and stretching it to create texture is a technique used by potters for ages. I was immediately drawn to the technique during an artist residency in Taiwan a few years ago. Since then, I’ve experimented and developed a body of work I call “opened earth,” in which I try to show the inner beauty, texture and earthiness of clay.

Surface Decoration Techniques!
The ceramic surface is one of the most versatile outlets for creativity. It allows you to add personal touches at any stage of the process. The sky’s the limit! In Surface Decoration Techniques, more than 30 professional artists with decades of experience share a wide variety of surface projects—from carving, etching and sgraffito, to layers, inclusions, and textures!


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The “opened earth” technique utilizes sand or dried clay for natural fissures and tools from around the studio for creating patterns. I work with slabs and on the wheel, adding color with glazes, slips and oxides, and using heat on the surface. With many variables involved, this is not an exacting process, but serves as a starting point.

Slab Work

For a sushi plate or tray, pound out a slab 1–3 inches thick. Impress a pattern into the clay. Heat the top and sides, but not the underneath or bottom surfaces. Don’t dry thick slabs as much as wheel-thrown cylinders because some elasticity should be left in the slab for stretching.

Stretch the clay by throwing it down on a solid surface. Throw the slab at an angle instead of straight down. This causes the clay to pull and stretch. Rotate the piece to stretch it into the desired shape—in this case, a rectangle.


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**First published in December 2014
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