How to Make a Square Lidded Jar Using Both Wheel-Thrown and Handbuilt Components

A couple of months ago, we discovered that Olympia, Washington, potter Sequoia Miller started a new blog called “ever wonder ’bout pottery?” (love that name!). I’ve been following Sequoia’s blog since then and have decided to add it to our blogroll (a.k.a. “stuff we like”) because he regularly posts great work, some how-to, and just has interesting things to say about pottery and ceramic art.

 

To celebrate this new addition to the blog roll, I am reposting (with Sequoia’s permission) a nice little how-to post that he did back when he started the blog. In this project, Sequoia demonstrates how he uses wheel throwing and handbuilding techniques to make an angular, lidded jar (the one at the left as a matter of fact). -Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

 


First I throw a round starter form on my treadle wheel, which was made by the fabulous Doug Gates. I use about 4.5 pounds of clay, and throw it without a bottom. I also split the rim of the pot to make a ledge for the lid to rest on. To make my squared-off jars, first I throw a round starter form on my treadle wheel, which was made by the fabulous Doug Gates. I use about 4.5 pounds of clay, and throw it without a bottom. I also split the rim of the pot to make a ledge for the lid to rest on.

 

After it sets up for a half day or so, to soft leather hard, I squeeze it from the outside with my fingers and the palms of my hands.After it sets up for a half day or so, to soft leather hard, I squeeze it from the outside with my fingers and the palms of my hands. If it’s too wet it will collapse, if it’s too dry it will crack. Eek!

 


For more cool handbuilding techniques, download your free copy of Three Great Handbuilding Techniques: How to Make Pots Using the Pinch, Coil and Slab Methods!

 


After it sets up for another half day, I paddle it from the outside to sharpen up the corners. My paddle is conveniently located on the corner of my wheel. I don't use the textured side you can see in this photo. I use the other side, which is smooth. After it sets up for another half day, I paddle it from the outside to sharpen up the corners. My paddle is conveniently located on the corner of my wheel. I don’t use the textured side you can see in this photo. I use the other side, which is smooth.

 

So after paddling the corners and letting it set up again, I add the bottom and the lid, which are both slabs. The bottom is scored and slipped ‚Äì you can see the extra clay there at the bottom. I use a piece of newspaper to keep the wet seam from sticking to the wareboard. The lid is a compressed slab that I lay in the opening. So after paddling the corners and letting it set up again, I add the bottom and the lid, which are both slabs. The bottom is scored and slipped — you can see the extra clay there at the bottom. I use a piece of newspaper to keep the wet seam from sticking to the wareboard. The lid is a compressed slab that I lay in the opening.

 

I let the bottom and lid set up for a day. Then I facet the outside using the tool you can see there, dragging it horizontally across the pot, top and bottom. The tool is a simple piece of banding steel, bent and taped at the base. This one is from Tennessee and it‚Äôs changed my life. Love it (the tool and my life). We made them in my class this past spring at Arrowmont. The wall was a little extra-thick to account for the clay I planned to cut away. I let the bottom and lid set up for a day. Then I facet the outside using the tool you can see there, dragging it horizontally across the pot, top and bottom. The tool is a simple piece of banding steel, bent and taped at the base. This one is from Tennessee and it’s changed my life. Love it (the tool and my life). We made them in my class this past spring at Arrowmont. The wall was a little extra-thick to account for the clay I planned to cut away.

 

After the walls are faceted, I invert the lid so it peaks up rather than down. The rim of the pot will have left an impression in the slab, and I use this as my guide to trim it to fit. After it’s trimmed I paddle

the lid making it more angular. Then I use a rasp to on the edge get the final fit. All this takes a good bit of fussing. The plastic strap in there helps me get the lid out as I work on it. The last step is to use

the same banding steel tool to shave the exterior of the lid, giving it the same cut surface as the pot.

Next up I add clay for the handle. This one is a new shape in my ongoing parade of weird handles. I love that it has an interior, this is my new favorite thing about handles/knobs. It‚Äôs just a little pinch pot attached to the top. Next up I add clay for the handle. This one is a new shape in my ongoing parade of weird handles. I love that it has an interior, this is my new favorite thing about handles/knobs. It’s just a little pinch pot attached to the top.

 

And after another day to let the handle dry, I come back with the same banding steel tool and cut the pinched surface off, leaving an angular, faceted knob. And after another day to let the handle dry, I come back with the same banding steel tool and cut the pinched surface off, leaving an angular, faceted knob.

 

 

Comments
  • Using slab technique totally seems more efficient use of time.

  • are there structural benefits to thrown v. slab? or is it just a method preference?

  • I’ve slump-formed oval lids but not square ones~ I’ll be trying this one out next week! Oh, and handle is very cute too!

  • Since the bottom and lid seem to be made a day or so after the body, what prevents the two different shrinkages from causing cracks or distortions? Maybe I missed something in the explanation, or maybe I’m just not learned enough to understand that part. Pardon my ignorance if that’s the case.

    It’s a very nice piece.

  • Cool techniques! I also live in the pacific northwest and just want to remind everyone about the differences in climate throughout the country. I knew a potter in Colorado whose work would turn to leather hard in minutes not days. So if necessary put it in a damp closet or plastic bag at least in drier areas.

  • Love the details! The faceted exterior really accentuates the form and creates a wonderful surface to play with. Can’t wait to give it a go!

  • Great glaze! Does anyone know if this look could be achieved at cone6 reduction? The look of the vessel is really complimented by the finish.

  • It’s a nice piece, but I do agree with D., it seems time-consuming versus working with slabs. Maybe there is a reason for this technique ?

  • Love these how to’s! I live in a semi isolated area, costly too get to workshops, so enjoying these visuals..Not sure I would try it as I have a wide variety on the go, but one never knows. Thanks for sharing! Merry Christmas all!!

  • I think it is just the fun of turning a round piece into a square. Wheel throwers are so addicted to that magical, spinning piece of clay… I know – I am an addict! And I do think there is a different quality to the clay when it is spun or slabbed – not necessarily better, just different.

  • It is a nice geometrical transformation from a cylinder to a cubical. I loved it and I will try out at my end. Hope I will succeed But is it worth doing? Or is it just a master’s art in doing so? What if we slip togather the pieces of slabs to form a cubical. Will it be worthwhile? These are just the curious questions popping up in my mind btw. The Peddle and other tools used are also a part of the scheme and the quality of clay, as other mentioned is also abig factor.

  • I think the benefit of throwing the cylinder then squaring it up is that the walls are all in one piece. Thanks for sharing your technique for making things more angular (especially the lid) and the tool for achieving this. Great little box! Lynne

  • can anyone give more detail on how he made the lid?

  • Thanks for sharing this with us.. I live in Seattle and i didn’t know about what he posted online.

  • I think the advantage to throwing the side walls (besides the already mentioned structural soundness) is that it can be done in about two minutes as compared to rolling, cutting and attaching the slabs.

    Also the body of the piece needed to set up longer than the slab top and bottom because it was wetter from being thrown.

  • Usually when I throw a circular cylinder form and want to re-shape it, I assure there is a bit of water on the inside and outside of the bottomless form before I wire it and start to change the shape.
    Do you do this as well before you coax it into a square shape?
    Is there a place on your blog where we can learn how to make our own tool?

  • Great post–thanks so much for sharing this. I’m going to have to give it a try. As for the shrinkage factor someone asked about, if I’m remembering right, most of the shrinkage that happens during drying occurs in the phase from leather hard to bone dry–not so much from wet to leather hard. And there is the matter someone else mentioned of the thrown body being wetter to start with.

  • I disagree about it being less efficient than using slabs. In the time it takes to throw one pot, you get 4 sides with a flang ,already joined at the corners! It would seem the little time it takes to press and paddle it into a square is way less than the time it takes me to measure and cut slabs, score the edges and put the slabs together, then build a flange around the interior top! I will be excited to try this!
    Patti

  • Susan,
    My guess is that he laid a fairly wet slab on the top, then stroked it with a rib or other tool to slightly stretch the clay, making it into a shallow “bowl” looking down on it. I have done this with round forms and I think that by sroking mostly in from the corners to the center you could stretch it into a square shaped “bowl”. anyone got any better ideas?
    Patti

  • when letting the pieces set up for a day are you covering them in plastic? I love the box …thanks for sharing it
    Maureen L.

  • I love throwing something round on the wheel and then making it into some other shape. Thanks for giving me a new idea.

    Marcia W.

  • beautiful lidded form and quite complicated. I imagine that timing is very important to have the clay a the correct stage of wetness to make all the parts work!

  • I love handbuilders trying to say that its better their way and the wheel throwers just say that either way is fine. Good show, good show. I like the sharpness of the from and the use of the pyramid over and over. It really pulls the whole piece togehter.

  • I love it! I’ve made a commitment to alter everything I throw next year, so that if it starts off round on the wheel, I will alter it in some way. I think I will be adding this technique to an increasing list I have.

  • I took a workshop with Sequoia at Haystack a few years ago, and it was a life changing experience! His vision and joie de vivre are an extraordinary inspiration, and his work is so creative!

  • Great way of using the wheel as another tool. How do you fire?

  • Love the technique, love the comments. Great way to be inspired. After 35 years of throwing pots I love the idea of finding a way to alter them. It is too easy to get sucked into the lure of the wheel all the time.

  • You know, I like this presentation, partly because the technique is not described in minute detail. If it’s not clear how the top slab is made, or how the handle is made, it’s up to me to figure out my own way of doing making the pot. I guarantee that if everyone of us who has posted a comment tried making this piece, we would each end up with a pot that was unique.

  • Hey folks,
    Thanks for the lively comments. I’ll touch on a couple of points.

    It does often feel that one way of constructing a piece will be faster than another, and while sometimes that’s true I don’t think speed is the primary concern. I love throwing. It is simply a more interesting way for me to generate form. Looking at my body of work it becomes clear that a lot of it is about that tension between square and round: many of my pots are visibly thrown yet sharply angular. For me throwing puts a sense of volume or outward expansion into the clay wall that I don’t get from building with slabs – which is not to say that it cannot be achieved, I just am not good at it. At this point it is indeed much quicker for me to throw this than use slabs, but I am sure for others the opposite is true.

    Drying time differs in every studio. Cracks will tend to form at the joints, thrown or slab-built. My pots dry unwrapped. My clay is toothy, meaning it has lots of grog and sand, not quite a sculpture body but pretty rough. This makes it shrink less, stand up to cracking and warping, and leave more of a tear than a smear when cut.

    The pot is gas reduction fired, with a thinnish coat of a copper green glaze on the outside.

    I could give more detail on the lid, but as Michael points out immediately above, the space is meant to be for trial and discovery.

    Enjoy!

  • To quote Sequoia again….”It is simply a more interesting way..to generate form”

    It is that….very interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  • The technique of making the jar from a round form is my kind of throwing. However, I am from the old school (60 years experience) where I feel that the method of making is part of the final piece. Slabs can be made sharp edged, but when I alter a wheel thrown piece, I like to keep rounded edges that reflect the original throwing techinque, even though paddled for the final shape. Just my way of working I guess. Same goes for coil and pinch pots. The mark of the hand or tool is an integral part of the final pot, IMO. After I succeeded in conquering mastering of the wheel, I also went into altering of shapes, out of round, making animals, sculpture, and pots, however with any paddling or altering of the shape, one knew that my work was thrown. My boxes were slabs and one knew they were slab work. Hope this makes it clear my motive in working.

  • I love the idea of combining thrown and hand built pieces together, It is more exciting than one or the other. Great looking pot!

  • This is a great little project. I have one drying that I started on Sunday (now is Tuesday). If it makes it through bisque okay, I will have to pick out a great glaze. I sure like the look of the one Sequoia used, but I fire Cone 6 oxidation. I have a Coyote Desert Sage that sometimes has the look of the original piece if the firing goes well. Anyone else have a tip?

  • Larry
    Yes a Cone 6 glaze can be make to look about the same as this glaze do a web search for cone 6 matt glazes. I recommend the Bone ash glazes I am presently testing and modifing few of them and getting some interesting results, some in a bad way but that what testing is about. more on that latter.

  • I’d like to make a comment on the first comment by D.
    No, I don’t think that making this square covered jar out of slabs entirely would be an efficient use of time. To make slabs stand straight and up to create the walls is time consuming, not to mention that the entire pot would have that stiff look that is the common trait of slab made vertical pots. Also, the wheel is exactly that : a tool to make things faster. And it’s good to deform the things made on the wheel to go away from that boring and over symmetrical form born from it. It is much faster, if you’re making a big quantity of jars like this one, to throw a big quantity of hollow cylinders like he does here, and then to square them, than to build each one using slabs. AND the result is so much more graceful!
    PS I have always loved Sequoia Miller’s work ever since I saw some on Ceramics Monthly years ago.

  • HiHo Bonnie-lady, I agree with your thought about showing the evidences of pots are built, Brad Schweiger has that same thought in his pots. I’m stirred with excitement to throw spheres, then paddle them to marvelous ‘something-elses’ Oboy ! START NOW !!!

  • I commented back in 2009 and since then I have tried somewhat successfully to throw and alter my pieces. Since I am not a great thrower it sometimes just “happens” that the pieces need to be altered.
    I have switched from a Cone 10 reduction kiln to Cone 05/06 glazes in an electric kiln. My studio partners and I are just testing new glazes so I appreciate some of the Cone 05 glaze ideas.

    Marcia W. from Salt Lake City

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