Jerilyn Virden’s forms were inspired by dough bowls and grinding stones that she came across while working on her MFA at Southern Methodist University. She was taken in by these large, rough objects that had acquired their curved interiors as a result of repetitive use. She decided to explore this form in her ceramic work, but it took a lot of exploration before she landed on the method that allowed her to make forms that had the grace of the dough bowls and grinding stones that inspired her.
In today’s post, an excerpt from Sculpture Techniques (which happens to be on sale this week!), Jerilyn explains how she uses double-walled construction to create the beautiful forms shown here. She also shares her firing schedule. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.
P.S. A little birdie told me that Jerilyn has an instructional video on her functional work coming out very soon! Stay tuned for details!
I saw them (dough bowls and grinding stones) in New Mexico she says. I was drawn to the massiveness of the forms. The dough bowls were very roughly hacked out of a solid piece of wood. The grinding stones felt as though they had just evolved into their forms through necessity. They were flat stones that became bowls over years and years of grinding grain on them. It gave the forms a gracefulness as well as a history. They seem to possess a slow movement with great power, like water moving down a river.
Want to make beautiful functional pots that could also be described as sculpture for the tabletop? In her video, Part Sculpture – Part Function: Handbuilding Graceful Minimalist Forms, Jerilyn Virden shares her techniques for creating functional pots with a sculptural bent. You’ll learn how to create large, lightweight forms using double-walled construction, plus time-saving tips like constructing bisque cradles for easy repetition of your favorite forms. If you’ve been wanting to explore a more sculptural approach to functional pottery, Jerilyn is the perfect teacher!
Double the Walls, Double the Drying
Hollow construction allows the walls of a piece to have tremendous volume, but it brings up several technical difficulties. These issues can be overcome by paying close attention during several stages of the process. By the term hollow construction or double walled, I am referring to a form that shares one bottom, and the walls are hollow.
I begin with an open bowl. As I build the walls up, I begin a second wall from the floor inside of the bowl. Once these are to the height that I want, it is time to bring them together to trap air in between. The closing connection is the most crucial. Once the walls are closed, I can no longer access that inner space to reinforce joints. It must occur without having a hand inside to compress against. This can be done by having the last connection be at a place where the wall changes direction. This allows me to effectively push one surface against the other with both hands on the outside.
Once the piece is completed, trimmed, and ready to be dried, I poke a hole in the wall to allow moisture to evaporate from the inside of the piece while drying. This also relieves pressure created by the trapped air as the piece shrinks, and it serves as a release for the steam in the beginning part of the firing. I use a sewing pin so that the hole is so small that the glaze seals it up. I only need the hole during the drying and bisque; the hole is not essential during the glaze firing.
The piece is dried for the first two to three days under a layer of fabric and plastic. For the next three to six days, the piece dries under a layer of fabric only. It is best to wait at least six days before firing, so I make the double-walled pieces at the beginning of my work cycle.
If cracks form, they will be where the wall transitions from the outside to the inside.
This is the case during the firing as well. For this reason, I make sure that all drying occurs slowly enough that the inside form and the outside form shrink at the same time. I fire in an electric kiln with a computer so that I can control the rate of rise in temperature.
Firing Schedule for Double-Walled Bowls
1. 80°F/hr to 205°F hold for 5-6 hours (or until there is no moisture coming off of the piece
2. 80°F/hr to 300°F hold for 10 min. (to make sure even the inside of thickest wall has reached 212°)
3. 250°350°F/hr to 1000°F (This depends on how large the piece is, the larger the piece the slower the speed.)
4. 80°F/hr to 1250°F (Slow down for quartz inversion.)
5.250°350°F/hr to 1910°F
6. 80°F/hr to 1940°F (Slow down for glazes to heal over)
Follow steps 1–5 for the bisque firing and use steps 2–6 for the glaze firing.
For further information on Jerilyn Virden, and to see more images of her work, visit www.jvirdenceramics.com.
For more interesting handbuilding techniques, download your free copy of Five Great Handbuilding Techniques: Variations on Classic Techniques for Making Contemporary Handbuilt Pottery.
**First published in September 2010.