Jerilyn Virden’s Double Walled Sculpture Process

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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!


 

Red Ablation, 9 in. (23 cm) in diameter, handbuilt earthenware, hollow construction, glaze, sandblasted, 2006.

Red Ablation, 9 in. (23 cm) in diameter, handbuilt earthenware, hollow construction, glaze, sandblasted, 2006.

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.

 


Can’t decide between making pottery or sculpture? You don’t have to!

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!

  
Figure 1

Figure 1

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.

 

Figure 2

Figure 2

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.

 

Figure 3

Figure 3

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.

 

Figure 4

Figure 4

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.

Figure 5

Figure 5

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.

Shift, 23½ in. (60 cm) in width, handbuilt earthenware with terra sigillata, 2010.

Shift, 23½ in. (60 cm) in width, handbuilt earthenware with terra sigillata, 2010.

 

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.

 

Comments
  • This is (possibly) the most helpful post I’ve read to date on Ceramic Arts Daily! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I am a sculptor who is tied to using an electric kiln……. forever trying to create the accidents you describe, and looking for surfaces you are getting with the combinations of glaze. I also have been developing double sided forms, but with less success. I love this work!

  • This is (possibly) the most helpful post I’ve read to date on Ceramic Arts Daily! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I am a sculptor who is tied to using an electric kiln……. forever trying to create the accidents you describe, and looking for surfaces you are getting with the combinations of glaze. I also have been developing double sided forms, but with less success. I love this work!

  • I’m confused. I thought that the quartz inversion happened on the way down, not the way up? I always fire down through 1067, and go fast on the way up.

  • I’m confused. I thought that the quartz inversion happened on the way down, not the way up? I always fire down through 1067, and go fast on the way up.

  • This has inspired me to keep on going. I have been dabbling in hollowed out forms over several years, but never really persevered as they so often crack and break – now I’m going back with renewed vigour!
    However – I can’t see my work EVER looking as good as Jerilyn’s – it is beautiful.

  • This has inspired me to keep on going. I have been dabbling in hollowed out forms over several years, but never really persevered as they so often crack and break – now I’m going back with renewed vigour!
    However – I can’t see my work EVER looking as good as Jerilyn’s – it is beautiful.

  • Just got back from Asheville and visited the Blue Spiral and many other galleries…brought back a postcard that i am staring at right this moment which has this peice highlighted on it!
    amazing to open up this email to find her as
    the artist of the day!

  • Just got back from Asheville and visited the Blue Spiral and many other galleries…brought back a postcard that i am staring at right this moment which has this peice highlighted on it!
    amazing to open up this email to find her as
    the artist of the day!

  • This is beautiful work. I’m inspired to use this technique for sculpting. Your work is powerful and true. Thank you.

  • This is beautiful work. I’m inspired to use this technique for sculpting. Your work is powerful and true. Thank you.

  • Nancy – You probably got your answer already, but just to make sure: quartz inversion takes place during both “sides” of the firing cycle, on the way up and on the way down. On the way up – rapid expansion; on the way down – rapid shrinkage. If there is concern about the expansion/shrinkage of special pieces (large, thick, uneven thickness, sculptural, etc.)then both sides of the firing cycle, heating and cooling, have to be planned consciously. Good potting! John K.

  • Nancy – You probably got your answer already, but just to make sure: quartz inversion takes place during both “sides” of the firing cycle, on the way up and on the way down. On the way up – rapid expansion; on the way down – rapid shrinkage. If there is concern about the expansion/shrinkage of special pieces (large, thick, uneven thickness, sculptural, etc.)then both sides of the firing cycle, heating and cooling, have to be planned consciously. Good potting! John K.

  • What gorgeous work!! Thank you so much for sharing your process.

    When you say “As I build the walls up, I begin a second wall […]”, how do you build the wall, from a slab you’re attaching to the floor of the bowl, or with coils, or how? I’m sorry if it’s a stupid question if the answer is “obviously from a slab”, but I’m asking precisely because I’m facing this difficulty: how to attach two LARGE-ish forms (slabs formed on a slump mould). It seems impossible to do without them deforming and I’m also not sure how hard I should let them get before attaching them together…
    Also, what to do to prevent warping while drying, which has been a major problem so far.
    Thanks in advance!

  • What gorgeous work!! Thank you so much for sharing your process.

    When you say “As I build the walls up, I begin a second wall […]”, how do you build the wall, from a slab you’re attaching to the floor of the bowl, or with coils, or how? I’m sorry if it’s a stupid question if the answer is “obviously from a slab”, but I’m asking precisely because I’m facing this difficulty: how to attach two LARGE-ish forms (slabs formed on a slump mould). It seems impossible to do without them deforming and I’m also not sure how hard I should let them get before attaching them together…
    Also, what to do to prevent warping while drying, which has been a major problem so far.
    Thanks in advance!

  • I have admired your work for several years and have attempted to copy your technique several times. However, every attempt has resulted in failure. I think your sculptures are so classically elegant and presented with such grace and style that it is like candy to my eyes. I love your work.

  • I have admired your work for several years and have attempted to copy your technique several times. However, every attempt has resulted in failure. I think your sculptures are so classically elegant and presented with such grace and style that it is like candy to my eyes. I love your work.

  • beautiful results and good explanation. In my limited firing experience, one question on your firing schedule: does 250°–350°F/hr mean you raise the temp by 250-350 degrees each hour until the desired temp is reached? For example at the end of step 4, you have reached 1250, then in step 5 you raise the temp by 250-350 degrees per hour until kiln temp reaches 1910 degrees? Thanks for clearing this up for me.

  • beautiful results and good explanation. In my limited firing experience, one question on your firing schedule: does 250°–350°F/hr mean you raise the temp by 250-350 degrees each hour until the desired temp is reached? For example at the end of step 4, you have reached 1250, then in step 5 you raise the temp by 250-350 degrees per hour until kiln temp reaches 1910 degrees? Thanks for clearing this up for me.

  • Your work is very beautiful. Thank you for shairng! I am a big fan of double walled pieces, although I tend to wheel throw mine. It is very inspiring to see your techniques and your graceful pieces. Seeing your work raises a lot of questions in my mind regarding exploring the combination of hand building and wheel throwing double walled vessels. So far I have only hand built double walled pieces that consisted of wheel thrown parts. But I think addition of slabs and hand building to the wheel thrown vessels could introduce a new dimension and new interest. Here is a link to my double walled pieces http://silkyshapes.com.au/gallery.php

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