Nifty Nests: How to Make Ceramic Nesting Bowls

Learn how to make nesting bowls using pie tins!

How to Make Ceramic Nesting Bowls

Annie Chrietzberg loves to scour kitchen stores and garage sales for unique implements to use in the studio. Today, she shares a great little project, excerpted from Ceramic Projects: Forming Techniques. Using graduated tart tins with scalloped edges, she demonstrates how to make ceramic nesting bowls with texture using a simple template system and slab building techniques. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

I know I’m not the only overly-involved-with-clay-person out there who brings more things home from a kitchen store for the studio than for the kitchen. So, as I was browsing through a kitchen store, I came across tart tins with scalloped edges and removable bottoms, and knew I’d found something that would be fun and easy to use. I bought four of them in graduated sizes thinking: nesting bowls!

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To get a square-ish form from a round slab requires removing darts of clay. After experimenting with different dart ratios, I settled on somewhere between a third and a half of the radius. To make the darts template, I traced around the scallops on the cutting edge of the tart tin. Ignoring the low points of the scallops, I cut out a circle and folded it along two perpendicular diameters, so that the folds made a perfect cross. I then found a point somewhere between third and a half way along the radius to cut the darts to. I folded the template in half and cut out a wedge, then used that wedge to cut identical darts all the way around. Explore the possibilities of different sized darts different numbers of darts, and different placement of darts. As long as you keep ratios similar from one template to the next, the bowls should nest.

Bevel the darts by pointing the knife point towards the center on each side so you’ll be switching the angle of the knife for each side of the dart. As always with slab work, score, then slip, then score again to create an interface so the seam stays together. You may also want to add a small coil along the seams, since you’re changing the orientation of the slab. Use sponges or small pieces of foam to keep the sides of the bowl just where you want them while you work on the join.

After all four corners are well joined, turn the piece over. Anytime you need to turn a piece over, find foam if needed, and ware boards or bats, and find a way to flip the piece without touching it. Run a finger or a well-wrung-out sponge over the backside of the seam, eliminating any sharpness and sealing it. Repeat these directions with every size tart tin and template that you have, and you will have a lovely little set of nesting bowls. With four nesting bowls, you’ll want to explore the potential using eight different textures-match textures from the top of one bowl to the bottom of the next, let the textures cycle through the set-there are so many possibilities!

How to Make Ceramic Nesting BowlsTart tins with removable bottoms make excellent studio tools!

How to Make Ceramic Nesting BowlsCreate a darts template by tracing around the edge. Ignore the scallops when cutting the circle.

How to Make Ceramic Nesting BowlsTo make sure your bowls nest, use the same dart proportions on each template.

How to Make Ceramic Nesting BowlsClean texture tools before using to avoid getting those little crumbs of clay that can mar the texture, then dust clean texture tools with cornstarch so that they will release.

How to Make Ceramic Nesting BowlsBefore applying texture, check your slab for size. Leaving an inch or so leeway gives you some room to maneuver if there are flaws in the texture. Smooth the slab with a soft rib.

How to Make Ceramic Nesting BowlsPlace the slab onto the first texture tool, gently roll from the center towards the edge in a radial pattern, pushing down just enough to press the clay into the texture, but not so hard that you move the clay and thin the slab.

How to Make Ceramic Nesting BowlsFlatten the surface with a big rolling pin then carefully place a prepared texture tool on top of the slab and roll using just enough pressure to transfer the texture, but not so much that you thin or move the slab.

How to Make Ceramic Nesting BowlsMove to a ware board and remove the texture tools, then flip the slab so the interior face of the bowl is facing up. Use the tart tin to cut through the slab.

How to Make Ceramic Nesting BowlsSlip your hand underneath the rim and place your fingertips at the edge of the slab, gently press the slab free of the cutter. Align the darts and then cut the darts with the tip of the knife angled toward the center of the dart on both sides.

How to Make Ceramic Nesting BowlsScore and slip the cut edges of darts. Carefully lift slab to join both sides of the dart cuts. Use small foam bolsters to support the sides and keep the corners joined.

How to Make Ceramic Nesting BowlsRemove the rough edges with a damp sponge, then lay a small coil in the corner. Blend the coil following the texture, if possible.

**First published in 2012.


  • Ella M.

    Alice DeLisle April 11, 2012 at 7:15 pm –
    I have tried this and have a high percentage of bowls that warp. Any suggestions on how to prevent warping?

    – May be you use too soft clay? My things are never deformed.

  • Alice D.

    I have tried this and have a high percentage of bowls that warp. Any suggestions on how to prevent warping?

  • Ella M.

    Thank is very creative! Pretty nest.
    Ceramic world is so big! As much as I see others’ artworks in ceramic I want to create all of them! Not to copy but to use some ideas.

  • Salle E.


  • Lindsay P.

    Love these…remind me of some 40’s and 50’s colorful glass vases! Speaking of ‘nesting’…if you trim a mug/bowl a tad before leather hard…the scraps when gathered and pressed (gently) into a mold or bowl makes a great actual looking nest! It could actually be done in such a way that the ‘nest’ could have enough holes/spaces in it to be used as a sort of collander.

  • Janice W.

    I have also seen this article before but enjoy being reminded of these fantastic projects. Thank you. I will be using this technique when I have my girl friends over for an evening of ‘fun with clay’ as I have some of those tins.

  • On checking my archive I found that this article was earlier posted on July 6, 2009 on Ceramic Arts Daily. It is a welcome reminder. Thanks.

  • Good Idea using items found in stores.A new Home Depot just opened in our area and will check it out for decorative ideas on my handmade hanging planters.I currently use various stamps I have made from clay and purchased from others for making designs and unusual textures.

  • Annie C.

    The corrugated sheet is a rubber mat that was purchased at Home Depot some years ago.

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