When WangLing Chou was an international student, she developed a habit of traveling light and repurposing and reusing objects out of necessity. This habit made its way into her clay work as well. In today’s post, an excerpt from the Pottery Making Illustrated archives, she shares how she repurposed plastic soda bottles as fun molds for functional pots. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
Preparing the Plastic Mold
Collect any interesting forms of plastic to be used for potential molds such as soda bottles and food containers. Clean and rinse the plastic with soapy water. Next, use a utility knife or saw to cut out the portion you want to use for the mold.
All hands on deck!
The popularity of handbuilding is growing by leaps and bounds these days. It’s no wonder because it requires minimal tools and resources, and the range of what one can create is up to one’s own imagination. Best of all, with handbuilding, there are methods that are easy to pick up if you are a beginner, but also more challenging techniques to keep the more experienced potter stimulated. Whether you’re a budding handbuilder or you’re already adept, Handbuilding Techniques is one book you’ll definitely want in your collection!
Coat the inside of the plastic mold with a very thin layer of WD-40 and spread it evenly then wipe out the form with a chamois. Avoid using excess WD-40, as it will make the surface of the mold overly slippery and will penetrate the slab.
Drill a small hole in the bottom of the plastic bottle to allow air to escape when the slab is pressed inside the mold. Roll out a slab of clay and cut it into shapes to cover the inside of the mold (figure 1). Several sections of slabs will need to be connected together when pressing the inside of a curved plastic bottle and the number of sections will vary according to the size and shape of the form. Press the slab against the mold evenly and then smooth the inside as much as possible before removing it from the mold.
Forming a Zoomorphic Teapot
Wait until the pressed clay is stiff enough to hold its shape, then use a utility knife to carefully cut the soft part of the plastic bottle allowing the form to release from the mold (figure 2).
Smooth out the seams and remove any unwanted texture. During the leather-hard stage, you may model the form further by pushing out the curves, squeezing the excess clay or cutting and reconnecting some sections to alter or even exaggerate the profile. You can use coils or thin slabs to extend the vessel or alter the proportional balance and overall form for the teapot to a desired shape (figure 3).
Use the top portion of another plastic bottle as a mold for the top of the teapot (figure 4). This gives the form a more gradual rounded top as opposed to an abrupt flat one. Make the press mold for the top just as you did for the bottom.
Before adjusting and refining the size of the top hole (figure 5), clean the interior while there’s still a big enough hole to access the inside of the teapot. This ensures the joined pieces are well attached and the seam is smoothed.
Making the Spout and Handle
To create the basic spout form, use a tapered dowel, either short or long depending on the size spout you need. Roll a clay slab around the dowel and use it to shape the spout. To give the spout more of an organic feeling of an actual chicken beak, try to pull it into a slight curve, then cut the spout to size and attach it to the teapot (figure 5).
The construction of the tail, or handle, involves two mirrored parts formed together to give the impression of an inflated balloon. Cut out the two abstract forms similar to a chicken tail using a pattern to ensure the proportions of each side are the same (figure 6).
Next, curl the edges inward in order to achieve the puffy appearance, then connect them, making sure to leave a hole for the air to escape (figure 7).
Finally, attach the tail in an appropriate place that gives the impression of tail feathers (figure 8). This tail not only serves as part of the chicken but also suggests a teapot’s handle.
WangLing Chou is a native of Taiwan. She obtained her MFA from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. She is currently an assistant professor of art at Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana.