Bowl Making Turned Upside-Down

Throwing large bowls has been something that has dogged me for quite some time. There’s a certain size bowl that I just cannot seem to get past and while it’s ample, it is not necessarily what I would call large.

So I really like Martina Lantin’s bowl making process, which literally turns the typical bowl making technique on its head. In today’s post, Martina shares her upside-down bowl technique. Not only does this technique make larger bowls more achievable, but it opens the doors for adding gestural qualities as well. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

Clay naturally wants to move centrifugally so making large bowls can be challenging because it is difficult to keep the form on center. I make them from wheel-thrown parts that are assembled when leather hard. Capitalizing on the physics of working on the wheel, I throw the bases for the bowls upside down. By working the clay up and in from a centered ring, I’m able to form the base of a large bowl working from the rim to the foot without having to follow up with trimming. Unique asymmetrical bowls are made possible through this method of throwing and altering. When cutting this section from the wheel, hold the wire tight to the wheel head as you only pull it through one edge of the piece. Then allow the spin of the wheel head to cut the piece off completely. This help prevent any distortion in the shape of bottomless forms. When in doubt, you can always wait until the piece has begun to firm up.

Making the Parts

The bowl shown is made from three parts—base, bottom, and top. The base, a thrown slab, is added last; and the bottom is a basic bowl that’s thrown upside down. The top is an open ring, and is the finished rim. Begin throwing the bottom by making a bottomless centered ring. Throw upward and inward to create a pleasing curve (figure 1). Define the rim, keeping in mind that it will serve as the foot. Rib both the interior and exterior to create a graceful arc (figure 2). Cut this section from the wheel holding the wire tight to the wheel head. Throw the top section right-side up from a centered ring. Explore a variety of rim profiles, being conscious of the edges and the shadows different shapes may promote. In this process it’s especially important to remember to leave a bit of a ‘foot’ on the rim section to help the wall stay attached to the bat while pulling up the clay (figure 3). Wait to cut the rim from the bat until you’re ready to attach it. Waiting helps keep the rim from warping.

Altering the Forms Once the bottom has reached a firm leather-hard stage, turn it over and use a cheese slicer to refine and trim excess clay from the raw edge for attaching the top section (figure 4). The asymmetry of the bowl begins to reveal itself at this stage. Remain conscious of creating a sense of fluidity and generosity as you work. Next, cut the rim or top section into two pieces (figure 5) and attach using the traditional score and slip technique followed by compressing the clay on both sides with a rib. (figure 6).

Attach the base last. Measure the bottom opening with calipers and cut and shape the base slab accordingly (figure 7). Score and slip the base (figure 8) and add an additional coil inside the foot ring to reinforce the seam. Using a wet, pointed brush, clean and compressing the join. While I strive for crisp visible seams and joins, these steps may also be applied to creating a seamless “upside down bowl” where the transitions blend together. Martina Lantin, a potter and professor at Marlboro College, lives in Brattleboro, Vermont. To see more of her work, visit or

**First published in 2015.

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