Cutting and Pasting to Create New Pottery Forms

Shana Salaff prefers to design new forms by cutting and pasting components and playing around until she arrives at a form she likes. Sometimes she even goes back to shapes that she thinks she is too comfortable with and deliberately messes with them to see what happens.

This playful approach helped her to develop her “Cut-Rim Plates.” In today’s post, Shana explains how she cuts a wheel-thrown plate into a square and then uses the scraps to create a fresh and interesting rim.–Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.


click images to enlarge!

Begin with six pounds of clay to create a plate about 11 inches wide with a generous foot. When the rim has dried to a point where it’s still flexible but not sticky, it’s time to create the squared rim. Center a dividing web on the bottom of the plate (download Sylvia Shirley’s “Dividing Web for Decorating,” at Standing directly above the center, use a ruler to mark the edge of the rim at the lines labeled “4” (figure 1) to divide the surface into four parts. With a flexible ruler connecting two of the points, draw the outline of your cuts using a sharp knife. Press down on the ruler with your left hand, and then use your right hand in an arcing motion to draw out a slightly rounded outline (figure 2).

Step up to the plate!

Plates can be a challenging form to make and what works for one artist might not work for another. That is why we decided to put together this compilation of plate-making techniques. Mix and match these tips and techniques from Ben Carter, Adam Field, Forrest Lesch-Middelton, and Meredith Host, and you’ll be well on your way to creating great plates! 

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Cut along the lines you’ve drawn with your knife at a 45 degree angle. As you remove each section, bend it gently into an L shape and place it on the bat under the cut edge. Cut a 45° angle into the bottom of each section (figure 3). Score and add slip to this edge on all the pieces, then do the same with the plate edges. Place the sections without pressing too firmly, so you can make sure they are arranged evenly. Rest a bat on top to check that the rims are level with each other. Once in place, firmly attach the cut rims to the plate. Use a finger to spread the excess joining slip along the inside of the seams so they’re slightly rounded and full of slip.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Wire the plate off the bat when you’re done, then wrap it in plastic and put aside. Once the joins have set, use a pony roller along the outside of the rim to compress it even more firmly (figure 4). Use a sponge to finish the job of compressing while you smooth the exterior. Press a coil of clay into the interior joins. Add a small amount of clay to the narrowest part of the upright rim plate to visually connect each edge as well as prevent cracking (form follows construction!). Use a sponge to clean up any marks and to smooth joins further. Cover lightly and set aside until the rims and the base have set up enough to turn it over onto a square piece of foam.

When you trim the base, it’s really important to fully support the whole rim so it doesn’t crack under the pressure of trimming.

**First published in 2015


  • Vadie B.

    they look like broken files…..clicked on images only step 1 would not open.cache is cleared

  • Kathleen R.

    no images 🙁

  • Jennifer H.

    The images appear to be back up and running. We will keep an eye on the situation, though. Apologies for the inconvenience!

  • Tomas K.

    Unable to see images, me too… 🙁

  • Barbara P.

    One of the images opened for me, the others, no. Presume this will be fixed, will check back in a couple days. Meanwhile, my bigger concern is the ability to copy the images into WORD. I always move articles (from here and everywhere) into word so I can adjust the font/size (I’m 71, sight problems) and adjust photo/image sizes and smoosh some things together to save space. Unable to do with images on your website. It means just printing the small images, which will transfer to WORD but are not intended to be enlarged in WORD. But once I’ve “clicked to enlarge,” the enlarged image cannot be highlighted and therefore cannot be transferred. Make it easy on us? Barbara

  • Miriam S.

    Is it possible to repost this with functional images? They wouldn’t appear. This post really needs them for clarity.
    Also, the ad for the Potters Council workshop in the upper right is distracting in the extreme with the continuously changing images- there’s got to be a better way!

  • Barbara P.

    None of the images opened for me either. Too bad it sounded fun.

  • Rima S.

    I had the same issue as above.

  • Peggy B.

    None of the images loaded for me. : (

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