Pottery Video of the Week: How to Make a Textured Sushi Plate Using a Wiggle Wire

This clip was excerpted from Wheel Throwing with Nan Rothwell, which part of our End-of-Summer Video Clearance in the CAD Shop!


rothwell_sushi

Wiggle wires are a super fun way to make texture on pottery. You can get wiggle wires from pottery suppliers or make your own by stretching out springs (get the springs at the hardware store or by taking apart a ballpoint pen). One technique that I especially love is using a wiggle wire to cut pots off the wheel, thus creating an interesting texture on the bottom of the piece — a great alternative to trimming a foot.

In today’s video, an excerpt from Wheel Throwing with Nan Rothwell, Nan takes that concept a step further by throwing her pot upside down and cutting it off with the wiggly wire, creating texture on the top of the piece. Have a look and think of more directions to take this technique. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.


Like having your own pottery teacher at home…
Wheel Throwing with Nan Rothwell provides more than two and a half hours of demonstrations, tips and techniques from a pro.

Learn more!


To learn more about Nan Rothwell or see images of her finished work, please visit nanrothwellpottery.com.

**First published in January 2011
Comments
  • Hi Nan! Good to see you, and I recall your trip to NCECA and demonstrating for Amaco Brent! I’m so glad that resulted in creative ideas – keep up the great work!

  • loved the idea BUT: there was no audio on my copy…yes, I checked everything, turned it off, rebooted, still nothing…anyone else experience this?…it’s quite frustrating.

  • I really like that technique, thanks for sharing. I don’t think I have heard of a wiggle wire, is that just a twisted throwing wire or a specially prepared one with thicker wires?

  • @dora…what machine/os are you using? you might need to see if ‘flash’ needs updating for your browser of choice…can you normally hear audio? like from youtube, news sites, etc?

    @christianne…there is a little bit of an explanation on what a wiggle wire is…check your local pottery supply, google, or just get an ‘ample*’ spring from your local hardware and stretch it out, put handles on it and ‘get busy’…; ^)

    nice video, btw..cool technique, that saves time dealing with feet/trimming!!!

    *ample =’s 18 gauge or smaller[higher number is smaller gauge] and about3″ unstretched…the hardware store may even have something in a junk drawer, that was bent out of shape.
    hth!

  • hi Dora i had the same check your sound on your computer i had to as its quite low i had to put it up to 90 which was beter j

  • Thanks for sharing Nan’s great video. She was a wonderful presenter at one of the Potters Conferences I went to.

  • Very nice. A simple way to make a charming little plate. May have to give it a whirl – after I’ve made a wiggle wire.

  • Dora: Are you running Windows XP? Windows XP has an issue with some protect written discs. I have received 2 that will not play on my XP but will play on my husbands Win7. The DVD will also run on a video DVD player such as you buy for kids traveling. I paid $65 for the DVD player because it was cheaper than upgrading and hassling with Win7.

  • Thanks for all your comments! My favorite wiggle wires are made by Dirty Girls Clay Tools. Not only do they make great tools, but they have my all-time-favorite name for a clay tool company. They make several sizes and styles – the one I used on that dish is their standard. My favorite of their styles is called “gap tooth.” It produces four or five wiggles about the size of the one in the video and then leaves a wider gap. You can see an image of a plate with that texture if you look at the plate in photo #6 on the Pots In My Studio page of my website (http://www.nanrothwellpottery.com/?page_id=502)
    You can find Dirty Girls Clay Tools at Kentucky Mud Works (http://www.kentuckymudworks.com/index.php) where they also list a number of other suppliers who sell Dirty Girls tools.
    Nan

  • Dora — are you experiencing the sound issues with the video sent out today on Ceramic Arts Daily? Or with the DVD itself? Please let me know if it is with our DVD? Thanks!
    Nan

  • Love the idea. Did not know a sushi plate was so small. What is a wiggle wire today was previously called a stretched spring from a ball point or a screen door for larger progects.. Much thanks, you are a great presenter…clear, concise and not slurred by technology.

  • So awesome, I am also unable to get into the studio right now and am feeling the energy of the possible build up. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for the idea on how yo use a wiggle wire. I will have to try mine out at my next class as I am still a student. I am always buying the newest tools out advertised in the pottery mag’s.

  • Thanks for posting.

    After seeing your last video using a wiggle wire to facet, I made some soap dishes by cutting slabs in half. It was fun to see how the pattern would come out.

    That is a very cool cutting wire that you used to trim the edges. I have never seen one like that before. Is it a tool that you can buy or did you make it yourself?

  • I was confused. You threw a piece of clay and when you removed it had texture. What did you use to make the texture. I love the idea of throwing a foot. I heard the audio fine by the way. Thanks.

  • Heather, perhaps you missed her tool for cutting the piece off the bat. The spiral in the cutting wire was not easy to see. The wire is what they are referring to as a ‘wiggle wire’ and is a spring that has been stretched so it permanently remains in a spiral — which creates the texture when separating the piece from the bat.

  • Hi Alex,
    I saw the tool, just didn’t understand that it had a spiral in it. Thank you for explaining. I thought I was losing my mind.

  • seems perplexing for some, on how this tool works or what it looks like.
    here’s something all can ‘try at home’…
    find a 24″[give or take] length of thin string trimmer wire, thin braided nylon rope, monofilament fishing line, cotton cord…even thread if you will…just to get your juices flowing…something that will tie and hold a knot.
    tie an overhand knot…equally[or not] spaced along your string…the thinner the string, the more[maybe] in number your knots should be. if you know…knots…use a blood knot…this will give you a slightly different, but very quickly made up version of a wiggle wire, but in string…when you get your new tool completed…use it like a normal cut off wire take a slice off a pug of clay to see what texture it leaves. also use a sawing motion to get a different effect…
    hth
    richard the tool maker ; ^)

  • Wiggle wires: if you prefer wire over string, your best bet might be a big box hardware store, the aisle with drawers of specialty bolts, nuts, SPRINGS of various gauges and lengths. Or, if you are fortunate in having a real hardware store nearby, any clerk will be delighted in finding exactly what you need. You may have to get several to make one fit your needs when you stretch them out into permanent spirals — sorry, no returns!

  • Nan here again,
    I’m a big advocate of homemade tools. Many of the throwing tools and a lot of my studio equipment are things we made here. But the homemade wiggle wires I tried in the past were not as effective or fun to use as those I have bought. My homemade ones retained the curl of the spring and make a messier mark than the commercially produced ones. The wires made by Dirty Girls (and Bamboo Tools, Bill VanGilder and several others) have the advantage of the wiggles being on a single plane, like a sine wave. Maybe I just never figured out how both stretch AND flatten my spring coils?
    I have made knotted string undercut wires as per Richard’s instructions above and found them fun to play with. But although they left cool marks on the bottoms, they were not as effective at cutting faceted patterns on the sides of pots. Maybe I just never found the right gauge wire?
    Thanks everyone for writing!
    Nan

  • thought i’d post my experiment:
    /community/index.php?/topic/761-string-theory-sort-of/
    hth
    fun, fun fun!

  • Yes Janine a great idea for a soap dish .The wiggle wires I have seen
    & bought at a pottery supply house have different thicknesses of spring like wire with wood handles. The newest is a Mudwire by Mud Tools/Micheal Sherrill at mudtools.com.

  • Great! I loved it. Couldn’t you use the inside of a click pen for a “wiggle wire”. Now my imagination is running wild, throwing the foot upside-down, can’t wait to try it.

  • You can make wiggle wires too! from a average wire cut-off tool or picture hanging wire – all you have to do is get wire that is made up of several strands of smaller wire (hence the picture hanging wire, which is manufactured this way).

    To make a wiggle wire: Select a few strands of the wire depending on how wide apart you want the pattern (the more stands you pull the wider apart the lines). Then and peel the wire apart quickly (the faster the better – if you stop 1/2 way it can disrupt the pattern in the wire). Then add some wood or clay handles on the ends and viola! Wiggle wire!

    The principle is the same when converting a regular store-bought wire cut off tool, you just have to dismantle it & put it back together! The more stiff the wire, the better the end result (& the longer it lasts)

  • The lead photo has wiggle alternating with smooth, so I watched to see how you did that, but the video shows the entire surface with wiggle texture, so how did you get the alternating surface?

  • Michael Janson – I use wiggle wires made by Dirty Girls clay tools. They make one called a “gap tooth” that alternates wiggles with more open areas. That is how I got the variation in that photo. I use different wires pulled through in different ways to create a variety of patterns.
    Nan

  • After making the plates I would suggest using a clean wire to cut your tofu. It would make an interesting presentation don’t cha think?

  • i’ve made a lot of small bowls via this method. one can make their own wiggle wires with any number of variant wiggles and straight lines, etc.
    it’s all in the wrists…;)

  • HELP!

    Hi Nan! I love these plates and after watching your vidoe, made several. but, a number of them have cracked on the top side (the wiggle side) around the area of the foot. I made them on plaster batts as you suggested. I have dried them slowly. I cannot figure out why they are cracking? Or, what the difference is between the ones that have cracked and the ones that haven’t. The crack is not all the way through to the bottom of the plate, just on the top. Can you or anyone out there give me a suggestion?

    Thanks so much! Edie

  • Edie ClompusDecember 6, 2014 at 3:02 pm –

    HELP! Hi Nan! I love these plates and after watching your vidoe, made several. but, a number of them have cracked on the top side (the wiggle side) around the area of the foot. I made them on plaster batts as you suggested. I have dried them slowly. I cannot figure out why they are cracking? Or, what the difference is between the ones that have cracked and the ones that haven’t. The crack is not all the way through to the bottom of the plate, just on the top. Can you or anyone out there give me a suggestion?

    Thanks so much! Edie

  • Hi Edie,

    I had those kind of cracks a lot when I started making these plates. Doesn’t happen much anymore — I’ve made three adjustments that I think helped minimize the problem. First and most important is to do a LOT of compressing — really work your slab over before and after you isolate clay for the foot. Second is that they tend to crack more often when they are quite thick. Try making a thinner plate and see if that helps. And finally, I find they are more prone to cracking when made in my salt clay, which is very like porcelain. So if you have a choice of clays, see if you can start out making them in a relatively vigorous and unfussy clay. Not everyone has a choice like that, of course. Good luck with it!

    Nan

  • Thank you for sharing, Nan! I listened to your video, as I multitask on few projects, and for a bit I thought it was Sigourney Weaver ceramic’s demo ? Great demo + voice! No volume problems here!

  • Enjoyed your video loved what you had to say about finding your own steps to the process and making your own connection with the Clay learn from each other but the pride that comes when we discover ourselves thanks Dan

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