Making multiples is a common and challenging endeavor for potters. To successfully accomplish this task, you need to have a well-considered plan of attack. Sean O’Connell had to figure out how to make ceramic plates in multiples when he was the “Salad Days” resident at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts. In this residency, he had to make 500 plates in a relatively short amount of time for the center’s annual fundraiser.
In today’s post, an excerpt from the Pottery Making Illustrated archives, Sean shares his best tips on how to make ceramic plates in multiples.- Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
PS. if wheel throwing isn’t your thing, check out this article for handbuilding ceramic plates using a common craft store material.
I honed my plate-making skills many years ago when I was the “Salad Days” artist-in-residence at Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine, in the summer of 2009. The residency required that I make 500 salad plates for Watershed’s annual fundraiser to take place the following summer. I had three months to knock ‘em all out, so I adopted a fairly rigorous but manageable work cycle. It took a couple of weeks to ease into a rhythm and fine-tune the process. Having worked out the kinks, I settled into a cycle that required me to make and decorate about 40 plates every 5–6 days.
The first day of my cycle was spent preparing clay and throwing plates. I chose to make one form repeatedly and only vary the scalloped rims and surface decoration.
The second day was devoted to trimming the feet and cutting rims. If the weather wasn’t too humid I could apply a white slip on the interior of the earthenware surface; otherwise I might wait overnight to do so.
Day three and part of day four were usually spent tying up all of the loose ends of wet-work. I’d brush terra sigillata onto the exterior, apply my signature in underglaze, and begin mapping out the decoration for that group of plates.
Depending on the complexity of that rotation’s decoration, it could take another day, maybe two to complete the plates. After finishing the week’s 40 plates, I’d rest for the next day and start the whole process over.
Make sure to check out the entire article in the November/December 2014 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated to read tips on managing time and staying on course. In addition to how to make ceramic plates in multiples, the article ends with a section covering O’Connell’s decoration process.
Do you have any additional tips on how to make ceramic plates in multiples? Add them in the comments below!