As potters, we feel that everyday objects like cups, bowls, or saucers should have an elevated status in our homes—especially if they are handmade. Andrew McIntyre takes that idea literally by making saucer forms that are more like pedestals. The cup and saucer pairs are striking enough to be on display on a shelf, yet still function perfectly too. In today’s post, an excerpt from the November/December 2019 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, Andrew shares how he makes his attractive saucers or “cup stands,” as he calls them. –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
Ever since I started making pottery, I have loved making cups. I love how such a small object can fit in your hands and can still express so much. I believe that there is more than just function involved with a cup. The act of drinking and specific function is extremely important; however, the aesthetics of a cup can play just as important a role, if not more, in terms of its formal qualities and presentation. The combination of these aspects has the potential to take a cup beyond the tactile, aesthetic, and functional, to a more unique experience. My interpretation of the cup and stand is intended to elevate the ideals of what a cup is and how it can facilitate a unique experience shared between user, object, and maker.
Throwing the Stand
In the preliminary stages of making the stand, I would start off with 5 to 6 pounds of clay, roll out 3-inch-thick slabs, then go through a slow process of drilling and removing clay in order to complete the desired shape. I realized that the handbuilding process took too much time to create such a simple form that ended up warping and cracking, and figured out that throwing the stand on the wheel would not only speed up the process, but also fix the structural issues.
Now, I start off with anywhere between 2 and 3 pounds of clay depending on the overall size of the stand, taking the advice that I give my own students, it’s always easier to remove clay than it is to add it. Keeping in mind I will trim and carve away much of the bulk to its final, refined form, I throw the base slab about 3–4 inches thick. Compression with a rib is crucial in preventing warping and cracking. Make sure to hold the rib at 3 o’clock in relation to the wheel head with the curved side against the clay. Lean the straight side of the rib down and toward your body, almost laying it flat (1). This will give you the most compression across the surface without removing anything but the slip. Open the clay up like you would a cylinder, but go all the way to the wheel head. After opening, create a gallery like you would on a lidded vessel and measure the gallery with calipers (2) to the same diameter as the outside of the cup (3). Determine the depth of the gallery based on how far you want the cup to recess into the stand. The depth of my stands vary dramatically, depending on whether or not I decide to inlay the gallery with wood or resin.
Revealing Volume and Form
Usually when the cup and stand release from the bat, they are leather hard and ready to handle. This stage is ideal for marking, carving, and removing clay. I’ve found that marking each corner on the stand to match the corners already established on the cup is accomplished most accurately and efficiently with an MKM Decorating Disk (4). After plotting out all of the guidelines, use a Surform tool (5) to remove clay from the surface of the cup and the stand. This helps me to control the amount of clay removed, allowing me to reveal the desired volume both literally and visually. After this step, it’s extremely important to compress the surface using a flexible metal rib or a MudTools red rubber rib.
To make the feet, roll out four small coils to the desired thickness and taper them into a shape resembling a nose. Score, slip, and attach the feet to the bottom. Next, compress and shape the feet with wet fingertips (6). Flip the stand and gently tap the top to level the stand. After the feet have been covered overnight and are leather hard, refine the shape with a flexible metal rib and define the attachment points with a pencil.