Put Your Pottery on a Pedestal: Throwing in Two Parts on the Pottery Wheel to Add Interest to a Catch-All Bowl

fisher_620We all have them – bowls on countertops, shelves, or dressers that catch our keys, jewelry, or spare change. But as makers of handmade pottery, we have the ability to make them more special than the average knick knack bowl picked up at the local big box store. And what better way to make something more special than to put it on a pedestal.


In today’s post, Frank James Fisher shares his technique for throwing in two parts to make what he calls a petal bowl because of the flower-like rim treatment. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.


The majority of functional ceramics are used in the kitchen and dining room. So it’s nice when functional ceramic arts appear beyond those rooms. The petal bowl has evolved into one of those items. In the past, an assortment of rings, earrings, and jewelry were scattered around our sinks and countertops. Now, the petal bowl collects these into one tidy and secure place. By raising the bowl up on a stem and embellishing it with a stylized flower motif, the petal bowl is both decorative and functional. The nub in the center of the flower mimics a flower’s stamen. Our version of the stamen holds a ring while preventing jewelry items from piling up in the center. Jewelry baubles are forced to occupy the perimeter and are much easier to identify and pick up.


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fisher1-2Throwing Two Parts


The petal bowl is assembled from two pieces: the petal bowl and the pedestal stem. To begin, wedge 2 pounds of clay and separate them into 2 balls. Throw the petal bowl first. Open to a shallow bowl, but leave a small nub of clay in the center floor of the bowl. Pull the bowl sides up and out, thinning the wall’s thickness. Create decorative grooves on the bowl’s floor with a carving tool. Consider varying the width of the grooves to add a little variety to the design. Smooth the walls and the center nub with a chamois and refine the curve of the bowl’s wall to a 45° angle from the base.


Click images to enlarge!

Click images to enlarge!

To create the petals, lightly mark four evenly spaced increments on the edge of the rim. Using a wet, narrow-shafted wood tool, align the wet tool vertically against the mark on the bowl’s rim and press the rim toward the bowl’s center. With the tool held steady in one hand, place a wet index finger from the other hand on the clay rim along the left side of the tool. Gently pull down and drag the finger outward from the bowl’s center (figure 1). Now pull the wood tool upward and slightly in to create a sharp crease. Be careful not to cut too deeply or the clay wall will split. Repeat the process at each of the three remaining rim marks in order to simulate a flower with petals (figure 2). Undercut the base with a wood tool to assist in guiding the cutting wire. Cut the petal bowl from the bat with a wire and set aside.


To make the pedestal stem, center the remaining one-pound ball of clay. Throw the base upside down. Open the clay to create a small cylinder and pull the wall up to form a tube. Choke the center into a gentle arc and flair the rim out. The rim will become the foot of the base when it is flipped over and attached to the petal bowl. Smooth the rim with a chamois and cut into the base near the bat to form a right-angled notch with a wooden rib (figure 3). Add decorative spiraling with a wood tool if desired. Mark a groove with a pin tool for the cut-off (figure 4).


fisher5-6Trimming and Finishing

When both the bowl and stem are leather hard, trim and attach the two parts. To trim the petal bowl, secure a jar to the wheel and invert the bowl over the jar opening. Use a trimming disk to hold the bowl tight to the jar (figure 5) and trim the bottom of the bowl into a rounded base.


fisher-7The bowl will be mounted to the pedestal stem, so a standard foot is not needed. To trim the pedestal stem, use an X-acto knife to cut the base from the bat. Slice the clay by following the groove made with the pin tool, (figure 6). With the bowl still inverted on the jar, score the base of the bowl (figure 7).


Next, score the base of the stem and apply a liberal coat of slip to both pieces. Carefully position and align the stem in place and press to attach (figure 8). Clean and smooth the joint. The combined parts may be unstable perched on the jar, so hold the piece secure while trimming and cleanning. The petal bowl is now assembled and complete (figure 9). Set the piece aside to dry, then bisque and glaze as desired.
Frank James Fisher is a ceramic artist and author living in Milford, Michigan where he teaches, presents workshops, and maintains a studio. He can be reached through his website: www.frankjamesfisher.com.


For more great wheel throwing techniques, be sure to download your free copy of Five Great Pottery Wheel Throwing Techniques: Tips on Throwing Complex Pottery Forms Using Basic Throwing Skills.




  • Casey M.

    Can you share the glaze formulas? They’re gorgeous.

  • Casey C.

    Thanks Frank – I tried this a couple of days ago this worked just beautifully and I have some lovely pieces…. everything dried nicely covered lightly for a day with no cracking. I really enjoyed throwing and assembling these pieces – fast and fun – thanks again for this fun idea!

  • Beverly H.

    Nice techniques, photos, and explanations. Thanks for sharing Frank! I look forward to trying this 🙂

  • Shawn G.

    Ah-ha! I like to make goblets. Your trimming methods are faster and better than what I have always done! I am anxious to try them. Thank you for this practical solution.

  • I reckon it is a great idea and thanks for this, I think I might try it, I like the name as well – “catch all bowl”

  • Alex L.

    Another method I use for making a small pedestal bowl is to throw it off the hump and leave a small amount of clay under the bowl when you cut it off. I dry the bowl with a propane torch before I remove it from the hump, so I can immediately flip it over and throw the pedestal from the clay I left on the bottom. With this method it’s faster and you don’t have to worry about a crack between the pedestal and the bowl, because they’re thrown from one piece of clay. Just remember to compress the bottom of the bowl after you dry it out to leather hard with the torch, as throwing off the hump can cause S cracks in the bottom of your bowls. You can use your finger to compress it. You can then dry the pedestal with the torch and stand it up to see how it looks. You can have a finished piece in 5 to10 minutes.

  • The nub in the center is to hold a ring and to keep jewelry from piling up in the middle.

  • Naz B.

    Beautiful blue glaze. Do you fire to cone 6 ? Is there a recipe for this blue glaze that I can use?

  • Wonderful project. The Piepemburg trimming disk is a great tool. Almost the best in my pottery tool box.

  • Casey C.

    ps I have one of those little trimming discs and love it…

  • Casey C.

    Fun project! I am going to try this today. 🙂 Why do you leave the little nub in the bowl? Is it purely decorative or does it serve some function? Thanks for sharing; I have been wanting a new shape to throw and needed some inspiration. Got a bunch of ^5/6 glazes to try on this….


  • Ann M.

    Yes, a jar or jelly lid does work nicely. However, the tool that you see in the pictures is a Piepenburg Trimming Disc. The top part of the piece where you put your fingers remains stationary. The bottom half of the tool spins as the piece rotates on the throwing wheel. It works very nicely. I saw in advertised several years ago in one of the monthly pottery magazines. It comes with a DVD video with trimming instructions. The DVD and tool were $19.95 when I bought mine. The packaging has the following email address:
    piepenburg@gmail.com. I am going to order another one soon. I assume that you can go to that email address for ordering info.

  • Viva J.

    The smooth side of a jar or jelly lid is great to hold pieces while trimming. Your fingers slide on the other side and it puts even pressure on the center of the piece. I have several lids for this from 1 inch to 3 inches in diameter.

  • Nancy T.

    What a lovely idea!! What are you using to hold the pieces steady while trimming? It looks like it may be a sponge or cork?

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