For years I resisted making a muffin pan out of clay. Too complicated, I thought. Well, I finally had to try it and I found out that while complicated, it’s also fun, good practice, and an attention-getter. Muffins bake well in a stoneware muffin pan and a bonus is you can make a pan with however many cups you want.
I make my muffin cups to fit a standard paper muffin cup, which is 2 inches wide at the bottom and 1¼ inches tall. For each cup, I set my calipers to somewhere between 2¼ and 2½ inches for the bottom measurement and I use a ruler to make the cup about 1½ inches deep. It doesn’t need to be perfect. A paper muffin cup will fit even if it isn’t exact.
1 Throw seven muffin cups to the exact same width and height.
2 Use a Japanese tombo to measure the muffin cups if you throw them off the hump.
3 Arrange cups on the underside of the slab. Use a decorating disk to space them evenly.
4 Trace around all the muffin cups, then use an X-Acto blade to cut out the circles one at a time.
Seven Identical Cups
To make a seven-cup pan, prepare seven, 6-ounce balls of clay. Throw a flat-bottomed bowl with the first small ball, using a bat, and set the calipers inside to get the bottom measurement to 2 inches. You don’t want to trim a foot on each cup, so make it flat inside and leave the floor only ¼ inch thick. Pull the walls up to about 1¾ inch high—that’s the outside measurement, so the depth inside will be about 1½ inches. Throw the rest of the cups to match this one (1).
If you want to throw the cups off the hump, you can, although you’ll probably have to trim them. Start with a 3½ pound ball of clay. As you throw each cup, measure the bottom with the calipers and measure the height by making a Japanese tool called a tombo (2). To make a tombo, use a twist tie to join two popsicle sticks into a cross shape. Adjust it so that one end of one stick is 1½ inches long. You can now lay the other stick across the rim of the freshly thrown cup with the 1½-inch-long end pointing down into the cup. If the cup is the right height, the end of the stick will just touch the floor of the cup. You can also mark the cross pieces to measure the diameter of the rim.
Throwing a Slab Top
Throw a slab for the top of the pan with 3¼-pounds of clay. It needs to be about 10½–11 inches wide, allowing for ½ inch between each cup and another ½ inch around the edge. Using a 12-inch bat, center your clay, and spread it out wider with the heel of your hand until it’s almost the full width of the bat and a consistent ¼ inch thick across the whole slab. Once it’s even and compressed, run the point of a wooden tool under the edge of the slab and lift it slightly, then use a sponge or a chamois to smooth around the rim.
Allow all pieces to dry to slightly softer than leather hard. Run your wire under the slab, flip it over, and use a rib to smooth the bottom.
5 Brush slip or magic water around the rim of each cup and push it into the hole. Smooth a thin coil around each cup.
6 Flip the muffin pan over and carefully blend the edge of each cup into the top of the slab.
7 For a four-cup pan, use a ruler to cut off the edges of the pan. Use a Surform rasp to finish the cut edges.
Attaching the Cups
Place a sheet of plastic or newspaper under the slab so it won’t stick to the bat as you attach the cups. Next, arrange six cups on the slab in a hexagon with the seventh cup in the center. Use a decorating disk to help arrange them symmetrically (3). Now draw around each cup with a needle tool, then lift each cup one at a time and cut on the line you drew (4). Brush slip or magic water around the rim of each cup and inside the cut-out circle, then push the cup into the opening. Repeat for all seven cups, then wrap a small coil around each one and blend it into all surfaces (5).
Flip the muffin pan over and clean up the top side. Fill in any small gaps and then smooth everything together (6). Be very attentive to detail and don’t use too much water. Now flip the pan back over onto a clean, absorbent surface and dry it slowly upside down, so the slab won’t warp.
Alternative Four-Cup Pan
To make a smaller four-cup muffin pan, throw a 9-inch round slab using 2 pounds of clay, and attach four evenly spaced cups. You can cut the outer edge off between each pair of cups to square the rim and give it a more traditional design. When you flip it right side up, use a Surform rasp to smooth around the cut rim (7).
The muffin pan can be a difficult form to glaze by pouring or spraying. So to glaze the seven-cup muffin pan, pour glaze into a wide, shallow pan and hold the muffin pan by the edges to dip it. I then hold the pan upside down to dip the entire face into a second glaze.
Sumi von Dassow is an artist, instructor, and regular contributor to Pottery Making Illustrated. She lives in Golden, Colorado. Check out Sumi’s book, In the Potter’s Kitchen, available in the Ceramic Arts Daily Bookstore, https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/bookstore/in-the-potters-kitchen.