My method of making explores the relationships to personal food narratives inherent in pottery form. Pottery is rooted in utility. For me, the act of making revolves around the idea of design cohesion based on a particular food evocative of the past. Designing a food-specific ceramic form for the service of my grandmother’s loukoumades (fried dough pieces drenched in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon), required reimagining the disposable, red-checkered paper food trays traditionally used to serve the confectionery treat.
Piercing visually defines form and lightens a dense material that can typically appear heavy. My various colored baskets are reminiscent of pierced metal work. The perforations mimic the checkered pattern as a technique to blend line and form through articulation. The cutouts are not only decorative, but they also provide air circulation for the treats served in them.
Beginning with 2 pounds of clay, throw a bottomless bowl (so you can shape it into an oval later) about 6½ inches in diameter, with a 2¾-inch-wide base. The form should have a continuous curve from the edge of the interior foot ring to the rim of the bowl and should be approximately ¼ inch thick, in order for the pierced structure to support the addition of the solid handles in the firing. Tip: Consistency in wall thickness is important in aiding even drying and preventing warping. Inconsistent walls will have nowhere to hide once the perforations are cut into the form. Be sure to smooth the interior and exterior with a soft flexible plastic rib to remove throwing lines and excess slip. Compress and smooth the rim with a chamois before releasing the bat from the wheelhead. Leave the form attached to the bat (1).
Next, roll out a ¼-inch-thick small slab. Compress the slab in all directions and on both sides, then leave it uncovered. When the form has set up but is still slightly tacky to the touch, release it from the bat with a cut-off wire. With both hands, gently apply pressure on either side, manipulating the circular bowl into an oval shape. Place the bowl on the slab and trace the footprint of the foot ring inside and out (2). Carefully flip the bowl upside down, cut out the oval shape, then score, apply slip, and attach the slab to the foot ring. Cover the bowl with plastic overnight to allow the moisture level of the slab and the bowl to equalize. The next day the bowl should be flexible but firm to the touch. Use a Surform to remove the uneven edges off the slab bottom (3), and compress the join to create a seamless wall.
Cut out a half-moon shaped handle from a slab (4), then allow it to reach the same hardness as the bowl before joining it to the rim. Position the long, straight side of the handle against the bowl’s rim (5), mark the edges, then score, slip, and attach the two pieces together, working the seam for a strong joint. Smooth the seam to remove all texture from the surface and further compress the joint (6).
Sketch Twice, Cut Once
Start ¼ inch below the rim, setting a standard width for the grid lines. Sketch the desired size and shape of a square or rectangle for the grid (7). Pay attention to the spacing as you continue to sketch each square around the top row first. Although not an exact measuring method, this free-hand technique aids in applying a flat grid pattern to a convex curved bowl. Practice is key. Sketch slightly smaller squares on each row below, ensuring the grid between the squares is even in width.
Fill up the form with squares until the bottom row is just above the attached slab bottom. Once the grid is drawn on the form, trace each square with an X-Acto knife, slightly rounding the lines and correcting inconsistencies (8), then cut through the wall with two passes of the knife tip. While cutting, support the interior wall with two fingers in order to judge when the blade has cut through (9).
Wrap the basket in a piece of lightweight dry-cleaning plastic overnight to promote slow drying. Due to its minimal material structure, the next day the form will have dried significantly despite being well wrapped. Finally, bevel the cut edges of each square to create a softer profile that matches the rim and handle (10). Let the basket air dry for two days until completely bone dry before bisque firing.
Glazing can be tricky with a delicate form. The bisqued basket can easily become oversaturated with water when glaze is applied. The best way to deal with this is to heat up the bisque-fired piece before glazing it and spray the glaze rather than dipping it. It will absorb more glaze and dry faster. Spray three coats of glaze, allowing fifteen-minute intermissions for drying in between.
Adrienne Eliades lives and maintains a studio in Vancouver, Washington. She is currently a visiting artist at the Ash Street Project in Portland, Oregon. See more of her work at www.adrienneeliades.com.
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