Berry bowls are fun and easy to make. They’re also quick to sell and make great gifts. They can be used in more than one way in your kitchen: they properly aerate your berries to keep them fresh and can also be used as a strainer/colander. You can make them in any size and even add a tray underneath to contain dripping water.
Throwing the Bowl
To begin, center 2 pounds of clay on the wheel. As you open the center, leave around – inches of clay on the bottom for a nice, tall foot. Pull up the walls and begin to shape it into a bowl, leaving a curve on the inside. Using two flexible ribs, with one on the interior and one on the exterior, begin to open the bowl wider as you near the rim, while also cleaning up throwing lines and excess slip that builds up (1). Cut the form off the wheel and let it set up to leather hard.
Trimming the Foot
Once the piece is leather hard and able to maintain its shape while being handled, it’s ready to trim. Using a 1-inch thick foam bat under the rim, center the foot of the bowl. With a sharp trimming tool, press firmly against the bowl while keeping your arm steady; define the inner circle and the outside of the foot ring (2).
Adding the Holes
After the bowl is trimmed, place it rim-side down on a banding wheel. Place a thin piece of foam under the bowl first to protect the rim. Next, turn and press a hole cutter into the clay (3). I own a set of three with double ends ranging from 1⁄8 inch to inch, allowing for a variety of hole sizes. You can create different designs or patterns with the holes, but I like to group them in odd numbers of three or five. Keep in mind that the holes will shrink depending on your clay body. Place the holes a inch apart to prevent the piece from becoming too fragile.
Cleaning the Holes
Clean each hole by pressing in and turning both ends of a tapered, double-ended wooden tool (4). Continue to clean the holes with a sponge and repeat the process with the tool on both the interior and exterior of the bowl.
To make a handle, roll out a small coil, tapering the shape to have thick ends and a thinner middle. Before adding any water, flatten the handle and further pinch with a light, even pressure to get the shape right. Next, with a wet hand, begin to pull and stretch the clay between your fingers, rotating it from front to back so the handle has even thickness on both sides. Repeat the process for two handles. Let them set up to where they are not sticky. Once they have set up for a few minutes, take the thick bottom ends of each handle and push in, making it concave (5). This allows the clay to stretch over the inside and outside of the rim. Score both ends of the handles and a section of the rim where it’s to be attached and firmly press the two points together (6).
Prior to Glazing
Once the bowl is bisque fired, roll a pinch of clay into a ball. With one finger covering one side of a hole, press the ball of clay into the hole (7). Repeat this process until all holes are filled. This allows you to use a separate glaze on the inside without it spilling through to the outside. At this point, you can begin glazing. Once you have glazed the inside and outside, push the dried clay out of the holes with a needle tool. Clean the inside of the holes with a small, round bristle brush making sure no glaze or clay remains inside the holes. Be careful not to use a runny glaze or it will fill the holes.
Lauren Smith is an studio artist and instructor living in Great Falls, Montana. She completed her MFA at the University of North Texas (Denton) in 2011 and has participated in multiple artist residency programs, including the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana, and Red Lodge Clay Center in Red Lodge, Montana.
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