Our lives become rich due to the shared information and experiences we enjoy on a daily basis. Being a potter, a teacher, and a cook lends itself to many shared experiences and this oval baking dish is an example of sharing at its best.
In the early 1980s I was a member of the Fort Collins, Colorado, Potter’s Guild. The summer edition of Ceramics Monthly arrived with an article that opened up a new way of working for many of us. The article focused on making slump molds cut from Styrofoam. Needless to say, we ran out and bought some Styrofoam and designed our own personal molds. I still own and use many of these original models.
Styrofoam slump molds have become essential in my studio practice as well as my teaching. An inspired student of mine (Rena, now at Mudworks Pottery) created an oval form from a 2-inch-thick piece of Styrofoam. She also graciously made one for me. The oval baking dish that is made using this mold is my personal favorite piece of kitchen pottery. It’s strong, graceful, and endlessly useful.
Cut a 13×7½-inch oval-shaped paper template. Trace this shape onto a 2-inch thick piece of Styrofoam with a dark marker. Cut out the oval shape with a jigsaw at a 45° angle (1).
Roll out a ½–¼ inch-thick clay slab and place it over the mold. Lift the sides of the clay as you press down with the sponge to fit the slab to the form (2). Do this gently; forms this deep can cause the clay to tear easily if stretched too thin. Cut the top edge ¼ inch wider than the opening of the mold. Don’t remove the clay form from the mold.
Extrude or roll a coil and attach it to the cut edge, smoothing it down on the inside first (3). Be sure to smooth evenly on the top inside. Now, attach the outside slab to the coil. I cut a green Mudtools rib into a smaller piece for this part of the process (4). Use a softer Mudtools rib to smooth both the interior and the exterior. Once the rim is refined, flute the edge with your fingertips (5).
When the form is leather hard, remove it from the Styrofoam mold and trim the excess from the top outer edges (6). I like the way the Styrofoam leaves a bumpy texture to the clay, but if you prefer a smooth surface, use a soft rib to remove the texture.
Next, extrude another coil and add it to the bottom, creating a raised foot, attaching it from the inside first (7). Use a flat-sided wooden tool to attach the coil on the inside, then smooth the surface with a rubber rib.
Stamp or carve a design on the outside edge of the foot to add a personal touch to the pot (8). Having a raised foot, as opposed to having a flat bottom, enhances the form and also helps with the heat transfer when baking.
Pull two flat handles and attach them to the outer edges of the baking dish (9 and 10). Stamp with the same design as used on the foot.
This oval baking dish fits into the rhythms of daily life, boasting strong aesthetics and versatility. It firmly stands its ground and inhabits a lovely space all on its own. It works equally well on the kitchen counter with veggies and dip, as well as in the oven, filled with fresh baked bread or lasagna. The possibilities are endless.
Nancy Zoller’s lives and works in Loveland, Colorado. To see more of her work, visit www.nancyzollerpottery.com.