Many ceramic villages in Japan are known for the durable, practical, and beautiful tableware that they’ve been making for centuries. They developed interesting and practical throwing techniques in order to deliver user-friendly objects, including techniques developed to create a lightweight teapot that anyone can easily carry, even when full.
Throwing the Body
Throw a bottomless teapot body on a bat (1). Make the wall and rim thin, but leave some extra clay on the bottom. Measure both the opening at the top and the outside diameter of the bottom, then write down the bottom measurement. The piece you just threw will be inverted to create the teapot, so the rim is actually the bottom of the pot.
Make a slab bottom by patting and pinching 3⁄8 pound of clay. Make the slab ¼–1⁄8 inch thick and make sure the slab is large enough to cover the pot’s opening (2). Dry the rim using a hair dryer or heat gun. When the surface sheen is gone and the rim is firm enough, score the rim and slab bottom, add slip, and attach. Slowly turn the wheel while gently pushing the slab bottom in to make the seam more secure. Cut off the excess slab (3) and clean up the attachment area. Let the center of the slab bottom slump a little in order to create a foot ring. This will be the bottom of the finished teapot.
Cut off the teapot body from the bat (4). Cover the lower half, and let the exposed part dry to leather hard.
Throwing the Lid and Spout
Throw a lid (5) and spout (6) off of the hump. Make the lid’s diameter a ½-inch smaller than the caliper measurement taken for the outside diameter of the covered end on the body. Let them dry out to the trimming stage (or soft leather hard).
Tip: When you throw off the hump, it’s not easy to pick up and move the finished piece. To make it easier, create a stand of clay (about ¼ inch thick) directly under the piece you created. Carve two deep grooves into the clay hump beneath the lid (see 5), and wire through only the second groove. Now, you can move the whole set safely without touching the piece. The layer below the piece can be removed when the piece is firm enough to trim.
When the exposed bottom of the teapot body is firm enough, flip the piece and secure it onto a bat to trim. Trim the excess, refine the interior seam with the slab bottom, then combine trimming and throwing to create a gallery (7, 8). Keep the lid handy to match the gallery diameter.
Apply some heat to the gallery to firm up the section and match the moisture level with the rest of the pot. Place the lid upside down into the gallery, and clean up the bottom (9). Tip: Place a strip of newspaper between the two to prevent the lid from sticking to the pot while drying.
Decide on the placement for the spout, (high enough up so it’s level with the rim), then mark and score the attachment area. Before attaching, drill strainer holes through the teapot body, being careful to stay within the scored area (10). When creating a spout hole in the teapot body, I recommend drilling several small holes instead of a big hole. Small round holes cause less stress to the structure and are better at catching loose tea leaves. After attaching the spout (11), attach two small coils or lugs of clay, one above the spout and one directly opposite, so you can attach a bamboo handle after the glaze firing (12).
When you create an air hole in the lid (13), add a small ball of clay before drilling the hole. Not only does the ball make it look like more of an intentional design than an abrupt hole, but also it prevents the melting glaze from running in and clogging up the hole during the firing.
A cross section of an assembled teapot: this teapot is light as a feather (14)!
Yoko Sekino-Bové is an artist and teacher living in Washington, Pennsylvania. To see more of her work, visit yokosekinobove.com.