My cocktail cup was designed to feel ceremonial. This idea was a departure from most of my work, which, while celebratory, tends to be more practical for use in everyday life. The cocktail-cup design is true to the themes of repetition found throughout my work, but it allows me to explore a more indulgent form. Scalloping is a pattern that I am particularly fascinated by and incorporate into multiple elements and at various scales to form the stem and stacking tiers that comprise the cup itself.
Creating the Bases
To build the cocktail cups, roll out ⅛-inch-thick porcelain slabs—I use Standard 365 Grolleg Porcelain. Because the slabs are manipulated so much while constructing this form, I prefer to use clay that is in a very plastic state (straight from the bag).
I use custom cutters that I made with a make-your-own cookie-cutter set, but paper templates could also be used for this step (1). Begin by cutting out three differently sized scalloped circles from the soft slabs (2). These will be the bases of each tier of the cup.
Next, stack the bases by size with the largest on the bottom. Offset the scallops and lightly trace the outline of each base onto the one below (3). Repeat the tracing ¼ inch inside the original outline, then use a needle tool to cut along this inner line (4). Cutting the shaped opening ¼ inch smaller than the next tier creates a ledge for that tier to sit on.
Forming the Walls
To form the walls of the largest tier, begin by cutting a long strip of clay from a slab. The strip is 1½ inches wide on the largest tier, then decreases in height by ½ inch per tier. Score and slip the top edge of the base and one edge of the strip. Carefully bend the strip to fit the contour of the base of the large scalloped slab and press down firmly to form a strong attachment (5). Cut off any excess length of the strip and blend the ends together with a small rubber rib. Use the rib to blend the base into the walls (6). Roll out a thin coil and blend it into the inner seam to strengthen the connection (7).
Repeat the above steps with each of the smaller tiers, using a narrower strip for the walls of each one. Once all of the tiers are built, cover them with plastic, allowing them to firm up slightly before assembling.
Assembling the Cup
To assemble the cup, align the openings of each tier. Score and slip the surfaces that will be joined, then press each of them firmly together, starting with the largest tier (8) and working down. Once all the tiers are assembled, blend each inner seam together and then turn it upside down to blend thin coils into the outer seams for some final structural reinforcement (9).
Smooth and refine the cup by alternating between a damp sponge, your fingers, and a soft rib (10). Once the cup is smoothed, use an X-Acto knife to bevel the rim (11). This creates a thin lip for drinking and a nice transition between the interior and exterior of the cup. Now the top section of the cocktail cup is complete and it is time to make the base.
Creating the Stem, Foot, and Platform
To make the stem, extrude a coil and cut it to be about 5½ inches long. I believe the compression from passing through the extruder helps to prevent the finicky porcelain from warping during firing. Note: Be careful not to bend the stem at all as you work. Use a wooden skewer to make light indents around the coil before carving it to ensure the grooves will be straight and evenly spaced (12). After carving the stem, use a sponge to clean up any burrs and a rubber rib to accentuate the grooves.
Next, round the ends of the stem by rolling them lightly on a table to create wider attachment points (13). The stem will be stabilized with a foot at one end and a platform for the cup at the other end.
To form the foot of the stem, cut out three scalloped circles. Each one should be about ½ inch smaller in diameter than the previous. Set aside the smallest piece for later use as the platform of the cup. Then, use a needle tool to bevel the edges of the medium and large shapes (14). After slipping and scoring the pieces, attach them together to form the foot of the stem. Use a rubber rib and a sponge to smooth and accentuate the scallops on the foot. Then slip and score the foot and stem before pressing them together.
Next, attach the smallest scalloped circle to the top of the stem to create a platform for the cup to sit on. Attach coils to the seams at both ends of the stem. Blend the coils to form a taper before smoothing and carving them to match the end pieces (15).
Place the stem upside down onto the bottom of the cup to make sure the corresponding scallops fit together, adjusting the stem if needed. After the stem is leather hard, I smooth the bottom and sign it. Instead of attaching the two pieces at this stage, dry and fire them separately. They are attached after the glaze firing. This is necessary because during firing, the thin stem cannot support the weight of the large cup.
Finishing and Glazing
Bisque fire the bone-dry pieces, then glaze each piece, leaving both ends of the stem and the bottom of the cup unglazed.
Glaze fire the pieces to cone 6. After glaze firing, I wet sand the bottom of the stem, which is the only unglazed surface that will be left exposed. Wet sanding still generates some dust, so always wear a properly fitted respirator and work in a ventilated area during this step.
After sanding, use a clear, two-part epoxy to attach the pieces of the cocktail cup. Wear a respirator with vapor cartridges and gloves, as recommended by the epoxy manufacturer. Place the base of the cup upside down on a turntable. This allows the stem to be easily leveled from all angles. Mix and apply a small amount of epoxy to the base before positioning the stem (16). I remove my gloves to position the stem so that I don’t get any epoxy where I don’t want it. Use painter’s tape to keep the stem in place once it is centered and leveled (17). I cover any unglazed areas around the stem with more epoxy to create a cohesive attachment point. The clear epoxy blends seamlessly into my translucent glazes. Allow the epoxy to fully cure for 24 hours before removing any tape and handling the cup. Tip: Due to the use of epoxy, I recommend hand washing these cocktail cups, rather than placing them into a dishwasher.
The cocktail cup is now ready to be filled with your favorite beverage (18). Cheers!
Indigo Cristol is a ceramic artist living and working in Richmond, Virginia. She received her BA from William & Mary, is currently completing a post-baccalaureate program at Virginia Commonwealth University, and will be pursuing her MFA in ceramics at Louisiana State University starting this fall. To see more of her work, follow her Instagram @indigocristol
ceramics or visit her website at indigocristolceramics.com.