Stacked Jar, 10 in. (25 cm) in height, iron-rich clay, slip, glaze.

When making work, I strive to highlight the beauty of art that we can hold, live with in our homes, and touch to our lips. The rituals surrounding the simple moments of everyday life are where the most meaningful connections to art can be found. 

Since I started making functional ceramics, my goal has always been to make work that can serve people in their everyday lives. I started making this form, a jar made of two stacked boxes, for myself to use as storage for spices or tea near the stove. 

First Steps

Start by rolling out a ¼-inch-thick slab. I use two wooden sticks placed on either side of the slab as guides when rolling it out to achieve a consistent thickness. Feel free to use any method of rolling out a slab that works for you. I enjoy making multiple of the same form at a time, so I typically roll out a larger slab so I can working on several boxes at once. Using a rubber rib, thoroughly compress one side of the slab and then flip it over and repeat. Compressing the slab provides a smooth surface to work with and also strengthens the clay to prevent cracking during the drying process. 

Butter dish, 6¼ in. (16 cm) in length, iron-rich clay, slip, glaze. Finger swipe mug, 5 in. (13 cm) in length, iron-rich clay, slip, glaze.

Next, I use a template to create two bottoms for each section of the jar. I create these templates out of cardboard food containers such as pasta or cracker boxes. For this project, I am using a circular template that is about 4 inches in diameter. After placing the template onto the slab, use a knife to trace around the template and cut out the slab circle. Repeat this step so you end up with two cut-out circular slabs. Set the slab circles aside and leave them uncovered to stiffen up a bit while you work on the next steps. They will be ready when you can work with them without distorting their shape. 

Plate, 9½ in. (24 cm) in diameter, iron-rich clay, slip, glaze.

Forming the Jar

Once your slabs have set up a little, go over them with a wet plastic rib again to ensure they are smooth and flat since they may have become misshapen while being handled. I build these jars on a bat or a surface that will help wick the moisture away slightly. You can also sprinkle a little cornstarch on your building surface to keep your piece from sticking.

Next, roll out multiple coils, about ½ inch thick each. These will be used to build up the walls of the stacked boxes. To prepare for adding the coils, score all the way around the top of the circular slab base, add a little water, and then score again to create a slip (1). Additionally, score and slip the bottom of the coil, then attach it, blending it into the base around the circle to make sure it forms a tight bond (2). Depending on how wet your clay is, you may want to let your coils set up longer before laying more down. Typically, I place three to four coils per box (this jar has two boxes), but you can do as many or as few as you like, depending on how tall you want the jar to be (3).

1 Score the slab, then add a little bit of water or slip to the scoring so you create a glue for your coil to stick to. 2 Add the first coil, ensuring you blend it into the base, making a secure attachment.

Once you have all of the coils laid down, let the sections stiffen up to a soft leather hard. Then, using a plastic rib, blend all of the coils together to ensure that they are securely attached. Use a fettling knife or cheese cutter and slide it into the grooves on a Sunshine Stick (a tool created by Sunshine Cobb,, see figure 8) or similar tool to even out the tops of each form. 

3 Continue adding coils, making sure to blend them together on both the interior and the exterior.

Next, take the top box of the jar, flip it over, and define the area where the foot (essentially a connecting mechanism between the two boxes) will be added (4). This foot will allow the two sections of the jar to stay locked together when stacked. I typically measure how thick the lip of the bottom box is and that measurement influences where I draw my circle for attaching the foot. Add slip and score the attachment area, then add a coil (5). Make sure to blend the foot ring and make a secure and clean connection. 

4 Draw a circle on the bottom where you will attach a coil foot for a locking mechanism so the sections of the jar will stay connected. 5 Score, apply slip, and add a coil. Blend the inside and outside to the bottom slab.

Forming and Attaching the Lid 

After attaching the foot, stack the boxes back together (6), bevel the inner rim edge of the top box slightly, and drape a slab over the top of the box (7). Using a wet plastic rib, gently run the rib over the slab, applying slight pressure to curve what will eventually be the dome portion of the lid. Let that slab stiffen up to a soft leather hard, then apply slip and score the lip of the top box as well as the area on the slab that will be attached to the box. Gently paddle the slab onto the box, being careful to not distort the shape (8). Use a Surform tool to continue to alter the top of the box until you are happy with the shape. 

Next, use the Sunshine Stick (or similar tool) again along with a fettling knife to trace a deep line around the box, about ½–1 inch below the rim, to define the lid section. Use a sharper knife and the Sunshine Stick to cut through the wall where you made the mark, following the traced line (9). 

6 Once the foot ring is firm enough, stack the boxes together. 7 Slightly bevel the inner edge of the rim and drape a slab over the top of the jar.8 Apply slip, score, and attach the slab to the box. Paddle it to the desired shape. 9 Trace a line ½ inch down the form and follow it to cut it off the lid.

Roll out one more coil to form a flange that will hold the lid in place on the box. Score the coil and the inside edge of the lid, apply slip, and attach the coil to the lid (10). 

Lastly, take a small ball of clay and pinch it into a handle for the top of the jar (11). Apply slip and score the attachment areas, then secure the handle. Allow the piece to dry slowly and evenly. 

10 Slip, score, and add coil to the inside of the lid to create a flange. 11 Pinch out a handle from a small/medium- sized ball of clay.

Decorating and Firing

Once the jar is bone dry, carefully dip each section into a white slip. While the slip dries, sketch out the pattern you would like to paint onto the piece. Tip: I mix food coloring into wax resist in order to make the wax more visible for painting. 

After deciding on a pattern, paint it on using the colored wax resist (12). Make sure you clean off your brushes after using them to ensure the wax doesn’t ruin them—I just use some hot water and a gentle soap to clean my brushes. Then, set aside the piece, giving the wax about 30 minutes to dry to ensure that the wax will be able to resist the next layer of slip. 

After that slip has dried, brush over the entire piece with a black slip to reveal the wax-resist pattern (13). Allow the second coat of slip to dry and then bisque fire it. Finally, dip each section of the pot into a very thin, clear glaze, wiping away any glaze that gets on sections of the piece that will touch one another. 

12 Dip the jar in white slip. Use wax resist to paint a pattern over the slip on the jar. 13 Paint black slip over the wax to reveal the pattern. 1–13 Photos: Amy Miller.

After glazing, I add wadding onto my pieces to prepare them to go into a wood kiln. I roll out small- to medium-sized balls of wadding and glue them to the bottom, lid, and in between the two different compartments of the piece. This step is to ensure that if any ash gets on the piece, the different sections do not get glazed shut. If you are not firing in an atmospheric kiln, you can skip this step—just consider whether your glaze will run and be careful of your placement to ensure the pieces do not end up fused together by the glaze. 

Michaela Bromberek was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She attended the University of Wisconsin La-Crosse and found ceramics while pursing a degree in psychology. Michaela was immediately fascinated with clay and wood firing. Since then, she has completed multiple residencies, worked for Tara Wilson, and now works full time at The Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts. She continues to make pottery in her free time. To see more of her work, visit