I visualize pots in everyday objects and places. The potential of form and color is found in everything from vintage wooden toys, a pile of Skittles, or items found while wandering thrift stores. This inspiration has steered me into making pots that differ from traditional dinnerware. I create pieces for the countertop, and pots that allow for a vast range of function. Citrus juicers are one of the few forms I make with just one intended use in mind. The size of my work allows an intimacy between vessel and user, and stems from my eternal love for cups. This love for cups has led me to make other forms that are meant to be held, experienced, and appreciated from all angles.
My interest in citrus juicers started a few years ago, after coming across large collections of them in thrift and antique stores: hilarious clown juicers, woodland ducks with reamers and beak spouts, carnival glass, green depression glass, and jade milk glass. The found juicers had gorgeous colors and were made for function, with thick and durable construction.
After losing kiln access due to COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, my glaze testing time turned into cocktail concocting time. Tasting and putting my own spin on cocktails has always taken place in connection to hosting and entertaining, and cocktail testing increased since most of my time was spent at home during the pandemic. Making cocktails is also connected to using handmade cups—both my own and those from other potters—to critically consider function, pleasure, and the cup/liquid color interactions.
Forming the Juicer
My juicers are made of wheel-thrown parts, assembled together with handmade or press-molded parts. All of my clay colors begin as the same white porcelain base clay body, allowing me to use a large variety of colors in the same piece.
Begin by throwing a thick, rough form, so you can trim the interiors, exteriors, and angles with intention. The thickness of the pot lends itself well to creating a deep flange for the lid seat that will be trimmed later for a precise fit (1). Use calipers to measure the thrown lid seat before throwing the separate top section that holds the reamer (2). No measuring takes place when making the top section of the juicers, as long it is wider than the base. The top section, which is a shallow bowl form (see 12), is also left thick when being shaped, usually around ¾ inch, to allow for trimming for the right fit later.
Trimming, Inlay, and Assembling the Parts
I begin the trimming process when the pots are a soft leather hard, just firm enough to not warp when held in a Giffin Grip. Start by trimming the pot upright to clean up the rim and upper portion of the form, and to carve out the lines for another color of clay to be inlaid (see 6). With a small loop tool, trim out the lines for the inlay as deep as possible to allow for some forgiveness in the next round of trimming. Use a needle tool to rough up the surface in the line, then wet the carved area with a wet paintbrush. Roll out a small coil of another clay color, and press it into the trimmed line (3). Compress the coil with wet fingers and a rubber rib to ensure it is well adhered. Trim the rest of the pot after the upper portion has firmed back up.
Score and slip a golf-ball-sized piece of clay, often in a different color, onto the base of the pot (4), then center and throw this into a thick foot (5). Allow it to even out to the same dryness as the rest of the piece, then trim the entire form with a variety of tools to create extreme angles and shapes that complement the rest of the form (6). I am very intentional during trimming to create obvious edges in the form that will later act as glaze breaks. Before the clay is too dry and brittle to alter further, use a knife to slowly whittle away a small section of the rim to act as the pouring spout (7).
Designing and Pressing the Reamers
My reamers begin as digital prototypes, before being 3D printed in a durable plastic, which allows me to test them with a variety of citrus before committing to making plaster molds to replicate them in clay (8). If you don’t have access to a 3D pinter, you can handbuild positives to make negative molds, or handbuild your reamers to a desired shape.
To press the molds, begin with a ball of clay that is larger than you will need. I have found that keeping the walls thick allows for greater compression and less cracking when pressing into the mold (9). By over filling the press mold, I am also able to make one clean, flat cut that follows the seam line in the mold.
Once the reamer is a firm leather hard, hollow it out further and even out the interior walls with a loop tool (10). After some extensive seamline removal and sponging on the exterior (11), test fit the reamer on the top section of the juicer body. You may need to bevel the base of the reamer with a Surform to ensure a flat fit with maximum surface area for the attachment.
Next, center the top section on the wheel first before centering the reamer on the top section. Trace around the reamer with a needle tool to determine the attachment area (12). Make sure both the edge of the reamer and the attachment area are thoroughly scored and slipped before securing the two together, then poke a small hole in the bottom center of the attached unit with a paperclip or a needle tool to allow air and moisture to escape the hollow interior of the reamer form.
After the seam has been cleaned up with a wet paintbrush, use a hole-cutting tool to punch out drainage holes (13). Hold a finger firmly on the reverse side to limit tearing around the edges of the holes when the hole cutter is exiting. This substantially lessens the amount of cleanup needed on the back side.
Refining, Firing, and Glazing
The final step in the wet-working process of the juicers is extensive sponging. Use a damp sponge to smooth out any trimming scraps that may have stuck, as well as the seams and inlay lines, then smooth the entire exterior surface, which will remain unglazed in the final firing. There is often surface variation that results from handling the piece with dusty fingers or in areas that rubbed on the Giffin Grip during the many times these forms are on the wheel. Evening out the sheen and texture of the clay at this step saves a lot of time and effort in the final sanding process (14).
After the pieces are bisque fired, wax all areas on the top section, other than the reamer and the inset portion around the drainage/strainer holes, for ease of glazing. Line the base with a glaze—I usually choose a high-contrast color—then glaze the interior of the thrown foot.
After the wax has dried, pour a thinned-down glaze over the reamer area. A thin glaze is important in order to keep the holes from filling in, and allows for the colored clay to show through on the highly textured form. To create very crisp glaze edges on all sections of the form, I have found that a narrow snap-blade utility knife is fast and convenient to cut along the thrown line I use as a glaze break. The blade makes it very easy to sponge right up to the edge once a majority of the glaze is shaved off. Lastly, I apply alumina wax to the lid seat before loading the piece in the kiln to eliminate the risk of the parts sticking together.
Chris Alveshere is a long-term resident at The Clay Studio of Missoula where he maintains a full-time studio practice and teaches ceramics classes. Originally from North Dakota, Chris received undergraduate degrees in ceramics and art education from Minnesota State University Moorhead in Moorhead, Minnesota. He received his MFA in ceramics from Alfred University. To see more, visit www.chrisalveshere.com.