In the Studio: Hanging Mechanisms

Plates, tiles, pillow forms, sculptures, planters—the types of ceramic objects that can be installed on the wall are endless. Once you’ve decided what to make, be sure to think through how to get it on the wall securely before it’s bone dry or fired. Sure, a simple hole to catch a nail may work for some pieces, but there are equally endless possibilities to suit an object’s style and function. Described here are several ideas to securely hang ceramic objects on the wall. As with other ceramic techniques, these methods can be altered, adjusted, and made into distinct design features. There’s something especially satisfying about noticing an intriguing piece on the wall, flipping it over, and seeing that its hanging mechanism is just as thoughtful as the rest of its design.

Note: It is important to take the size and weight of a ceramic object into consideration when mounting on the wall and use the appropriate hardware (like weight-rated anchors and screws) as necessary. Use your best judgment and always test with your clay body when relying on the fired ceramic to support the weight of a piece. Less dense clay bodies that chip easily may not be suitable for some hanging mechanisms.

1 Use a needle tool, then a drill bit to bore a hole in the leather-hard foot ring.

2 Make a knotted loop with cording, then feed the looped end through the hole.

Foot Alterations

The foot ring of a plate or platter presents the opportunity to incorporate hanging mechanisms in a variety of ways. One simple method is threading a loop of string or wire through a hole that has been drilled into the unfired foot ring. When the piece is leather hard, find the area of the foot ring that corresponds with the top of the plate in terms of how you want it to hang. Use a needle tool to poke a small hole through the foot ring. Depending on the thickness of the clay, you may want to poke this hole halfway from both sides of the foot ring, meeting in the middle, to make sure it is placed where desired. Use this as a pilot hole for removing more material with a drill bit, carefully rotating the drill bit by hand and removing material from both sides of the foot ring (1). Keeping in mind that the clay will shrink, use a drill bit that will create a large enough hole for your cord, wire, or other material. I used a rubber-tipped tool to compress the hole from both sides of the foot ring after carving. By making one hole, you can tie the cord into a loop and slip the folded end through the hole for easy removal (2). Drilling two holes into the foot ring works well for larger pieces that may benefit from spacing the drilled points apart and/or tying the cord in place. With both, a dot of glue can be added to the knot for extra security.

Alternatively, an indented channel can be made around the base of the foot ring using a loop tool or wooden rib (3, 4). Once fired, wrap a wire or cord tightly around the foot ring and create a loop to hook onto a nail (5). Use a cord or wire that fits well into the channel to avoid slipping.

3 Use the edge of a wooden rib to compress a channel around the foot ring.

4 The indented and compressed channel around the exterior of the leather-hard foot ring.

5 Create a loop in the middle of a length of wire, wrap it around the foot ring, and twist the ends to secure it into the channel.

6 Create a lip along the back of voluminous forms that can later catch on hardware once fired.

Lips and Notches

If the piece you wish to hang on the wall is more sculptural, you may be able to design the back of it to incorporate a lip (6). An overhanging section of clay, once fired, can latch onto the head of a nail or screw. For this method to work well, it’s important to keep the thickness of the lip in proportion with the size of the piece, compress and round the edge of the lip well, and consider adding a divot into the lip so that the piece can’t shift side to side on the hardware. This method might not be best for very heavy works, but is great for forms like voluminous pillowed tiles.

If the piece is flat on the back like a slab or tile, a notch can be carved in the clay to later catch on a nail in the wall. On leather-hard clay, measure and mark the middle of the slab at least a half inch or so down from the top. The carved notch can be rectangular or rounded, but should drive into the surface at an angle. Compression is key so that the clay can withstand supporting the piece once on the wall. I used a carving tool and a rubber-tipped tool to bore out and compress the notch shown here (7, 8).

7 Create a notch by carving out a small area of clay at an angle. Use carving tools, then a rubber-tipped tool to compress.

8 Angled notch carved into the back of a leather-hard tile. For best results, center the notch and compress the top edge well.

High-Temperature Wire

High-temperature wire is a great supply to keep in the studio as it comes in a number of gauges and can be used in surprising ways. Here, I shaped a loop of Kanthal wire around the handle of a tool, twisted together a -inch stem of wire, trimmed the tails, and bent the loop slightly at an angle to the stem. On a leather-hard tile, thoroughly score a small spot in the center of the back, press the twisted portion of the loop firmly in place (9), and add a small ball of clay (about the size of a blueberry) over the wire so that only the loop is visible (10). When this is fired, the loop should be firmly attached in place by the added clay and can hook onto wall-mounted hardware. 

9 Score the back of a leather-hard tile and press the stem end of the Kanthal-wire loop into the scored area.

10 Firmly press a small ball of clay over the scored area, enveloping the stem of the wire and securing the loop in place.

Post-Firing Mechanisms

Two-part epoxy and hardware, or commercially made adhesive hanging discs (I’ve seen them online and at The Container Store) are great options to have in your arsenal of hanging mechanisms. These methods have the added benefit of generally requiring less planning in the greenware stage. Be sure to follow package instructions for mixing and adhesion, and always test on your particular clay body and surface.

Katie Sleyman is the acquisitions and content editor for Ceramics Monthly, Pottery Making Illustrated, and CeramicRecipes.org as well as the books manager for the Ceramic Arts Network.

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