In the Studio: Tops and Bottoms

Vase, 9½ in. (24 cm) in height, slab-built porcelain, fired to cone 10 in reduction.

Inspired by nature’s beauty, the organic forms in my works are an extension of what I see in my every day life. Handbuilding allows me to endlessly expand on my ideas and explore my creativity as a self-taught ceramic artist. I make my pieces using soft slabs of porcelain and alter the feet of my mugs and the rims of my teacups. This alteration process can only be performed on soft clay whether you are handbuilding or throwing on the wheel.

Serving bowl, 12 in. (30 cm) in diameter, slab-built porcelain, fired to cone 10 in reduction.

Altered Bottom Mug

After the mug is formed and while the clay is soft and slightly tacky, place it rim-side down and centered on a banding wheel. The tacky clay will stick to the banding wheel, securing the mug in place, and allowing it to spin without moving. As the banding wheel spins at a moderate to fast rate, use a wet chamois to apply soft, even pressure to give a rounded edge to the foot of the mug (1). If the rim warps, it can be fixed during the final phase as the clay is still soft enough to be reformed.

Divide the foot of the mug into four sections using a decorating disk. Use the rounded edge of a regular wooden rib (2) to make a light mark on the bottom of the mug, which will be used as the guide when making the sharp dent in the foot. Now, gently push the rounded edge of the rib against the clay along the guideline using a rocking motion. The sharp dent (about 3/8 inch) is created when the wooden rib’s rounded edge is rolled outward in a rocking motion away from the center of the mug. Now, gently push the rib toward the outside wall to complete the mark (3).

1 Spin the banding wheel and use a wet chamois to create a rounded foot.

2 Using a decorating disk, divide the foot into 4 sections, marking it using a rib.

3 Push the rib toward the outside wall using a rocking motion to complete the dent.

4 Use the rolling pin to make gentle taps on the foot in the spaces between each dent.

Next, use a wooden rolling pin to make gentle taps on the foot of the mug in the spaces between each mark. This creates a rounding and lifting effect on the foot, giving the bottom of the mug a feeling of fluid motion (4). The mug can then be flipped over and covered in plastic until it reaches leather hard. Once leather hard you can attach the handle. Continue to slowly dry the mug covered in plastic, as porcelain has a tendency to crack or warp if dries too quickly or unevenly. You can bisque fire with the flared feet resting on the kiln shelf when it has completely dried.

Altered Rim Teacup

As the banding wheel spins at a moderate to fast speed, use a wet chamois to apply soft, even pressure to give a round edge to the rim of the cup (5). Again, the tacky clay grips to the banding wheel for secure spinning.

5 As the banding wheel spins, use a wet chamois to apply soft, even pressure to give a round edge to the rim of the cup.

6 Use a dowel to lower the disk onto the teacup. Divide the rim into 4 sections using a wooden triangle rib.

Place a wooden dowel through the center of the decorating disk to lower the disk over the top of the teacup and to keep it level and in place. You can now divide the rim of the teacup into 4 precise sections using a 2½-inch trianglular wooden rib, which can be purchased from most pottery supply stores (6).

Remove the decorating disk, then accentuate the indents in the rim with a second pass of the triangular rib. Place your index and middle finger on the inside of the cup to support the rim, then press the rib from the outside, creating marks on the rim of the teacup (7). To accentuate each lobe, use a damp chamois and press out on the rim while supporting the cup with your other hand to create a slightly curved lobe effect (8).

7 Make a second pass using the wooden triangle rib, placing your index and middle finger on the inside of the cup.

8 To accentuate each lobe, use a moist chamois and press out on the rim while supporting the cup with your other hand.

Ali Tajrezaei, is currently living in Los Angeles, California. His work has been published in Ceramics Monthly, the 2019 ICAN (International Ceramic Artist Network) Functional Wall Calendar, and included in national ceramic art exhibitions. You can learn more on Facebook or Instagram @TajCeramics.

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