When I first began throwing pots I gravitated to throwing bowls. One of the challenges I faced was how to make the rim more interesting without sacrificing the bowl’s essential function. After much experimentation, I came upon my current incarnation of the split rim.
First: The Bowl
Begin by throwing a medium-to-large sized bowl, 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter or larger. Although the technique is possible with smaller bowls, it works best with larger ones. Thicken the rim by releasing the pressure of your fingers about ½ inch from the top. Try to maintain that thicker rim through all the subsequent pulls. When you achieve the size you want, smooth the rim with a chamois, then slightly flatten it with a rib (see 1).
Next, The Rim
Now, split the rim using a conical rubber-tipped tool (1). Making absolutely sure that the bowl is perfectly centered, carefully place the tool directly in the center of the rim and gently but firmly begin pressing the tool into the rim while supporting the outside of the rim with a sponge (2). Press down about 3⁄8 inch or until you feel you’ve produced two somewhat equal rims (3). Split the rim all in one motion; don’t stop the wheel until you’re finished. When doing the split, the inner rim will often begin to sag, so gently lift it up with you fingers until it closely matches the outer rim.
Next, smooth both rims with your fingers and a chamois so they’re approximately the same. If the space between the two rims is too V-shaped (too conical), carefully round and widen it to more of a U-shape with a tool that has a small rounded tip (4). Continue to tweak the two rims until they’re basically the same in thickness, contour, and size.
Stylizing the Rim
To add a little decoration to the rim, pinch the two sides together in eight equally spaced places. Make the first four pinches using the small dot guides on your plastic bat, which divides the circumference in four equal parts. Then, use your eye to make the remaining four pinches.
Take the rims between your thumb and middle finger and pinch them together firmly so they won’t separate later (5). Make sure your hand is supported (I use my leg) for maximum stability. Note: I use my right hand to do this, even though I use my left in the photo (see 5) so you can see what I’m doing. The eight pinches of the rim produce eight equal-size cup shapes on the rim (6).
This next step is optional. To create additional decoration or complexity in the rim, take your two index fingers of each hand and place them on either side of the pinched area of the rim and gently twist clockwise until the pinches are at an angle to the original contour of the rim (7). Smooth any irregularities in the pot with a sponge and chamois.
Now, roll out some ribbons of clay sufficient to cover the junction of the pinches (see 8). It’s also possible to use snakes of clay or any other form that will cover the pinched junctions to make them more uniform and help prevent cracking. Wet and then carefully bend the strips so they don’t crack, then place them over the pinched areas. Sometimes I apply eight ribbons. Other times I place four on every other pinch and attach four small balls of clay to the remaining four (8). I score one side of the ball and the attachment point on the twisted pinch. I dip only the scored part of the ball in some slip and firmly press it into the bowl, being careful not to distort the ball or the rim. Of course if there is distortion, you can easily fix it. Dry the finished bowl slowly to avoid cracking or separation at the junctures.
With my process as a guide, you can use your imagination and creativity to come up with many of your own variations. Have fun!
Stan Slotter is a professional musician who turned to clay 25 years ago when seeking another source of creative expression.
Process photos: Myra Bellin.
Finished photo: Jordan Cassway.
Subscriber Extras: Video and Images
Here, you can view the clip, Altering Rims by Jen Allen. You are able to purchase the full DVD, here https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/shop/darted-decorated-with-jennifer-allen/.