Making a tall coffee pot utilizes a number of pottery techniques including making an overhanging lid with a solid knob, a slab-built spout, and a pulled-off-the-pot handle.
Throwing the Base Pot
Starting with about 4 pounds of clay, form a tall, tapered vessel on a bat attached to the wheel. Center the clay and open the interior about 4–5 inches. Start your pulls in a conical shape to prevent the top from becoming too wide (1, 2). Use a sponge to keep the walls moist while pulling (3). Straighten and shape the walls with a wooden rib to form a smooth, inward curve (4, 5).
Bevel the base of the cylinder with a wooden rib, then add a few glaze-catching bands above the bevel at the base and soften the indentations with a sponge (6). Measure the inside opening of the vessel with calipers, record the measurement, and set the pot aside to dry (7). Leave the pot attached to the bat so you can use it as a trimming chuck for the lid.
Throwing the Lid Off the Hump
The lid is thrown off the hump as a bowl form. To make the lid, center 2–3 pounds of clay on the wheel and pull the top up to a hump-like form. Flatten the top and press inward and down into the top of the clay to open it (8), then form into a shallow bowl by pressing under the opened section and pulling outward (9). Use the calipers to measure the width of the inside edge of the bowl’s rim. This will be the diameter of the flange that extends into the coffee pot. The diameter of the outer edge of the rim should extend about ½ inch further on both sides of the calipers to form the overhang (10).
To create the flange, use the corner edge of a wooden rib and press it into the lid’s 1/2-inch-thick rim. This will form the 90° corner groove for the flange and overhang. Tip: Angle the flange slightly inward to prevent chipping (11). Use the calipers to measure the outer base of the flange. If the measurement matches the diameter of the coffee pot’s interior, it should fit once dry. Use a wooden knife to create an undercut below the bowl, which acts as a guide when cutting the lid off the hump (12). Cut the lid off and set it aside to firm up before trimming.
Trimming the Pot and the Lid
Once both the pot and the lid are leather hard, place the lid on top of the pot to trim. Remove the excess clay off the top of the lid and create a smooth, curved dome (13). Remove the trimming lines with a wet sponge before compressing with a metal rib.
Adding a Knob
To add a solid knob, score the top of the lid, then add a little water (14). Roll out a grape-sized ball of clay and gently twist and press the ball into the scored area. Slowly turn the wheel and shape the solid knob (15). Add decorative elements if you desire.
Making a Spout
To create a spout template, I used a sticky note and drew a bell-curve with a flat bottom (16). Cut out the template and place it on a wheel-thrown or hand-rolled slab that has firmed up to a flexible, but not tacky state. Cut out the spout with an X-Acto knife (see 16). Bend the spout lengthwise along its axis, then cut a 45° angle along the edge that will be attached to the coffee pot (17). Hold the spout up to the pot and trace along the outer edge to mark the attachment point (18). Trace another outline about 1/4 inch inside the original mark and cut it out with an X-Acto knife (19). Cut a 45° angle on the inside of the pot where the first cut has been made so liquid flows easily through the opening (20). Score and add water to the attachment points on the outside of the pot and on the inside of the spout. Attach the spout to the pot with a gentle wiggle and blend in the seams (21). Remove excess clay with a loop or trimming tool to ensure optimal liquid flow. Next, clean the outer attachment point with a damp sponge.
Pulling a Handle
For a pull-off-the-pot handle, roll out a tapered coil—about the size of a large carrot—and make a cut at the thick end (22). Score and add water to the two attachment points on the pot—one close to the rim of the pot and another slightly more than halfway down the pot (23). Wet the flat, fat end of the handle and press it into the top attachment area with a firm wiggle. Any moisture that seeps out of the seams while pressing indicates a good attachment. Move your water bucket close to begin pulling, hold the pot in one hand and dip your other hand into the water and pull from the top of the handle in a downward motion to elongate the strap handle (24). Once the handle has started to stretch, I like to use a repetitive technique I call the scissor/scissor/pull method. That’s two scissor motions, followed by one pull motion. The scissor motion consists of pulling the handle by nestling it into the fleshy crook between your forefinger and middle finger (25). Do this twice while alternating the direction your hand is facing—this simultaneously flattens and lengthens the handle. For the pull motion, grip the edges of the flat handle between your forefinger and thumb and pull downward. This ensures that the handle doesn’t get too wide and thin. Keeping with this repeated motion should result in the even formation of a handle at a consistent rate. Once the handle has been pulled into a long but not-too-thin length, set the pot down while supporting the inner curve of the handle with your hand as if you were actually holding the pot by the handle. It’s important to prevent the handle from dropping on its own before you attach it to the base. Assess the curved shape and gently press the base of the handle into the bottom attachment point—just enough to secure it (26). Now it’s safe to lift the pot to further work on the attachment. Give the handle another gentle push and a slight wiggle to secure the join. Once a firm connection is made, use a metal rib to cut off the excess length of the bottom of the handle. Bending the rib and pressing into the handle’s base will form a curved incision while the rest of the handle detaches and falls away (27). Continue to shape the handle to give it more of a rounded look by gently pulling down on the lower section with your forefinger (28). Give the handle some time to set up before adding a thumb catch to the upper part of the handle.
To make the thumb catch, roll out a tapered coil the size of a small carrot. Elongate the coil using the scissor/scissor/pull method until it’s significantly thinner. Once you’ve achieved a thin coil, use the combination of your thumb, first, and second finger to press the coil into an elongated, triangular extrusion. Lay the coil on a table and cut the excess off with a needle tool (29). Set it aside to stiffen. Once the handle and thumb catch are soft leather hard, score an attachment point on the upper part of the handle (about 1 inch below the upper handle seam), and press the catch into the handle (see 29). You can accentuate the shape of the catch by dipping your fingers into some water and sliding them back and forth over the its edge. Once finished, set the entire pot aside so the knob, lid, spout, handle, and coffee pot can dry evenly. Depending on your clay body, it may be helpful to dry your pot under plastic to prevent cracking.
Excerpted from the new book Pencil & Process: from Sketch to Finished Form by Jared Zehmer, illustrated by Robin Ouellette. Published by The American Ceramic Society, 2019. Available in the Ceramic Arts Network Shop at https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/shop.