In the Potter’s Kitchen: Open-Footed Pedestal Bowl

I make a variety of bowl forms that perform complementary services. Some are open and graceful forms lending a sense of offering to the center of a table and can serve your fresh-picked summer greens. Another also calls to mind a sense of offering by elevating its contents on a high pedestal foot. It suggests containment with its vertical-walled rim and provides the perfect vessel for those briny olives to complement the salad. The pedestal bowl performs its function by making space for cargo on an otherwise crowded tabletop. The size and shape of the pedestal bowl requires few decorative flourishes to avoid distracting from its strong form.

Pedestal Bowl

The trick with these bowls is throwing a smooth, clean, uninterrupted interior profile, while forming a rigid shoulder and abrupt vertical change of direction on the outside. To me, this counterpoint of swoop on the inside and hard outside shoulder is what makes the pot shine.

1 Create the soft interior curve from the first pull.

2 Pull to the top while using your outside hand to form the vertical wall.

When opening up on the first pull, lead with your outside, supporting hand (1). As your hands arrive at the point where you want to create a transition and start the vertical outside wall of the dish, without breaking stride on the pull, allow your inside hand to take the lead, relax the pressure from your outside hand, and complete the pull to the lip (2). This move should eliminate a hard break in the interior plane. Next, make another pull, supporting the outside of the pot while skipping this transitional shoulder area to preserve the hard-edged corner (3). Finish the opening with a rib while compressing the floor. Support the wall with your outside hand, observant again not to disrupt the transitional corner.

3 Expand by pulling out with the outside hand, skipping past the shoulder edge.

4 Compress the rim and adjust the outside vertical surface, if desired.

To finish, compress and clean the rim (4) and give a check to the rough profile of the nascent foot. Give it a cursory ribbing or even remove some of the clay from the wall of the foot if you feel you can eliminate it at this stage and save yourself time on the trimming. You can also choose to flip the lip over to articulate another change of direction and a flat rim.

Trimming and Troubleshooting S Cracks

When trimming these pieces, it is critical to catch the pot at the appropriate stage of leather hardness. The inherent bell shape of the overturned dish lends a critical load-bearing structure to counteract the pressure you will be placing on it as you cut the foot. With this in mind, it’s best to excavate the soft clay from the interior of the foot completely (5), before you trim the profile of the pot. If the pot has slowly made its way to the leather-hard stage, the exterior and rim of the dish should be firm enough to provide support while the clay inside the foot will be soft and easy to extract.

5 Cut out the middle of the foot while using the extra clay on the outside as support.

6 Now the fun part! Cut away the excess clay outside the foot to reveal the profile.

The most critical way to avoid S cracking on these high-footed dishes is to trim away absolutely every bit of clay in the depths of the foot so that the walls, floor, and foot are an even thickness. As you approach the end of trimming the foot interior, keep checking the thickness by applying minimal pressure with a finger until you can feel the floor of the pot start to give way. Also, using a coarse clay body with quite a bit of sand helps to reduce S cracks with these pots that are tricky to compress. Lastly, clean up the profile of the pot to your liking with your trimming tool and define those changes of direction from foot to shoulder to vertical wall (6).

In addition to the coarse, dark clay body that I throw with, I also use a variety of clay slips and ash glazes to finish the surfaces. I fire these pieces in a wood kiln to cone 10. 

Pedestal dish, 6½ in. (16.5 cm) in diameter, North Carolina clay, white slip, ash glaze.

Pedestal dish, 4¼ in. (11 cm) in diameter, North Carolina clay, local kaolin slip, ash glaze.

Jason Hartsoe received his ceramics education while working under master potters as both an assistant and apprentice in Japan, England, and the US. He is currently a resident artist at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina. To learn more, visit www.hartsoepottery.com.

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