Friday, June 18, 2010

Complexity of Making Bowls a Challenge

Foot-soaking bowl surrounded by soul pots
in the electric kiln

One of the challenges I find myself pondering at the moment is getting all these foot-soaking bowls to come out relatively the same shape. I sent a prototype to the client and they loved it. I know I've made quite a few bowls that differ from that first shape in one way or another. I am making these in two pieces: one large platter and one large bottomless bowl. At some point during the past month, I noticed the edge of the platters were rising up more than before. This caused the shape of the finished piece to change.

I've been making six pieces at a time, and it takes two or three days. One day for the platters, next day the bowls (trim platters), and the next day join the two pieces. I'm also glazing and firing as many bowls as possible in between. With production pottery, I'm used to sitting down and throwing the same shape for a couple of hours, and the first few pieces might differ until I get into a groove and the shape begins to flow.

With these bowls, it's that flow that is lacking. Or more accurately, the flow is late to develop. I'm feeling like I'm just now getting into a comfortable flow with this order, and I've already made more than 30 pieces.

The client is sending someone to pick up 32 bowls at the end of June, and I feel I'm just now getting my head around these bowls. He wants finger ridges, so when I first starting making them, I added finger ridges. Then I decided to "make" finger ridges after joining them by trimming with a tool. This worked well, but now I'm adding grog to the clay because of some separation at the joint during firing on a couple of pieces. So, I'm back to adding finger ridges with my finger.

I think I've figured out how to keep the rim of the platter from rising up too much, and I decreased the weight of the bottomless bowl by a pound because I'm throwing them more efficiently. It's all a balancing act of sorts, keeping up with these little things that can have a big effect on the final shape.

I'm not complaining - just venting. The deadline is always looming, and I get a bit tense at times. I'm learning a lot with this order, and the engineer in me thrives at the complexity of the task. It's one of the reasons why I love being a potter.

Finishing up a bottomless bowl:

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