We all need a large shallow bowl from time to time, and this one is perfect for any number of uses, from pasta to salad, for bread or fruit, or to use as a decorative dish to hold odds and ends. It’s also quick and easy to make, which is always a bonus!
You will need:
A plaster plate mould of the type shown, or see alternative options below
Clay of choice – earthenware or stoneware
Glaze of choice
Before you begin:
This mould was bought from PotteryCrafts for plate making, but it’s useful for making many other forms, so it’s a good investment. If you don’t have something similar, you could use a bisque mould, or make the base of this dish with a former, as we did for this olive dish. The planning principles would be exactly the same, except the former would be round and on a larger scale. The size will, as ever, be dictated by the available space in your kiln.
Prepare a block of clay – it should be large enough to fill your mould when rolled out, so estimate according to the size of dish you’re planning to make.
Working on the sheet of plastic, reduce the bulk of the clay by beating it with the side of your rolling pin. Work in measured, even strokes from one side of the clay to the other to avoid making deep grooves in the surface.
Roll out the clay between the roller guides.
You will find that periodically turning the slab will make rolling much easier and give you more control to achieve the approximate shape that you require – it will need to be as round as possible for this project.
Once rolled out, smooth over the surface of the slab with a rib to compact the clay.
Lift the slab, still in place on the plastic sheet, and transfer it to the mould. Lifting it on the plastic sheet in this way allows you to adjust the position until it’s correct, without stretching or distorting the clay.
When you’re happy with the position, remove the plastic and gently ease the clay into the mould with a barely damp sponge.
Roughly cut away the bulk of the clay from around the edge of the mould, taking care not to cut into the plaster.
Work over the surface of the clay with a soft rib to ensure the slab completely fits the mould and that you haven’t trapped air underneath.
Now remove the reminder of the excess clay at the rim using the side of a batten.
Sit the batten on the plaster rim and draw it sideways and backwards in small steps to avoid dragging the clay out of the mould. Continue until the clay rim is level with the mould.
Score the rim of the clay with a serrated kidney while still in situ in the mould, again taking care not to cut into the plaster to avoid contamination.
Allow the clay to firm to leather hard in the mould before turning the base out onto a batt.
Form a large lump of well-prepared clay into a thick coil between both hands, then roll it on a non-absorbent surface until 3-4cm thick and long enough to fit around the rim of the base.
Working on a sheet of plastic and beginning at one end, with the opposite end elevated in your other hand, begin to flatten the coil with the heel of your hand. Work along the length of the coil, applying even pressure to maintain an equal thickness throughout.
When you get to the end, turn the coil over and repeat the exercise until it is no more than 5mm thick.
Place the base on a whirler and slip the scored edge.
Position the flattened coil on its edge around the rim of the base, allowing it to flare very slightly outwards.
Overlap the ends of the coil, then cut through them both at an angle.
Score and slip the cut ends, then join them together, pinching gently to ensure a good bond.
Work around the coil with your finger and thumb, gently pushing the clay down onto the base to ensure any possible trapped air is forced out and to secure the join.
Roll a long thin coil of soft clay and press it into the join on the outside of the dish.
Blend the reinforcement half up onto coil extension, then down onto the base with your thumb. When you’ve finished this, work over the surface with a rib to smooth and tidy up.
Repeat the exercise on the inside join, again drawing the reinforcing clay upwards onto the coil, then down onto the base.
Work over the interior wall with a small rib – preferably one with a round end that will neatly fit the curve. Remove clay as required to achieve a really good surface finish.
Return to the outer wall and pare it back again with a rib or kidney. You’ll find that it may take some time to get a really even thickness, alternating between the interior and exterior wall, but it’s worth taking the time to get this right.
Aim for an even 4-5mm thickness throughout.
Surform the rim to a level height, then neaten it up with a rib. Bevel the internal and external edge of the rim very slightly to nicely round it off, then finish by gently running your fingers around the edge to smooth it out.
The choice of surface decoration is entirely down to personal choice. To achieve a similar look to the example here, cover the bowl in white glaze of a type suitable for your clay, then brush a series of circles in a blue glaze over the top. Finish the surface by spattering more glaze over the entire area using an old toothbrush. It’s a loose form of decoration, so don’t labour over the spattering and don’t worry if you get large drips; they all add to the finish.
The example shown here was made from white stoneware clay.
The surface was decorated in a cone 6 white glaze with a blue Stroke & Coat forming the circles and spattering.
Bisque-fired to cone 04 (1060°C, 1940°F) and glaze-fired to cone 6 (1222°C, 2232°F) in an electric kiln.
This project first appeared in issue 52.
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