This dish is designed to serve olives, but, of course, you could use it for any number of foods. The little bowls at the sides are handy for cocktail sticks, oil for dipping your bread, or even for olive stones. It’s a handy dish that will grace any table


You will need:
Red earthenware clay preferably, but otherwise clay of choice

Rigid oval former (see tip box below, or for details on how to make a bisque template, see here
Paper, pencils, craft knife, cutting mat (optional)
Thick foam block – type used for upholstery
Mayco Foundations white glaze
Mayco Stroke & Coat colours for decoration – including black

TIP Look for wooden templates in craft outlets. You can buy them ready cut as mounts for different crafts. They are available in varying shapes and sizes, or you can cut your own with a jig saw.

• Alternative materials include thick acrylic or plastic sheet, or even very thick card.
• Make handles from wooden knobs or wine corks – it is a great way of recycling, and they can easily be stuck onto the template with glue.




Working on a large sheet of paper, place your template former at the centre and draw around the perimeter.



olive dish template making – Olive 

Remove the former from the paper, then measure and mark a distance of 3cm extending out from the pencil line all the way around the circumference.

Join the marks up to make a continuous line, then cut the shape out with a craft knife.




Prepare a block of clay – large enough to accommodate your template plus a little spare when rolled out. The amount will depend on the size of the dish you want to make, so specifics can’t be given.

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 your 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 – keeping it oval as far as possible will be useful in this case.

Once rolled out, smooth over the surface of the slab with a rib to compact the clay.



olive dish circumference 

Place the template on the slab with the former in place at the centre, then draw around the circumference again with a pencil to transfer the outline to the clay.




Remove the former, then holding the template in place on the slab with one hand, carefully cut the shape out.

Reserve the remaining slab under plastic for use later.



remove paper olive dish template 

When you lift the paper template off the slab, you should be able to see the outline of the former clearly impressed in the clay.



Carefully turn the cut shape over onto another sheet of plastic and smooth over the surface with a rib.




Lifting the slab carefully on the plastic sheet, turn it over onto your foam block so that you can now see the outline for the former clearly.

Remove the plastic sheet.




Sit the former on the slab, aligning it to the impressed outline, then press down firmly into the foam block until the sides of the dish rise up.



Remove former from olive dish press 

It’s often possible to lift the dish off the foam with the template still in place – this makes transferring it to another surface really easy. If you can do this, place the dish on a wooden batt and only then lift the former out.

If you can’t move the dish in this way, carefully transfer it to the batt, taking care – as far as possible – not to distort the shape.



forming ends of olive dish 

Very carefully pinch the long ends of the dish together until they look spout-like. This will have the effect of raising the side walls even more vertically.

Leave the dish to firm to leather hard in this position.




Weigh out two 57g amounts of clay and form each of them into a ball.

Holding the first ball in one hand, press down into the centre with your thumb until you can feel some pressure in your palm.



pinch olive dish pots 

Little by little, begin to extend the width of the base to approximately 4cm by drawing your thumb across the surface to the wall.



refining pot

Once you have established the base, pinch the wall up vertically until it is an even 4-5mm thick and the same height as the wall of the dish.



repeat for second pot 

Repeat this to make the second bowl in exactly the same way. Aim, as far as possible, to make the bowls identical in size.




Work around the wall of each bowl with a rib to smooth the surface and remove any irregularities in the clay.




Turn the main dish and one of the bowls upside down, then position the bowl half-on and half-off the surface, as shown.

Mark this semi-circular position with a pin.

Repeat this at the opposite end, with the second bowl.



cutting pot holes in olive dish  

Looking at the dish lengthways, still in its upturned position, score a line from each end of the semi-circle, straight back towards your boDon’ton’t be tempted to cut down the sides!

Carefully cut the sections out and discard them.











Turn the dish upright, then place the small bowls in the cut-away spaces at each end to check the fit.

Mark the point where the wall of the dish will attach to the bowl on each side, again using your pin.



slipping the cut-outs for the olive dish pots 

Score the marked position on the first bowl and the adjoining edge of the dish, then apply slip to both.



fixing pots to olive dish 

Secure the bowl into the dish, making sure the surfaces meet and join thoroughly.

Fix the second bowl in place in the same way.




Now reinforce around the joins on the inside of the dish with coils of soft clay, blending them in first with a wooden tool, then neatening up with a finger to smooth the surface. Beware; it’s a slightly tricky join to neaten up because of the tight angles, hence the use of the wooden tool.



strengthening the pots on the olive dish refine the edge of the olive dish pots 

Reinforce the joins on the undersides of the dish in the same way, using coils of soft clay, but this time neaten up with a rib until the bowls look integral to the form.



surform the rim of the olive dish 

Carefully surform the rim of the dish, including the bowls, until they are an even and level height.



finishing rim on olive dish 

Work over the surformed edges with a rib to round them off and neaten them up.



flat coil to separate olive dish base 

Measure the internal depth of the dish, then cut out a strip of clay from the slab reserved from earlier to the same depth. The length must extend across the centre of your dish from the side of one of the bowls to the opposite side of the bowl at the other end, so work this out accordingly.

Note – You can see the approximate shape for the ends of the divider from the photo, but you will have to cut yours to fit the angle of your particular dish.




Test the size of the dividing strip in the dish and make adjustments if required; then, when you’re happy, mark the position for the divider with your pin.



scoring base of olive dish  

Carefully score the marked position with the tip of a serrated rib plus the adjoining edges of the divider.

Apply slip to both surfaces when ready.



smoothing strengthening coil to olive dish joint  

Fix the divider in place, then reinforce it on both sides with a coil of soft clay.

Blend the coil in first with a finger, then neaten up with a rib.



rolling coils for olive dish handle 

Roll a 24cm length of coil approximately 8mm thick, then cut it into two equal lengths.

This will form the handle for the dish, and the size is only a guide – you can adjust it to suit your dish if the given measurement doesn’t seem long enough or too long.



olive dish handle formed with two coils 

Score along the length of one side of each of the coils, apply slip to both scored areas, then fit the coils together, leaving 2cm splayed apart at each end.




Position the handle on the dividing wall, then mark the spot with a pin.

Remove the handle again and score and slip all adjoining surfaces.



Gently pinch the ends of the handle onto the divider, making sure they’re secure.




Neaten up the join between the two coils with a suitably shaped wooden tool or rib.



apply decorative motif to olive dish handle 

Neaten around the ends of the handle, then impress a small detail in each one to finish off – this will have the added effect of making the join more secure as well as looking good.



olive dish build now finished 

Allow your dish to dry out slowly before bisque firing.



The method chosen here to decorate the dish is a cheat’s Majolica technique using commercially prepared glazes. It is a pretty foolproof version that doesn’t allow for much to go wrong, unlike true Majolica, which takes a lot of practice to perfect.



apply white underglaze to the olive dish  

Begin by painting the entire inner surface of the dish, including the handle, with white Foundations glaze. Extend the glaze to include the outer walls when ready, then allow this first coat to dry before applying a second coat.



olive dish decoration

Draw an olive and leaf design on tracing paper using a soft pencil. Make one drawing to fit the base on either side of the dividing wall and another to fit the sides of the dish.




You can use the Stroke & Coat colours directly from the bottle, but they’re also mixable, so if you want to tone the colours down a little, just decant the required amount into a paint palette and add a brush tip’s worth of black. Mix the colours together well and repeat if needed until you get the shade you want.



fir the tracing paper to the olive dish wells  

Place the base tracing in the dish – pencil-side down, then draw over the design to transfer it to the surface.



tracing olive design 

Repeat on the other side of the dividing wall and if you find the transfer is very faint, go over the lines in pencil to sharpen the outline up.



olive dish side decoration 

Continue the transfer process on the sides of the dish, repeating the design as many times as required around the wall.




Paint in the olives first, using your mixed colour. You can apply the colour in a painterly, watercolour way with brushstrokes that allow the white base to show through, or apply the colour more thickly for a graphic effect.



Once all the olives have been painted, move on to the leaves and paint them in the same way.



underglaze painting on olive dish 

Finish off the design by outlining the design in black, including the stems and any other feature details you want to add.




If you’ve made your dish in an earthenware body, it’s quite acceptable to glaze the underside and fire the form on star props. This makes the otherwise relatively porous body impervious to water and therefore more hygienic.

Apply two coats of glaze, as you did on the upper surface. If you’ve worked in stoneware, leave the underside unglazed and fire the dish directly on the kiln shelf.



olive dish ready for bisque firing 

Allow the glaze to dry out thoroughly before firing the dish to your clay’s optimal temperature.


finished olive dish



This dish was made from red earthenware clay and glazed in Mayco Foundations white glaze, with colours mixed from the Stroke & Coat range for the olive design.

Bisque-fired to cone 04 (1060°C, 1940°F) and glaze-fired to cone 05 (1046°C, 1915°F) in an electric kiln.


This project first featured in issue 52

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