Friday, March 6, 2009


When I first started working with clay I never thought about the details. By details I mean the shape and detail of a foot, handle, or lid. The little added something which makes a piece more finished. The details which show the piece is handmade, rather than factory made. The details which make the piece yours. Lately I have been trying to make a concerted effort to focus on these details.

Yesterday, I started to make the feet for the bowl above the same old way I usually do. Cut off a strip of clay, eyeball how long to make it, than attach it to the bottom. This time I measured each length of clay and cut it off. Then I formed each foot over a dowel trying to smooth the surface. I was almost ready to attach the four little feet to the bottom of the bowl and I looked at them and thought I should add a little something. I found a eucalyptus seed and used it to press into the clay.

A couple of weeks ago I made the three little pinch tea bowls above and formed the foot rings like I normally do. These three are in a glaze load of the kiln as we speak. A couple of days ago I made this next pinch bowl and decided to cut out two little sections in the foot, to add some details to the look.

Now I'm thinking of other ways to improve the look of feet, handles and lids I have made in the past. I'm wondering what details I can use to improve my pieces. What details do you use to improve the look of your piece, to make it yours, to show it's handmade?

Here's a white rose from last year. I looked at all my rose bushes this week and it won't be long before I'll have roses blooming this year. Have a good weekend.



  1. I try to undercut the foot so that there's a place for the glaze to stop (and so hopefully the piece doesn't glue itself to the kiln shelf)!

  2. Nice blog post......

  3. You are so right about the details. Among other things I trim 3 rings above the foot on many of my forms.

  4. How right you are linda- a little something here or there makes a pot all that more special.
    Love the rose a day- they are so beautiful!

  5. I've been thinking the same thing lately--focusing more on the details of pieces really make them much more special. I think it makes you put more of yourself in the work as well.

  6. This has been the theme of the advanced class where I teach, so it was nice to see your post exploring these issues. The biggest hurdle most of my students have is understanding just what can count as a detail and how to view their own work as having this same potential. They have all reached a comfort zone where they explore only the limited vocabulary of details they already understand. And of course this is fine if it is what makes them happy, but when they are at the point of being able to challenge themselves I suggest this exercise: choose someone else's pot and try to copy it as close as you can, detail for detail, and then take what you have learned and use this new knowledge on a form you alredy make or make it in the style of this other artist (the difference being specific details and broader details of character). Sometimes you can look at other people's work all your life but unless you try something someone else has done you will be stuck in a rut or left trying to reinvent the wheel every time. By doing this exercise they add a new sophistication to the way they view their own work and have aquired a skill set that broadens their ability to make statements. Every surface of the pot is an opportunity to make a statement and the more this is explored the more those details add up. Not that you have to end up making other people's work to evolve, but if you look carefully at most potters you will see some crosspolination of ideas has occured. As someone once said, "Good artists borrow, great one's steal". Have fun!!

  7. Good Morning Everyone, check out Critique My Pot - I just posted a new vase I made for a critique.

    Hi Kyle, nice to see you here. I've heard about that undercut before to keep the glaze from dripping. I just have ot try and get mine to look better.

    Hi Kari, thanks for stopping by. I love the contrast of color and texture between the interior and exterior on your soap dishes and other plates.

    Hi Terry, there's those three rings again. I need to get better at trimming the bottom and sides of my pots.

    Hi Meredith, I'm really trying to think of some finishing touches for various pieces I make to improve them. When I run out of my rose photos, I'll have other flowers to post - Spring is springing around here.

    Hi Ben, yes I agree, a little something to say it's you. I know some potters have a signature mark or style, but no reason there can't be more. One type of technique for one style of pot and one for another.

    Hi Carter, thanks for stopping by. I think a student, a potter, a person has to be ready to think of the details. For some reason this just hit me when I was making that bowl, wanting to go a little further, trying to improve just a little more; now I am trying to stop myself before I say I have completed a piece to be sure to add a little something, maybe take a little extra care in smoothing the surface - to step back and have a look. Now I find myself wanting to look at the details of other's work and perhaps think of something new. I plan on spending some time looking at more details and thinking of a different way to approach mine. I've read about pot exchanges, where one person finishes another's pot, and I think that's also a good way to improve. I am definitely having fun making everything in clay; I never tire of it. I guess a great artist could steal a little from each person then combine it all in one piece; it would be their own, yet be of all the others too. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. Details, details, details - you are so right! I like the cut out of pinched cup a lot too...I keep meaning to bring balls of clay inside with me while I watch TV in the evening - it would be pretty productive multi tasking like that.

  9. Hi Cynthia, thanks about the little cut out - now I'm trying to think of something a little different I can do to the pinch pots. I know if I brought in some clay, I'd get it all over the place. We have some natural wood cabinets in the house and every once in a while I see little white finger prints on them. I guess my finger prints are white from clay and Gary's are black from grease, he he he.

  10. I'd say the cut out foot is a good detail. And of course stamping a pattern on a pinch pot can make it pretty!

  11. Hi Gary, thanks for the critique on Critique My Pot. I have used stamped patterns before and completely forgot about them, thanks for reminding me of them again. In fact I have used a meat tenderizer on the side of a tumbler.

  12. It's so easy to think I am finished too soon and ignore the details. After a firing I notice all the things I should have paid attention to before firing it. I have been trying to make a series of the same or similar pieces so that I can hopefully improve on the details till I am satisfied. Right now, I am trying to pay attention the relationship of feet on bowls to the bowl's circumference and depth and remember to - I heard/read this from some very smart person but I don't remember who - "always leave a surprise on the bottom". I think your stamps around your foot would be an example of that.

  13. Hi Barbara, yes I've heard that saying about leaving a little surprise on the bottom and I think it's a good idea. I too notice things after a piece is fired, partly due to my impatience to start making the next piece. I am always amazed at how much there is to pay attention to in working with clay.


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