Thursday, July 11, 2013


I've always wanted to throw larger forms and have struggled with centering more than 4-5 pounds of clay on the wheel. Being fairly new to clay (three years into my fun now), I've been looking at websites, watching how-to videos and I finally decided on the slab-coil-throw method for some larger forms. Robert Compton's website provided a great picture tutorial about adding large coils and throwing, I highly suggest checking it out.
Another potter that has inspired influence in my larger work, is a clay buddy of mine, Kevin Russell, who mentioned in our Clay Buddies forum that going slow and throwing as dry as possible with two ribs, will aid in the throwing of larger forms. I've remembered this and have had much better success with my larger work. 

Here's the process I use to achieve the larger forms shown in this blog:

I use a piece of canvas cloth stretched over a table for my work area. I take 4-5 pounds of clay and wedge it well, pound it out a bit to flatten enough to slab it out by tossing against the canvas surface and by using a rolling pin. Once I have my slab traced out and placed on my bat, I score and slip the edges of my slab and start on the first coil.

The coils are 4-5 pounds of clay each, wedged and hand rolled on canvas. Each coil is about 40 inches in length. After they are rolled out, I flatten them slightly and score the edge that will be attached to the slab. The coil is then draped over my shoulder and placed carefully onto the slab on the wheel. Be careful to note that they will start cracking and can become weak in areas if they are not rolled as evenly as possible and break as they are lifted over your shoulder.

After the placement of this first coil, I roll a much thinner coil as a seam sealer for the inside where the coil meets the slab base. After the seam is filled and refined, I continue by working around the outside of the piece by gently pulling clay from the large coil downwards to meet the outside of the slab base. I smooth the bumpy spots while spinning the wheel slowly and there you have it, the first coil is now attached and ready to throw!

As I continue after the first coil, I use my fingers to pull and smooth to a certain point and then I start using two ribs to compress the sidewalls and add more height. When I've reached the height I want, I slightly flatten the rim by using the straight edge of a rib, score and slip it, and add another coil. Repeat this process until you've reached the desired height and form you were going for, allowing the previous thrown section to stiffen a bit before adding more weight.

 Finished! This will be used as a casserole dish, my husband insists! It stands 3.5 inches tall and is 10.75 inches in diameter. Standard Stoneware 225 is the clay body used.

This is really quite easy to do, just takes a little patience and time. I hope that by sharing this, those interested in throwing larger, but have the same struggle with handling the larger amounts of clay on the wheel, will find this technique empowering and inspiring enough to give it a try! I'm extremely excited to be able to throw larger now and to date, the largest work I've thrown is the pot below (my first slab-coil-throw pot), was about 20 pounds in clay with 5 coils plus slab! It measures 14.5 inches in diameter and 13.5 inches tall (unfired). I'm definitely going to need more clay and glazes! Pictures of kiln finished work to follow...

 May inspiration find you smiling and happy!

 Thanks to Mud Colony  for their blog group!
All images are Copyright 2013 of Dora L. Anderson.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Oval Platter Forms-Functional Art

Platters are a wonderful way to add functional art and decoration in the home. I've recently been asked to revisit the oval form and so I've decided to blog about it this time around!

 To the left: The platter shown below, "Elemental Bliss", photographed to show its functional use.

 To the right: This stoneware platter is part of my own personal collection. Amaco Potter's Choice glazes are used upon this piece along with my hand-carved stamps around the rim.

I use a plaster mold for my oval forms that I made in college. This mold is perfect sized13"x9"x2" (fits into my small kiln) and is a drape mold, meaning I can carefully "drape" a slab of clay into the form. I work the clay to fit the form and  form the rim while the clay is in the mold. Once the clay has become leather-hard, I remove it from the form and smooth the bottom. Sometimes I choose to add a foot ring and other times I choose to keep it simple and gently flatten the bottom for it to sit on its own.

I love working with this oval form, its a wonderful canvas to add underglaze designs, stencil work, slip trailed designs, majolica, stamped design and so many other design techniques may easily be implemented onto the surface of the platter form.

To the right: This was a fun decorative platter that I made from earthenware clay and Amaco GDC glazes (now discontinued).  Two butterfly soulmates find love under the stars and the falling leaves of Autumn's breeze. Handpainted design.

To the left: This fun design was made during my first year of ceramics at Southern State Community College. Titled "Elemental Bliss", it is made of white stoneware and Duncan glazes. It's a part of SSCC's permanent art collection.

These are just a few ideas to get you inspired to work with this lovely oval form. Thanks so much for visiting my blog and may inspiration find you happy and smiling!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Lions, Tigers, and PLATES warping...Oh my!

I'm trying my hand at making some decorative plates and they've been so much fun to experiment with! However, the fear sets in, will they WARP in the final glaze fire?  So I've done my research and have executed my mode of action in efforts to eliminate warping this time around. I'll never forget what my college ceramics instructor, Nancy Ache, would say over and over--"Clay has memory!", and it's so true! If you bend your clay when wet, it increases the risk that it will remember the slightest little fold, thus reverting back to those little bends and folds during bisque or glaze firings. So with that in mind, let's dive into the process I'm working with for this round of plate experiments.

After throwing, I decorated my plates while they were still on the wheel, with decals and slip trailing techniques. Then I CAREFULLY run my wire through and sit them outside to stiffen up a little bit. I was careful to not let them get too dry, especially the rims. The goal is to promote EVEN drying throughout the clay body, not letting the rim dry before the middle of the plate. Even and slow drying is said to be key to  prevent warping.

After trimming the bottom of my plates, I placed them in a plastic covering with rice-filled socks on top of them. The plastic creates a slower drying environment while the rice-filled socks distribute even weight to help warp prevention. It is said that two weeks is a good amount of time to dry plates thoroughly and slowly.

That's it for now! Hopefully these steps taken will lead to a nicely finished work of art. Stay inspired and keep your hands in the clay! Don't forget to visit Mud Colony and Clay Buddies for more pottery fun and techniques.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pilsner Fun

Looking for a stylish beer vessel? Try making some pilsner glasses or check out my Etsy shop! These were fun to make and I'm glad to have experimented with a new form in my work! I've used cone 6 stoneware bodies (Standard 266 and 211) and Amaco Potter's Choice glazes to complete the ones shown below.

Adding interest with texture can be fun and easy. As shown in the first picture (left) and last picture (bottom right), I made a thick clay slip from leftover clay scraps from the same clay body I used to throw with. By submerging the scraps in water for a day or two, (just enough water to cover them, not super saturate them), will moisten your clay for the next step. Take your wet clay and a mesh screen (I used a 60 mesh), and process it through. If you need to add water you can and I recommend meshing a second time. You want a nice paint-like consistency, not too watery and not too thick. Now here's the really fun part, after you've finished forming your work on the wheel, reduce your wheel speed to a slow/medium, take a nice generous handful of slip and slather your slip onto your work gently. By using your fingers and clay tools/ ribs and adjusting your wheel speed during application, you can make a variety of interesting designs to liven your work. Just let your fingers dance across the clay and have fun! 
After bisque, try to choose a glaze that will break over your textured areas for added interest.

Looking for more clay techniques, friends in clay or other pottery creations that may interest you? Check out Clay Buddies on Facebook and Mud Colony

Don't forget the Spring Equinox is here tomorrow, March 20th! Welcome Spring and may inspiration and happiness find you in all of your art endeavors!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finally, my little kiln is firing and I can't wait to see what treasures will be pulled from the fire! In this batch, I'm testing samples of a new cone 4-6 clay from Standard, 211 Hazelnut Brown, that Julie from Standard Clay was so nice to send me. It throws wonderfully, has a fine grog, a super smooth glazing surface, and the description says it reacts well with glaze, so here's hoping I've found my main clay body! I've tried so many and this will be a whole new blog to write up in the future.

My table was a glazing station yesterday and today I start a whole new round of creations, working from my goal list for the next 2-3 weeks.

 I find that making lists save me from those indecisive moments that I tend to have when deciding what I  should make next. Too many creative ideas are fluttering about my head this time of year; weather is warming, spring is here, birds are chirping, frogs are peeping--a newness or rebirth is taking place, and if you're a parent with little ones to school and keep busy- well, I just find there aren't many hours in the day to fit everything in! Lists are a MUST to keep me grounded and on track.

Working in small batches of each item (10-15 pieces at a time), I will make a few mugs, bud vases, large jars, and bowls these next few weeks, sharing the techniques and finished work with you as I go along. Inspiration isn't hard for me to find this time of year, that's for sure! I'll leave you with a couple of spring photos from 2012, beautiful Ash Cave in Ohio. One of my favorite places to visit when I need refueled.

I hope inspiration finds you and happy spring to you!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Three years have passed since my first college ceramics course and I have passed the test of time, I'm still obsessed with creating with clay and color and so Thinking in Clay was born! I haven't blogged for quite some time and I've realized that it would be nice to start sharing where I'm at in my clay adventures.

I stay-at-home with my two children and when I get a few moments I research clay bodies, glazes, design techniques, sketch, daydream, and then I get my hands muddy in the clay!

My forms are becoming more polished, I'm paying attention to not making the bottoms of my forms too thick, centering has become second nature, I still dislike wedging clay (but I know it's a necessity at times), and I've tried designing with sgraffito, colored slips and underglazes, sprigs, made stamps, lithography transfer and the list of techniques tried goes on and on. So I'll be sharing my successes and disappointments; what works and what doesn't; my favorite tools, clay and glazes; and all the happy little surprises that happen from time to time. This is an art that I feel will take many years to master, but bit by bit, things start to fall into place with practice. Many friends have been made on this journey who have been kind enough to share their skills and expertise.  Enjoy life, get muddy and have fun!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Getting Back to Business--There's a Story to be Told in Life

So it's official, I have graduated with my Associates in Agriculture and I am ready to be Mom and potter while my husband, Sean, attends college for his engineering degree. I intend to attend Shawnee State part-time in the future, but for now I want to enjoy my babies before they grow-up and leave the nest!

With a couple of friends of mine from school, we have decided to take a shot at selling our pottery pieces at the upcoming Woodland Festival/Summer Solstice Celebration at Serpent Mound in Peebles, Oh. Tuesday, June 21st is arriving quickly and being a newbie in the pottery realm has been a challenge and meditation all of its own. Many of my pieces for sale carry the mystical Serpent on them. The Serpent has some attachment to my interests that is unexplainable.

I have always been a biology geek diving in to try insect identification, pin insects, learn about trees, plants, snakes, birds, fungi, lichens...I LOVE NATURE! I want to learn EVERYTHING about it! :0) One January day in 2010, I decided to take a stroll in Winter's paradise and came across this brilliant green snake in our back woods. Terrified at first, (I liked to study snakes from far away at that time), I quickly realized that it was non-poisonous due to it's narrow head and due to the fact that I knew that it definitely wasn't a Copperhead or Timber Rattler. I acknowledged its presence and tried not to startle it by retreating from it slowly. I have often thought about that day and thought, "Wow! I've never seen such a bright yellow-green snake before!"
That day awakened me into a better appreciation of serpents I guess you could say.

My Serpent pieces keep that amazing Winter encounter from 2010 fresh in my mind. My connection/interest  to Serpent Mound still plays out. Being able to create, design, and fire clay helps bring my memories of all past, visions of the possible future, and love for color, nature and life of the present to the surface. My expressions are felt whole-heartily in my soul. My pottery is my canvas and I am excited to have a bond with earth, fire, wind, and water all in harmony of each other. Many write books of their experiences, dreams, and thoughts of this life. For me, I create my life story with clay and the designs I apply to each piece.Though to some, my works may seem to have many imperfections, but for me they symbolize another challenge or dream that has surfaced into reality.

Many of my posts will start with a story from life that has led me to now. Other posts will be demonstration on techniques I have tried with or without success. Thinking in Clay is a place for me to share my creations, successes and even those errors in hopes of inspiring all to be unique, enjoy life, and know that you can make life what you truly want it to be.

"Creation always begins in the heart, and then it is transferred to the mind".~Drunvalo Melchizedek, Serpent of the Light Beyond 2012

Other blogs by Dora L. Anderson can be found here: