Stretching myself

Tuscan Autumn

Plates have always been a challenge for me.  My first instructor was very traditional and refused to show me how to make plates until I had made about 3 dozen casseroles.  Ugh.  It became a joke, but unfortunately it created a lot of fear around plates and kept me from making them for years.

According to my survey of potters, plates and teapots are tied for the hardest forms to make.  Non-potters don’t often understand.  The reason is the wide base of the form.  The clay has to be well compressed, or it will crack.  The foot ring also has to be placed just right or the pot will slump or crack.

I have experimenting with plates on and off over the last few years.  But after seeing a call for entry for dinner ware at NECEA, I decided to commit more time and create plates that spoke of me. No small challenge for a potter who likes to heavily alter her work.

I have enjoyed the challenge.  They are tough but I am happy to say that I have not had an S-crack yet.   After throwing many and some bold experimentation with slip, I finally came up with a design that I really like.  While still functional, they still have the suggestion of movement that is strive for in my work.  Of course, there are numerous things I want to improve and refine, but life would be boring  if  stopped improving.

This post includes a few samples of complete sets, along with a prototype tray that I have been working on. I am happy to report that these place settings and the tray were recently accepted to Dining In III at the 18 Hands Gallery in Houston, Texas. This is always a great show.  It runs from August 7 through 31.

The Gloaming



About Claytastic

Health coach. Writer. Teacher. Artist. Living an amazing life with MS. Interested in bringing peace and beauty into people's lives.
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2 Responses to Stretching myself

  1. carter says:

    Laurie, these sets look really good!

    Your post struck a chord. Last night I taught my students to make teapots, and I was thinking back to my own first exploration of the form. I was probably a bit more advanced than my current students and I was off in my own world happily making teapots when my instructor at the time dropped a few comments that totally discouraged me from continuing to make them or even enjoying what I had done. Kind of like what you described about your own experience with plates.

    It is so ridiculous for an instructor to intentionally or even unintentionally put limits on a student’s exploration or enjoyment of clay, unless perhaps the situation is an apprenticeship. But short of that, the only focus should be how best to enjoy your time with clay, even in an academic classroom setting. I try to argue that making better pots will lead a student to more enjoyment of the process and that it may take a certain amount of focus to do this, but I always insist that there are no rules and that if you are having fun you are at least doing something right.

    Being taught to fear parts of the process or fear making certain forms is entirely counter productive. Fear should be the last thing that informs a process of creative expression. At one point when I was teaching plates to my intermediate students I had them throw plates large enough for the base to fit the whole wheel head and then showed them how to pick this form directly up off the wheel. No fear. Being able to do things with confidence opens doors of opportunity and is profoundly liberating. The more things you feel you are able to do, the better your understanding of the medium and the processes involved. The better your understanding, the greater your imagination and the greater your confidence in being able to figure things out. Operating from a stance of fear only closes off options and limits what can actually be learned.

    I am glad you overcame your fears of plate making. I like the plates of yours that I have seen, and it looks like you are having some fun making them despite the challenges. Well done! And congratulations on the acceptance in the show at 18 Hands Gallery!

    • Carter, Thanks so much. I really am having fun with these.

      This is such a tough thing to navigate as an instructor. I have a friend who started making teapots long before her skills were there because she so loved the form. Our instructor (yes the same guy) was not particularly supportive. She changed instructors and has worked hard on the form. She now makes the most precious teapots you can imagine.

      I start officially teaching in the fall. This will be something I will have to be very conscious of. Clay is fun. And yes, it can be frustrating to try a new form you aren’t quite ready for, but there is no reason to discourage the exploration. Exploration is part of the joy.

      BTW, it has taken me about 6 years to finally get a teapot form where I like all the parts and how they work together.

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