three white clay bowls sitting on a plank of wood

Clay bowls!

Because I was having so much fun in the fall making bowls, I signed up for more classes during the January Independent Activities Period (IAP) and the Spring semester. And I made more bowls.

(I should acknowledge that we were taught how to make a variety of different forms, including mugs, vases, and little jars with lids... but I have a fondness for bowls. They're the most useful.)

My goal during the first couple classes was to get better at centering my clay on the wheel. It's a critical step. If the clay isn't centered, you will get something very lopsided and uneven as a result. It can take a lot of practice to get the feel for it. Here are my bowls from January:

bowl half pale blue and half yellow-gold, with an hourglass-esque pattern where the colors overlap

side view of a blue and off-white glazed bowl, middle roundly bulging out

top down view of a bowl with a purple rim and purple spots on top of pale blue and a streak of pinkish red

two white clay bowls, taller than they are wide, unglazed

top down bowl with half matte yellow glaze and half shiny pale blue glaze

During one of the later classes in the spring, we did timed trials, an exercise aimed to help you get faster at this once you've gotten the basics down. We were given a set number of minutes or seconds to perform each step in making a form -- like centering the clay, making an opening, forming the walls, and so on. We were also required to make a certain shape, such as a form that was taller than it was wide, or with an opening smaller than the width of its base. These are the bowls I made during these trials:

four brown clay bowls, unglazed

bowl with an opening smaller at the top, brown and blue glazes with white spots

side view of a bowl, white and green and yellow

side view of a bowl that is narrow at the bottom, bulges out, and is somewhat narrower at the top, glazed in sea green, rusty brown, and blue

side view of a round, flat bowl, purple inside, white and yellow-gold matte outside

Another thing I was working on was making the walls of the forms a uniform thickness. Because you draw the clay up to make the form taller, it was pretty easy to end up with thicker clay near the base (where you didn't draw enough of it up) and thinner clay around the rim. This meant I had to do a lot of trimming later to fix the bases.

side view of the base of a bowl that has five small ridges circling the bottom before the bowl flares up and out

bottom of a white clay bowl, showing my initials

I also wanted to experiment with the various glazes available. What interesting combinations could I come up with? This was an interesting challenge, since before firing, glazes generally look nothing like their final forms... as you can see in these before and after images:

five glazed bowls before firing, in various dull shades of brown

five glazed bowls after firing, shiny and brightly colored

I really liked the glaze effects on the brown and purple one in the bottom right, so I tried to duplicate it in another bowl later:

top down view of a bowl, brown and purple

Success!

Here's another sequence of bowls, from start to finish:

four brown clay bowls

four glazed, unfired bowls

four glazed, fired, colorful shiny bowls

Bonus bowls from later in the semester:

side view of a bowl with a rounded base and straight sides, glazed half sea green and half white, with brown along the rim

side-top view of a brown bowl with turquoise and blue polka dots inside

side view of a bowl with a round bulging base, fairly straight sides and a thin rim, glazed in browns and blues

We also played with marbling two clay bodies together -- using both white and brown clay in the same form. Here are my two bowls with marbled clay after their bisque firing:

unglazed bowls with two clays so you can see the swirling of the white and brown clays together

Same bowl, two views so you can see how the glaze patterns are asymmetrical:

side view of a round marbled clay bowl, yellow-gold with a blue rim

marbled clay bowl seen from the side and top, blue on the rim dripping down to mix with the brown and white sides

The other bowl, with a close up of the cool dripping glaze on the inside:

side view of a marbled clay bowl with gold and pale blue-green glazes, with a brown-white glaze dripping around the rim

close up of dripping glaze on the rim of a bowl


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Bowls, bowls, and ... bowls!

I took a ceramics class! Hunks of clay, a spinning pottery wheel, mud, the whole nine yards. It was really fun taking a proper art class again. I haven't done that in a while. Making things is a nice break from the writing and programming that's been my academic life of late, with the extra awesome bonus that the pretty things I made are also functional.

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The first two were kind of lopsided. As you can see, it took a few tries to get the hang of making the clay form a bowl-shape. The turquoise glaze on this one, however, makes it look like it's make of old copper with a patina layer on the surface, like the Statue of Liberty. Pretty cool effect.

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The next two bowls I threw looked nice at first, but they dried out between the initial throwing and when I came back to trim them later. So, I got to smash them with a hammer. The remnants got put into the "leftovers" bucket that eventually gets remixed into useable clay.

Later in the semester, we learned how to marble two clay bodies together - using both white and brown clay. Here's a photo of my two marbled bowls, drying out before their first firing:

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After the first firing, you apply glaze, then fire again. Interesting thing about glaze: it's a bucket of thick sediment in water. It's nothing like paint and the colors are nothing like the final product. Sediment + high heat = different colors! Chemistry is fascinating like that.

The glaze on the rim of this marbled bowl turned out to have very interesting effects - see the light, cloudy, feathery features as it ran down the inside of the bowl?

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Here are two other bowls waiting for their first firing, nice and round. Focusing on shape and form was a fun change to explore -- much of the other art I've done lately (like painting) has had an emphasis on color. I really like the shape of the bowl on the right:

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Bottom of that righthand bowl, after glazing. I've been signing them all with my initials!

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