Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: classes, pottery, process, production

So… on the first night of my Beginning Wheelthrowing class, I asked my students
what they hoped to get out of class. What they wanted to learn. What they wanted
to make. One of my brand new beginners said she wanted to make a butter dish.
I explained to Abby that they are typically handbuilt, and not wheelthrown…
but I was willing to take on the challenge! Last night, we tackled the butter dish!

But before I could teach it… I had to learn how to make them myself!
I had never made them before and questioned how to make them “my own.”
So with some measurements, some textures and some basic handbuilding skills…
these are the first two! The first “prototypes” now in the drying stage.

By the way… Abby made her first butter dish last night – and was VERY excited!!!


C. Yalater

February 25th, 2010

Those are very good! I like the curlicue handle of the back dish. The Cambridge Pottery Festival has a butter dish competition, named for the late Don Fuchs. I don’t know if you ever met him, but he was very nice, and you may have a connection to him through Steven Hill. The pottery world can be small sometimes! Anyway, keep up the great work Gary, and keep putting out the best pottery blog in the blogosphere!

February 25th, 2010

WOW – thanks for the “blogosphere endorsement”!!! There’s a LOT of blogs out there… I’m so glad you’ve found mine! And I will definitely ask Steven about Don Fuchs. I’m always amazed at how small our little pottery world really is!!!

February 25th, 2010

Google some images of Victoria Christen’s butter dishes. She throws a cylinder and cuts in half for the top, then handbuilds the bottom. I had an instructor demo this method, much fun to make!

February 25th, 2010

HEY TRACEY – I just looked at Victoria’s butter dishes. They’re adorable. A lot of personality coming through – quite whimsical. Thanks for the suggestion!

Rob Lorenz

February 25th, 2010

I’ve never really been a big fan of butter dishes, but those look great! Your student COULD make a thrown butter dish by throwing an open bottomed cylinder, squeezing it into an oval, then hand building a base and lid. If you were a stickler for the throwing part of your class, that is.

February 25th, 2010

ROB – I’m sure the more you read my blog, you’ll start to realize that I am not a stickler. Except for keeping it fun! I actually enjoy showing my class some basic handbuilding skills that they’ll be able to use later in their “clay career.” Coils, slabs, attachments, textures, etc. and the “butter dish challenge” was the perfect opportunity. I would hate for any of my students to think that they can ONLY make things on the wheel. I’d rather they have a few more “tools” under their belts. Love the idea of the oval-thrown dish, with handbuilt tops & plates… maybe next session?! Thanks for the suggestion.


March 2nd, 2014

I have tried this but didn’t account for shrinkage so I couldn’t use it. How do I calculate this so my butter will fit?

March 5th, 2014

JACKIE – It all depends on what kind of clay you’re using… and more importantly, what the shrinkage rate is for that clay body. I know that my clay shrinks about 14% from start to finish. So I can measure the stick of butter, multiply it by 1.14, add a bit of air space and that’s my finished interior dimension. Your clay supplier should be able to give you an idea of your clay’s shrinkage rate… or do a test piece. Make a slab and cut it to a perfect square like 5″x5″. Fire it as normal and then measure it again to calculate the difference and shrinkage from start to finish. I know it’s a bit of math… not my favorite subject either!!!

Barb Smith

June 11th, 2014

OMG, do you sell butter dishes???? It is amazingly difficult to get a covered butter dish that isn’t too small. I’ve been scouring the web for hours and days, and all of the ones I find say that they are so small that unless you put the lid on exactly right, the butter gets smeared and smushed by the lid. If you make larger than average butter dishes (for the regular american stick of butter, but just not super slim) I would LOVE to buy one. Just let me know. Thanks! Barb

June 30th, 2014

HEY BARB – I don’t make a lot of butter dishes. They’re a lot of work… and not many people seem to use them these days. But I’ve been considering “revisiting” them again, as well as French Butter Crocks. I’m sure you’ll see some new blog posts about them when they make a return. Maybe in time for the holidays??? Thanks for checking in…

Leave a Comment