By now you may have read about my Beginning & Advanced Beginning Wheelthrowing class and the challenge I set up for them. For the last class of each session we like to do a little trading-exchanging-stealing kind of White Elephant game. In previous sessions we’ve traded handmade mugs, bowls, or plates. But this session since I have more “advanced” than beginners… so we stepped it up a bit and went with ovals. So the deal is that the brand new newbies need to bring a finished oval piece to the last class to trade-exchange. Whereas my more Advanced Beginners need to do a lidded oval!!! CHALLENGE ON!!!
And I figured since they’re all working so hard on their ovals for the trade, I should step it up and work on mine too! So I started by throwing the bottomless cylinders with a grooved gallery space around the top rim. When the cylinder stiffens up a bit, and is no longer squishy or sticky, I wire it off the bat and gently shape it into the oval shape I want. I let that shaped oval set up a bit more and then add a bottom. I throw a slab of clay slightly larger than the oval. I let that set up a bit and then score & slip it onto the bottom of the “oval-ized” cylinder.
And then it’s time to start the lid!!!
I start by making another slab of clay. I prefer to throw mine instead of using a slab roller. I compress as much as I can with a firm rib. Flipping it over and compressing both sides… trying to get rid of the canvas texture left on the slab from my wedging table.
After the slab stiffens up a bit, I carefully flip the oval casserole over and trim the slab around it… leaving an extra inch or so hanging over.
After flipping the oval again, I cover the rim with small pieces of newsprint. This is to keep the slab that I will be placing on top from sticking to the oval. The small pieces of paper leave a nice space in the middle for the slab to slump inside. If you cover the oval with plastic, there may not be enough space to slump… and, the plastic will keep the slab from stiffening up as well.
Then you gently drape the slab over the oval & newspaper, and gently press it in to slump the slab into the oval.
After slumping it to a good “domed” shape and smoothing out the curves, I let it stiffen up a bit more… like maybe a 1/2 hour.
While I’m letting the slab stiffen up a bit, I also wrap the bottom casserole oval with plastic so that that part of the project doesn’t dry out too much at the same time.
You want to wait long enough for the slumped-domed lid to stiffen up pretty firm. Enough that when you pick it up that it doesn’t bend or warp. I start to cut that extra clay off the sides with a sharp X-acto knife. Cutting in from the top down, I go all the way around using a finger under the slab to guide the blade about a 1/4 of a inch away from the rim. Once the bulk of the extra clay is gone, I then take my needle tool to “trace” upwards to create a oval outline on the underside of the clay. I then gently lift the domed slab out of the cylinder, flip it over (being sure not to warp anything), and set it carefully down on the canvas table. I can then use my X-acto knife again to cut along that traced guideline.
Once the excess clay is gone, you can carefully put the domed lid back on the oval cylinder right-side up. Most likely it will NOT fit right in the gallery on the first try… so don’t panic. Instead, I let it set up even more so that the lid gets to a good leatherhard state. Once firm enough, you can start trimming more off the sides little by little until it fits into the gallery around the rim. As you can see, I’ve still got some more trimming to do on this one…
Meanwhile, I start making handles and attaching them to the sides of the casserole.
And a handle on the top of the lid… score, slip and attach. Being careful to press it together firmly, but NOT warping or altering the shape of the lid.
Once the handles are on, and the trimming is well under way, you start to refine you lid’s fit into the gallery. You’ll see quickly that there might be certain sections that need more trimming than others. I stat with “shaving off” small slivers to get closer to a tight fit. When it gets close, I start using a small rasp to shave off smaller refinements. I like to use my Small Shredder from Sherill MudTools. Eventually, the lid will fit pretty snuggly. Be very careful NOT to go too small with the lid. Remember everything is going to shrink. And you can always make it smaller later… but if you go too far, you can’t make it bigger later!!!
So now my lidded casserole production is coming along. Lids seem to be fitting well. A few small adjustments along the way. Shaving off small sections here and there.
Once I’m pretty confident that the lid fits snugly, it’s time to finish up and step away!!! Stop messing with them!!! So for one last measure, I painted some colored flashing slip accents to the stamps, as well as coloring the lid to match. Hopefully these colored slips will “work their magic” as they fire in my next soda kiln. Their exposure to the soda atmosphere will make the colors pop!!!
So for now, my lidded oval casseroles are done and drying on an elevated plastic grid. I like to dry larger pieces like this so they can get even air exposure on both sides and all around. My belief is that they will dry more evenly with less warpage this way. Seems to work… so I’m sticking with it!!!