27 Feb 12

Process: Making handmade pottery plates

It’s been a while since I last talked shop with all these projects going on! Lately I’ve been making a lot of plates, products seem to go in cycles during the seasons and I think in spring people really start to think about their summer entertaining.

Plates are a big part of eating and the style and colour of a dish can really spark off a meal. Just think about the difference between an office canteen and a Michelin starred restaurant! I like to think that the kinds of plates I produce have a kind of rustic charm to them for a cozy look.

Making plates is a challenge, I actually think its harder to make a plate than it is a teapot. A controversial opinion I know! But stay with me here, plates use up a huge amount of clay somewhere between 1.8 and 2 kilos. Centering clay at this size is difficult, its all pure technique between you, the wheel and the clay.

The consistency of the clay has to be just right too, I prefer it to be on the softer side which unfortunately means that you can’t really mess about with them once they’re done. You can go down too far on a plate and make the base too thin when you come to turn it, the rim can be too large or too small and theres a large amount of clay to be reclaimed in turning.

Despite all of these difficulties I enjoy making plates, its things with little details that I obsess over – the pitch of the rim, the flatness of the eating area, the delicate swirl on the bottom.

Because plates have a weak shape they’re more prone to warping especially during glaze firing. When a plate is in for glazing its most at risk, the centre of the plate bulges upwards and the rim area drops creating a canter-leaver effect centred around the foot ring on the bottom. Plate rims dropping and cracks appearing are the most common problems but somehow when you have a perfect set all is forgiven. It’s that pay off of satisfaction when you’ve got a dozen plates and they’re all just perfect.

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