Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Pulling Handles

I spent a couple of hours in the studio last night. I couldn't find our extruder, which is like a big caulking gun with a brass barrel. I remember Julie buying one from Daily's Ceramics over in Vineland, but I couldn't find it in the studio or garage. I had to 'pull' handles for my mugs instead.

Take a small piece of clay. squeeze it a bit to make it approximate a fat, lumpy handle. Standing over the sink, get one hand dripping wet. Pinching one end of the clay with your dry hand, and allowing the clay to dangle down, run your wet hand along the length of the piece, squeezing gently. Its sort of a gentle milking motion. The handle starts to thin out, and take on a (more or less) uniform cross section. It tapers the farther you get from the dry hand. When it is sufficiently long and thin, stick the top end upside-down onto a board, and drape the rest of the handle in an arc that goes off to one side. The handle takes on a shape like half of a heart, laying on its side.

Repeat as necessary.

The trimming went fine. I usually put each pot down on the wheelhead, and lay my hand next to it, then judge the difference in height between by hand and the floor of the pot. This gives me an idea of how much clay needs to come off.

When I finished the first mug, and took it off the wheel, the base of the pot was too thick. I could run my fingers simultaneously along the inside and outside walls of the pot, and feel that the wall got thicker as I approached the base. I had to put the piece back on the wheel, and trim more off the bottom. In doing so, the foot of the piece became too tall, so I had to trim that down a bit too.

The second mug trimmed no problem.

Putting the handles on was a little more messy than I liked. I'm used to putting on extruded handles, which have a uniform cross section. Pulled handles have a changing taper, so I had to fuss with my needle tool and an Exacto knife to get the cuts on the two ends of the handle right so that they left the pot at a pleasing angle, and joined to make a pleasing curve. They are a little heavy for the look of the mugs, but I know my technique will improve.

I got out of the studio about midnight. I spent a lot of time looking for the extruder, and I took my time with the trimming of the mugs to get them right.

Tonight I plan to work on a vase or two.


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