Making a big pot

The clay body that I am working with now, equal parts clays, 2, 3 and 5, has two main problems. One is the continuing problem of post firing decomposing of the pots (which I’ll deal with on the next post) and the second is the clay being “short” or not very plastic, which means that it doesn’t like to be thrown very large at all. It tends to shear or tear when I am throwing it. I could add some good ball clay to the mix to improve the clay quality, but I am trying to use only materials from the Kimbell, so adding outside clays is not an option at this point. The first project I have with this material is to make three large pots for the Kimbell to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original Louis Kahn building, which is this October.

So here I am trying a technique that I saw executed online by the North Carolina potter Daniel Johnston. He learned it working in Thailand, where the clay had similar limitations as the clay I have from The Kimbell. He rolls out small coils, like hot dogs, then wheel throws a base to the pot, and slowly works each small coil onto the base, bringing the walls up as he goes, and then throwing the assembled coils, and adding coils, and throwing it some more to keep it centered and to make the walls more consistent and shaped. I made one big, and very bad, pot, about 24″ tall I think, using this technique. It looks like Fred Flintstone made it. But it did work. The pot was very solid and very strong. I decided not to fire it since it would decompose later anyway, hence wasting a lot of clay, so we threw it back into a bucket of water to turn it back into usable clay. Even though it hadn’t been fired, it was very strong and had to be broken up with a large hammer. With practice I think this technique may work for this project.

The last pictures in this post show Jackson Foster, my new intern for this project. Jackson is taking a year off between high school and starting at RISD this fall, and he is spending two months helping me in the studio, mostly with the Kimbell project. You can see him carrying and destroying the big pot I talk about above.

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