method of making ceramics objects
The making of ceramic pieces by the coil
method is a technique which you should master. Unique, original models
can be constructed by this method which cannot otherwise be duplicated.
In addition, the coil method makes for valuable experience in handling
and mastering the manual manipulation of plastic clay. Parenthetically,
this method is one of the most ancient known to men, for the manual building
of clay objects.
At first, objects constructed by the coil
method may appear somewhat crude. But with a little practice very competent
work can be accomplished. Some of the proper actions and precautions are
Wedged clay is rolled
on the breadboard with the palms of the hands only (Fig. 15A). If
the fingers are used at all in the rolling it will be almost impossible
to get a uniform "snake" of clay.
In rolling the clay, roll it back
and forth under the palms on the breadboard beginning at the centre
of the clay slug. Do not roll the clay over and over in the same
direction. Use a light, quick, back and forth motion with the palms
and do not press too hard. Remember, clay is not elastic like dough,
and it will stretch or twist only a little. If it is stretched or
twisted too much, the "snake" will break or come apart.
Clay, while being rolled, is kept
slightly more moist than its normal moisture content. At frequent
intervals while rolling the clay (every minute or so), dip the fingers
in a bowl of water and run the moist fingers across the top of the
snake to keep it moist.
When rolling the clay, work the hands
outward along the snake (Fig. 15A). The snake, when finally rolled
out, should be about 1/4 inch in diameter. For small objects the
snake may be as little as Vs inch in diameter; for quite large pieces
the snake may be as much as 'A inch in diameter. It is not necessary
for the snake to be exactly 1/4 inch all along its length. An approximate
diameter is sufficient.
Objects made by the coil method may be smoothed
with a modelling tool, after being assembled, on both the inside and outside
so as to give smooth surfaces, if desired.
When splicing the end of one snake to the
next, do not cut the ends of the snakes straight across and attempt to
slip paste them together. Cut the ends at a long slant, apply pasting
slip to each cut, and wedge them together by pressing and rounding with
the fingers (Fig. 15B). If a long continuous snake is desired for some
models, the ends of two snakes are cut at a slant, slip pasted together,
and rolled together on the breadboard.
In building up a bowl or box by the coil
method, if you wish to expand the size as the object builds up, run the
upper coil slightly to the outside of its next lower coil. If you wish
to make the object taper inward, run the upper coil slightly inside of
the next lower coil.
When the object is built up, apply thick
pasting slip on the inside at all points where the coils touch, to insure
that the coils do not come apart when firing and to further strengthen
Let us proceed with lesson IV.
- 1 pound of clay, in plastic form, low
firing, any colour, well wedged 1 breadboard
- 1 rolling pin
- 1 pen knife
- 1 modelling tool
- 1 half-pint bottle of pasting slip
- 1 art brush, size 7 to 10
- 1 large piece of cloth
- 1 paring knife
- 2 pieces of oilcloth, 2 feet square,
Comments: Our first exercise
is the making of a cylindrical cigarette urn. This is one of the simplest
objects which can be made by this method. In the second part of this lesson
we will make a lidded box. In the third part of this lesson we will make
a type of woven basket. The practice resulting from making these objects
will give you excellent experience and indicate the many possibilities
in plastic clay.
Part I. Making a cigarette urn
Procedure: With the rolling
pin, roll out a small slab of plastic clay to 1/4 inch thickness, on the
breadboard, as described in Lesson III. Cut out a circle of clay 3 1/2
inches in diameter, by drawing a circle on paper, cutting it out with
scissors, placing the circle pattern on the clay, and cutting out the
clay with the pen knife along the pattern. This circle will be the base
of the cigarette urn.
Take a handful of clay and roll it between
the palms until it forms a cylindrical slug about 1 inch in diameter.
Wet the shiny side of the piece of oilcloth with water so that it will
adhere to the breadboard. Place it shiny side down on the breadboard.
Place the cylindrical slug on the oilcloth, and, with the palms of both
hands, roll the clay back and forth, working from the centre out (Fig.
15A). Roll the clay until it forms a long snake 1/4 inch in diameter.
Taper one end of the snake to a fine point.
Place the base of clay
on the oilcloth (on the breadboard). Apply slip paste on the outside
1/4 of an inch on the top of the base around the edge. Flatten the
tapering end of the snake to a long, slanting wedge shape. Feed
the snake around in a circle on top of the base with the right hand,
supporting the coil with the left hand (Fig. 16A). Splice additional
snakes as needed. Build the coil straight up for a height of 4 inches.
The coil on the top should be tapered and flattened so that the
top is exactly level. As the snake is wound, slip paste each turn,
so that the turn above will adhere to it. Press down slightly each
turn on the next lower turn.
Apply thick slip paste on the inside
all along between the turns where they touch. There should be no
air gaps between the turns. Set the urn to dry.
We will now make the lid to the urn.
Taper one end of the snake and flatten it as before. Starting from
the centre, wind up a coil moving it across the breadboard until
the flat coil is about 3 inches in diameter. Taper the snake flat
toward the end, and bring the end in, to form a perfect circle 3
inches in diameter (Fig. 16B). With the fingers underneath, lift
the centre of the coil up so that the top curves out and down from
the centre (dome-shaped) (Fig. 16C). If handy, a smooth playground
ball may be used in forming the curved surface by placing the flat
coil on the ball and gently pressing the outer turns down. Do not
flatten the coils when pressing down. If the lid is too large, part
of the coil must be unwrapped, and tapered in toward the end, until
it appears that the lid will fit over the urn. Now, with the lid
upside down in the cupped palm, apply thick slip all over the inside
of the lid, especially where the coils join. After the slip has
dried slightly, a dry ball of clay is placed underneath the lid
to keep it from sagging. Let the lid dry for about one-half hour.
We shall now make a handle for the top. Make
the loop as illustrated and cut the contact length 1/2 inch from the loop,
squarely across the ends (Fig. 16D).
Hold the handle vertical, apply slip paste
to the bottoms of the contact lengths, and on the top of the lid, where
they will touch; and slightly press them together in place. The lid should
be drier than the handle when the handle is pasted to it. Set the assembly
out to dry for bisque firing.
Hints: After the urn is
formed and while it is still plastic, correct the shape, if it becomes
distorted, with the palms of both hands.
Correct any marks, flat spots, or surface
imperfections with fine sandpaper after the object is bisque fired.
Part II. Making an oblong box
Materials: Same as for
Procedure: By the slab
method cut out 2 flat pieces of plastic clay 3 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches
by 1/4 inch thick (Fig. 17A). One will be the base of the box, the other
will be the top.
Roll out a snake of clay
1/4 inch in diameter as described in part I. Cut the starting end
at a slant, place it in the middle of a side, and run the snake
on top of the base, all around the outside border of the base. Cut
the snake with the the same operation with the second loop as with
the first. Wedge the second loop slightly on the inside against
the first loop. Continue adding loops until the height of the box
is 31/2 inches high (about 10 to 12 loops (Fig. 17C). With the brush
apply slip paste around the outside of the box, between loops. Set
the assembly in a place out of direct sunlight or air draft to dry.
Place the top plate on the plaster
bat for about 10 minutes on each side, to dry it. A semi-loop handle,
a flower ornament, or bow knot may be slip pasted on top.
Carefully measure, without touching
the coil box, the inside dimensions of its top loop. Roll a short
snake about 3/16 inch in diameter and run it parallel to the edges
on the bottom of the top plate, inside the measured dimensions.
This loop will be the retaining rim for the top plate (lid). Slip
paste this loop to the bottom of the top plate. Place dry balls
of clay 1/4 inch in diameter under the edges and centre of the plate
to prevent it from sagging while drying, and to prevent crushing
the retaining loop (Fig. 17D).
Set the assembly out to dry for bisque
Hints: In slip pasting
ornaments or the retaining rim to the top plate, make sure they are always
more moist than the plate.
After the box and lid are bisque fired,
the lid may be fitted on the box. If the retaining rim is too large, sandpaper
the sides of the rim down to a better fit.
Part III. Making a Woven Basket
Materials: The same as
in part I.
Procedure: Roll and cut
out a clay base 6 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Roll a snake,
and from it cut 13 sticks about 4 1/4 inches long. Set the sticks vertically
on top of and along the outside of the base, spaced evenly around the
circle. Slip paste and wedge them to the base. Bend the sticks in an outward
curve (Fig. 18A).
A large circular mound
of fairly dry clay can be formed around the outside of the sticks
before beginning to weave in the snake. This coil will preserve
the shape of the basket as it forms and will support the sticks
Roll a long snake, tapering at the
beginning end, as in part I of this lesson. Beginning between one
pair of sticks, feed the snake inside one stick, then outside the
next stick, then inside the next stick, and so on around the circle
(Fig. 18B). Do not pull the snake, or tighten it against the sticks.
Feed the snake so that it lies snugly against the sticks but does
not exert any pressure on them. If the sticks bend too much, straighten
and restore them to former position. Feed the snake with one hand
while supporting the sticks with the other.
Splice each snake to the next snake
by pasting and wedging before feeding around the basket.
Feed the snake inside of and around
the sticks until the basket is about 3 1/2 inches high. Adjust the
basket with the palm of the hands around the outside of the turns,
so that the basket is perfectly round and curves out smoothly. Trim
the sticks with a pen knife so that they are perfectly level across
the top and even with the top of the top turn.
We shall now lay a twisted double
snake around the top of the basket. Remember, clay will not stretch.
So in effect we will be folding rather than twisting two snakes
around each other. These instructions for twisting a double snake
apply to twisting coils for any purpose.
Place the lengths of two snakes alongside
one another. Lift up one end, and with the fingers of the other hand turn
the lengths around one another, without squeezing them together. Move
the supporting hand forward as the twist is made. The twist is made by
the fingers at each point, and not by one twist causing another twist
farther along (Fig. 18C). The use of twisted double snakes is used extensively
for making handles for cups, vases, and other objects.
Apply slip to the top turn and the stick
tops. Lay the twisted double snake squarely on top of the stick tops.
Where the circle of the twisted snake comes around to meet itself, cut
the individual snakes at a slant, slip paste and wedge them together-being
sure to preserve the appearance of a continuous twist in the double snake.
Apply pasting slip to the inside of the basket to all points where the
coils touch each other and the sticks.
Hint: In making ceramic
weaving, there must always be an odd number of sticks.