Expressive Slab-Built Pottery
In this class participants will learn how to build functional yet inventive forms using clay slabs. The class will explore a breadth of possibilities for form, using both soft and stiff slabs to create forms ranging from organic and gestural to clean and architectural. Demonstrations will include ways to create and use paper patterns and textured slabs, alternate ways of making spouts, lids, and handles, and making and using stamps and sprigs. Discussions will provide ideas about how to develop one’s own expressive form language and surface decoration and different ways to conceptualize functional forms. We will discuss a collection of glazes I have gathered and developed for rich color and depth of surface. For inspiration, we will look at images of a wide range of historical and contemporary pottery forms.
Skill Level: Students should have had some clay experience and be comfortable working with clay.
Students should each bring their standard clay working tools AND:
- A 4”-5” rubber brayer or wooden pastry roller*
- A serrated metal rib*
- A ruler, pencil, and scissors*
- A very sharp knife, like a large “Exacto” knife* or a “Dolan” 220-C knife*
- One or several miniature loop tools (optional)*
- A collection of small interesting objects, 1/4” – 1” in size, like buttons or beads (optional) for making sprigs.
- A large plastic rib, 4” x 5”, available at kitchen stores or through Highwater Clay or Brackers.com*
- A “sur-form” rasp, the small 2” curved blade (the plastic handle is not necessary) or the “Sherrill” rasp*
*Supplies marked with an asterisk are available for purchase in the Shakerag store.
- A fine textured clay, light colored and as plastic as possible. I work with true porcelain fired to cone 9, but for workshop purposes it may be better to work with some type of white stoneware. 25-50 lbs. for each student.
- Stiff paper for making patterns/templates, file folders are ideal, or thick brown craft paper.
- I will bring an information packet for each student. These will cost around $8.00 - $10.00 each.
- We will each need large smooth surface areas to work on. I normally suggest that each student have a 2’ x 2’ piece of drywall (edges taped with duct tape) or MDF board on which to work, unless the table tops are MDF or a comparable material. Canvas surfaces don’t work well.
- A slab roller and several large rolling pins should be available.
- I would like to pour a plaster bat, about 1’ x 2’ x 2”, before the workshop begins. These molds are an integral part of my process but I don’t like to travel with them. For this I would need:
- a large surface on which to pour the plaster; a piece of formica, glass or plexiglass will work.
- About 30 pounds of #1 pottery plaster
- A couple of 5-gallon buckets
- A scale to weigh the plaster and water
I normally spend one day of the workshop teaching students how to make one of these plaster molds. If we do this, we will need plaster for the students to use, and more formica surface area. Usually, not everyone in the class wants to make a mold, but we should plan on about 25 lbs. of plaster each, for about 2/3 the number of students.
Interior volume is a key element in functional forms. It defines the potential for containment. My work combines a strong sense of interior volume with a net- or grid-like surface of textural lines that contains and shapes that volume, creating buoyant, full, yet architectural forms. These seemingly upholstered forms are draped with a series of rich, complex glaze surfaces, many of them crystalline, lustrous, or having deep visual texture. These surfaces are sometimes further adorned with sprigs, floral glaze decals, or metallic lustres. Porcelain forms are often placed in or on earthenware baskets or trays. The result is a layering of disparate and complex elements that become integral. These pieces, in form and in the details of form, are created to visually communicate their use or function. Their complex shapes and rich surfaces embellish and enhance this use.
Margaret Bohls is a studio potter and educator who lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has been teaching ceramics at the University of Minnesota since 1998, during which time she has also been visiting faculty at Ohio University, Penn State University, and NSCAD University in Halifax. Margaret has also taught many community classes and workshops at art centers and universities across the country. In her studio, Margaret makes hand-built porcelain pottery which she shows and sells both locally and nationally.