Thanks to all of you who have encouraged me to post process and work on my Insomnia Pottery blog. It’s been a long since my last post, but I continue to receive emails from potters who have found it useful.
Today I am working in the studio to fill a kiln for Holiday sales, and wrap up a few small special orders. Although I don’t make goblets as part of my production work for shows and galleries, I have some in my studio and visitors see them and want to purchase them. At this time, only a few chalices are left – just the thing for toasting your Dungeons and Dragons compatriots!
To me, a chalice is deeper and has a shorter stem in proportion to the overall height of the piece. Buyers prefer more traditionally formed goblets with tall steps and capacious bowls. I think ceramic goblets sort of take away half the joy of wine drinking – seeing the beautiful color of the wine through a crystal vessel. Therefore, let’s use them for mead or hard cider or best of all, a delicious hot toddy….
I like to make goblets in two parts and join them. Both sections are thrown off the hump. The clay I am using today is B-Mix, which has many fine properties. However, it will be the last day for it in my studio for a while… I am going back to Georgies’ Cannon Beach 10.
I’m starting off with about 5 pounds of clay – enough for about 6 bowls and fairly thick stems. If you are not making small pieces – lids, knobs, small tea-bowls – off the hump, I really encourage you to learn to do so.
The only complex part is separating the object from the hump in a tidy and level manner. I struggled with this for years until Portland potter Ken Pincus kindly showed me how to do it the right way. If I can find a friend to shoot a little video of me doing this tiny but essential trick, I will post it here in the next couple weeks.
In the meantime, we’ll stick to the goblet making….
Here’s what we want to make. It’s crude! But it is closely thrown and well centered. The fun part – refining the stem and adding ornament will come during the trimming process. With a toothy stoneware clay it is possible to do more preliminary forming of the stem, but the slickery B-Mix – pretty wet, also – wasn’t willing.
It’s important to keep downward pressure on the top of the stem as you bring it up so it isn’t hollow. If you have been throwing spots on the wheel, it’s counter-intuitive.
There is also that big, thick base. I’ll trim that out later so them stem is light and balanced.
Here’s a shot of the top of them stem. A small rice-bowl shape is thrown into the top of the stem.
I usually cut the top of the stem off level with my string tool so that this tiny cup – about 1-1/2″ in diameter – is perfectly symmetrical and dead level. The separately thrown bowl will nestle into this cup.
Like a spout, there is movement during the firing that can “unwind” the form. If all is not level, your goblet may come out of the firing with a tipsy appearance that it just not acceptable.
Drying the stem carefully under plastic is simply essential. The thin little top must remain fresh and moist so it will join properly to the cup.
Here’s a nice prospective bowl for one of the goblets. I usually make 6 or 8 stems and the same number of bowls and match them for scale and form when I do the joining.
I will dry them separately, and trim the bottom of each on to match the stem-top cups, then use a serrated rib to scuff them up, and mate the trimmed stem to the cup right on the wheel head.
With the wheel in motion, it’s easy to see if the stem and cup have been matched correctly, and repair any “wobbling” that is the sign of an out-of-plumb join.
I’ll show all this later this week with photos from the join-up.
This taller piece is one of the most essential parts of the process – a chuck for trimming the base of the stems.
I’ll detail the shaft of the stem right side up, with the heavy base stuck to the wheel head with coils of clay.
Then, I’ll insert the stem into this chuck upside down so the base is supported. The chuck was carefully thrown to be well centered, and was not cut off the bat. It may live to become a vase, but might also just be recycled.
I find it hard to trim out the inside of the stems but they will crack if the wall section is not reduced carefully. The crack would be up inside, typically an S-crack, and won’t spoil the pot. But why not do it right?
Here’s a nice set of components for some goblets of various sizes. I will probably trim and assemble them tomorrow night.