Prototype Casserole Dish Part One: Greenware

Our garlic pots have been finished, from prototyping, to production, and on to the webshop. As we  continue to explore ceramic kitchen tools, Bri shares the process of how she makes a casserole dish prototype.
Step #1:  Throw the Wall
I start by throwing a large ring on the wheel without a bottom. This will be the wall of the casserole dish. I make a flat base and, starting from the center, pull outward and press all the way through the clay. I think about the height and length that I want the casserole dish to be as I work the clay with my hands.  Once the wall is the right height and shape, I make an inner flange where the lid will rest on top. I use a wire to cut through the bottom to separate the wall from the wheel head. I allow the wall to dry so that it will retain its shape when lifted; not so dry that they crack, or so wet that they are flimsy and flop. Once the clay is stiff enough, I gently lift the wall and rest it on a drywall board.
Step #2: Make and Attach the Base and Cut the Slab for the Lid
I roll a slab of clay, making sure the area will be slightly bigger than the oval wall from step one. I lift the wall onto the slab and trace a quarter-inch around the wall. The quarter-inch excess clay will be used to smooth onto the wall and secure the base. Next, I cut the clay slab along the traced line and remove the scraps.
I roll another slab for the lid and flip the wall over using two boards placed on the top and bottom of the wall to prevent warping and place the wall upside down on the slab for the lid. I cut the edge an inch wider than the rim of the wall. I remove excess clay and set it aside to use for templates for handles.
Going back to the base slab, I score and “slip” (slip is a clay/water slurry) the bottom of the wall and top of the base where they will join together. I push and smooth clay from the base onto the inner and outer wall. I make a coil of clay, score and slip it, and then place along the joining of the wall and base and smooth it. This gives the joining extra strength. Now I can trim any excess clay.
Step#3: Make the Lid
I place a piece of plastic on top of the rim of the wall and lay the slab that I trimmed for the lid on top of the rim. The slab is still soft and pliable so the extra clay hangs off around the edge of the wall. I place another piece of plastic on top of the lid and use a dry sponge to gently push into the clay with an even, petting motion to indent the lid and round the top. When I flip the lid over, the bulbous side will be the top of the lid.
Once the clay is dry enough to flip over without distorting it, I can gradually start to trim it. Using cutting tools and a “Surform” Tool will help to achieve the right fit.
Note: Because this lid fits on the inside of the rim it is a bit more difficult to fit properly. If you wanted to make an easier fitted lid, you could have the lid rest on the outer rim and make a coil flange on the inside of the lid so that the lid doesn’t fall off. You can measure the inner lid (this is where you will attach the coil) when you make your slab measurements in the beginning.
Step #4: Make and Attach Handles
I think about how I will design the handles. I need a handle for each side for moving the dish in and out of the oven and handle for the lid.  Because this lid is oval-shaped a long handle would be most comfortable for lifting a heavy, oblong lid.
Using a template, I cut out the shape of the handles that I want for the casserole dish. I smooth the edges and carve designs or patterns into the side handles. I will further refine the design after it is attached. I hold the handles where they will go on the dish and trace around the edge. I set the handles down and score and slip the areas being joined together on the dish and the handles. Now I can push and smooth the clay handles onto the sides and lid. I make a coil for the top seam of each handle and smooth it again. This coil will add stability to the joining, which must be strong as there will be more forces applied to the dish here during handling.
Step #5: Add Details and Refinement
After the handles are attached, I add and refine detail back into them. Now is the time to add any other clay forms to the handles (I added little button swirls).  Finally, I use a sponge to smooth the edges. I inspect the whole dish for any spots that need to be smoothed out, nicks that need to be healed, etc. Once it has been perfected, I let the casserole dish sit under plastic to slowly dry. When the dish reaches a state of bone dry, it is ready for firing.



Although we are closed to the public due to Covid-19, we are happy to offer online shopping in our new Web-Store! The Web-Store, while still under construction, is functional and will allow you to make purchases. We are in the process of adding new high quality images and item descriptions/details that will improve your shopping experience, but you can still find and purchase many great items now! If you have questions about the site or a particular item, please feel free to phone the store to get clarification.

Handmade Glass Maple Leaf by local artist Cheryl Crane

NOTE:  Curbside pick-up is at Belvedere Arts LTD, 2363 Eagle Drive, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147

Looking Back…Thunderbird Tile Project

Belvedere has a long history of commission work in and around the Pagosa Springs area, most of which consists of installation projects.  Here is quick look into the planning and inspiration behind the Thunderbird Project.
The Thunderbird is a mythical creature orginating within the cultures of indigenous peoples of North America (most notably with the Peoples of the Pacific Northwest)  so we give credit to those cultures for this concept and basic design. The Thunderbird is a spirit being and is related to lightening and storms. It is said that when the sound of thunder is heard, that sound is the Thunderbird beating its wings. It held great importance for its roll in creating storms and in bringing water to the Earth.
The use of this symbol in our project would be within the family home of a historic local cattle ranch which had recently changed ownership. The piece was specially made to grace the backsplash of a large and beautiful new stove. The design was made from a red/gold stoneware clay, hand-carved and hand-painted and fired to mid-range temperatures in oxidation.
The project began with Susan visiting the ranch location to meet with the ranch managers who were in charge of the home’s remodel. Susan listened carefully, took detailed notes and measurements and let the feeling of the surroundings “soak in.” With that information as a starting point, Susan went back to her studio in Chromo and created a scaled color sketch which was presented to the ranch for approval.  The preliminary steps of gathering information and refining a design, are time-consuming and critical to the overall success of the project. Once the sketch was approved, the actual work to create the ceramic bird was begun.
First, a clay cutting pattern was created to the proper size (shrinkage considered) and clay was rolled out and allowed to dry to the leather hard stage. Then the design pattern was incised into the clay and the tile pieces were cut out for the relief carving process. After the carving was finished, the piece was very slowly dried to the bone dry state, and it was then placed in a kiln for “bisque” firing which hardened the  individual pieces. After the bisque fire, the tile pieces were washed with black/brown iron oxide to accent the relief carving and again fired to set the oxide. Finally, the design was hand-painted with both colorful underglazes and glazes and fired to stoneware temperatures. The Thunderbird was then installed into the kitchen backsplash wall, grouted and sealed for many years of enjoyment by the ranch’s new owners.
We welcome commission inquiries. Please feel free to call to discuss your special project with us at (970) 731-1619!

Let’s Make a Production of It!


Our studio is small and we experiment a lot. However, when it comes to making items to sell in our gift shop, it is important to hone in on what our customers like and then repeat those designs. Prototyping is what it’s called when we experiment. Not all prototypes get approved for production and sometimes they don’t even make it to the gallery/gift shop to be sold as  one-and-onlys. While many factors determine whether or not designs are appropriate for production pieces, complexity and appeal are probably the two most significant considerations. Our “production” runs are always limited to small quantities and only take place after we carefully refine a design and develop our processes to skillfully create multiples which are consistent in their size, shape and other aspects.

Prototypes take a long time to create because there are questions at every turn. There is a sketch, a plan, and then as we make a new design, we find parts of the process that could be smoother, elements that would be more appealing, etc. These prototypes are studied and improved upon through trial and error until we are confident that we have a design that is free from problems and ready for small-scale hand production using processes that are fully understood and consistent.

This is what production pottery looks like. The dishes are made, one step at a time, but in a  group. So step one for dish one, dish two, dish three, and so on until we have our whole group finished with the initial step. Then, step two for dish one, dish two…get the picture? We move the piece forward through the steps as a group. This saves us the time of setting up for each step for each dish and allows us to pass those savings on to the customer in pricing that reflects a greater economy of making items in multiples, versus the very high cost of creating one-of-a-kind items.
For our sgraffito dishes, after all of the pieces are hand-built and carved, they must dry very slowly. The dishes are completely covered with plastic for at least 24 hours to allow the moisture content in the clay to equalize throughout each piece. Then throughout the next week plastic will be removed for a few hours each day, allowing the dishes, which are set out on drywall boards, to dry a little at a time. They are then wrapped in the plastic to equalize again overnight. This process is repeated until the dishes are dry enough to be lightly covered for a few more days and then ultimately set out to finish drying completely.
Clay tends to crack, or warp if it is dried too quickly, or unevenly; so drying at a controlled, slow pace is a very important step. You can tell when the clay is drying when you see the clay lighten in color. You can also feel the clay’s temperature; if it is cold to the touch, it is still wet inside; if it feels room temperature, it is dry and ready for kiln firing. Firing clay that is still wet can cause the water inside the clay to expand, resulting in the clay-ware exploding in the early stages of firing. Therefore, it is critical that the ware be “bone dry” before it is placed in the kiln for “bisque” firing which burns out the clay’s organic material and hardens the ware making it ready for glazing or other decoration.

Stay Tuned!

This is only the first leg of the journey in the creation of this group of plates. Next, you will see how we add color to these dishes before the final glaze firing. We will be sharing all the steps throughout the whole process!

4 Garlic Recipes and Garlic Pots to Keep Garlic Fresh

Have you ever watched the remainder of a head of garlic whither on the counter for weeks or months? Do you wish there was a way to keep your garlic fresh and beautiful? We have something for you, then:

After prototyping and testing, our garlic pots have moved into production and will be ready mid to late January 2021. The pot is designed to keep garlic fresh longer, which means that your garlic will stay crisp and won’t shrivel on the counter. The garlic pot itself is beautiful and simple. These lidded pots are thrown on the wheel and made out reddish-gold, spotted iron-bearing clay. Although the form of the pot follows specific size, shape and detail criteria, each pot is ultimately unique being completely handmade from start to finish. The white glaze keeps the look timeless and meshes well with any style. There will only be 10 produced in this set, so call now to order yours at 970-731-1619. We have a feeling that these will go fast as they are as practical as they are beautiful!

Are you excited for your new garlic pot to arrive, but don’t know what to do with the garlic that you put in it? Did you purchase a whole head of garlic to make a recipe calling for just 3 cloves?

Here are four simple recipes that you can try out and make use of your new garlic pot. If there is dread rising in you from the idea of peeling garlic, here is a tip for peeling garlic: Crack open your garlic bulb, then place in a metal mixing bowl. Put another, similarly sized metal bowl on top so you create a sphere-like shape. Holding the bowls together, shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Check your garlic and remove any peeled cloves. If needed, repeat this process until you have the desired number of peeled cloves. (Rather than trying to “peel” the cloves, use pressure to slightly loosen the tough outer skin from the soft, juicy interior “meat” of the clove). This is a fast, easy method to get to the useable part of the garlic!

Roasted Garlic
No peeling needed for this recipe! Add tasty roasted garlic to a side or main dish as a beautiful garnish that you can fork cloves out of for your meal. You’ll find some recipes below that call for roasted garlic in the ingredients. Roasted garlic will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.

1 whole head of garlic
1 tbls olive oil
Tip: Try an olive oil infused with a complimentary flavor, like truffle olive oil, for a subtle addition.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Cut off the top of a whole head of garlic crosswise.
  3. Place the head of garlic on a piece of aluminum foil, top-up and drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Fold foil around the garlic so that the garlic is sealed and bake for 35 minutes.
Garlic Butter
1 cup butter, softened
1 tbls garlic, minced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbls garlic salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
  1. In a small bowl, combine softened butter, minced garlic and parmesan cheese. Season with garlic salt, Italian seasoning, pepper and paprika. Mix until smooth.
Recipe Source:
Denyse, Garlic Butter, All Recipes,, 12/04/2020
Garlic Aioli Sauce
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 cloves garlic
2 1/2 tbls lemon juice
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
  1. Mix mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe Source:
Jeff and Justine, Garlic Aioli, All Recipes,, 12/01/2020
Garlic Rosemary Bread
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, 110-115 F
2 tsp white sugar
2 tsp fine salt
3 tbls extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tbls dried rosemary
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 head of roasted garlic
extra virgin olive oil for brushing on top and serving
coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top
balsamic vinegar for serving
clean water in spray bottle
  1. In large bowl, Sprinkle yeast into 1 cup warm water. Mix in the sugar and salt. Let sit for about 10 minutes or until it foams. Add in olive oil. Add flour and knead (by hand or stand mixer) for about 10 minutes. Add rosemary, black pepper, and oregano. Knead another 5 minutes. Finally, gently knead in roasted garlic by hand, about 1 minute. Dough should come together well at this point; slightly sticky is fine.
  2. Place dough ball in well oiled bowl, turning dough a few times so that dough surfaces are protected by oil. Tightly cover bowl with cling wrap. Place in warm, draft-free area to rise until dough is doubled, approx. 1 hour, depending on room temp (if your room is cooler, it could take 2 hours.)
  3. After dough is doubled, punch it down and shape into a rounded loaf. Using sharp knife, make a criss-cross design on top. Place rounded loaf on greased baking sheet. Cover up loaf with large mixing bowl inverted over it. Make sure bowl is large enough that it gives your loaf room to rise. Let rise until doubled again, approx 1 hour.
  4. After dough has doubled again, gently brush with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and a bit more rosemary. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes, spraying loaf with water once during the middle of baking. Bump oven up to 425F and spray loaf with water again. Watch carefully – bake just until top is a nice golden brown, taking care not to over bake.
  5. Serve bread fresh and warm, with your favorite blend of good olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and balsamic vinegar! Amy, Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread, Chew Out Loud,, 12/01/2020


We apologize if you find our website a little slow, or just a little glitchy while we carry out the addition of our new web-store. We are presently in the midst of adding a full online store within the Belvedere website with lots of well described beautiful images of each work of art that we offer for sale. The store will have a built-in shopping cart and will offer shipping options so that your purchase can be completed in one smooth, secure transaction. We are excited to make this change and will be announcing the web-store’s completion sometime in the next upcoming weeks.


We are sorry to announce a second Covid-19 store closure due to the rising rate of infection in our region. This upsurge has made it necessary to close our store to the public for the time-being. We will keep close watch on the current situation to keep everyone safe and prevent the virus from spreading. We want to thank you all for your patience and understanding, and we hope you and your families will be safe through the Holidays as we enter into this very difficult period. Just as soon as it is safe to open our doors, we will do so. In the meantime, we will be working behind the scenes to create new work to offer for sale and to make improvements in our workshop and store areas that will make your shopping and creative visits more enjoyable! Thank you so much for “hanging in there” with us while we navigate these very different times. STAY SAFE AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Seven Must-Try Hand Building Projects at Belvedere Arts for Varying Skill Levels

Here at Belvedere Arts Studio, we artists have the pleasure of testing out projects to offer as classes or private lessons. We often start with a sketch book, working up a design and mapping out the necessary processes, but sometimes we find projects that have been done before and we reinvent them, putting our own spin on them. Once we have a plan, one or two of us go to town making the project in the studio, taking notes and photos as we go so that we can review afterward what skill level the project is and how we can streamline any parts of the process for our students.

Below are seven projects that you could try your hand at in our studio, which we have rated as beginner, intermediate, and advanced:

  1. Teapot (Advanced)
    This teapot is so whimsical and fun to look at! It is made using a pinch pot technique, but joining the forms is a little bit challenging for those new to clay work. With basic skills under your belt, we can teach you how to get a consistent thickness, control the shape of the form and add the surface details that will make your creation really special.

  2. Architecture (Intermediate/Advanced)
    One of our regular patrons had been making small houses from oven-fire clay and was interested in learning to make them more elaborate and sturdy using stoneware clay designed for hand-building. She had a specific interest in historical European type houses, so we developed a class to explore this subject. It was so interesting to see how different everyone’s buildings turned out! Using a simple two-dimensional drawing, you can create a tar-paper pattern and cut the components of your building out from a leather-hard slab of clay. The fun part comes after all the joining of pieces is completed when you add details and embellishments and finally paint on underglazes, oxides, and glazes to your finished work.

    Handbuilt Mug

  3. Coffee Mug (Beginner/Intermediate)
    We don’t know about you, but we feel that you can never have too many mugs! You can make one for yourself, or give it as a gift (add your own hot cocoa accessories). You will learn how to roll a stamped texture onto slab, cut a pattern, and then join the seams and apply a handle. We will help you find the best glaze to accentuate your chosen texture.

  4. Hump Mold Bowls (Beginner/Intermediate)
    We have wonderful new molds in the studio that make it easy to turn out a consistent, clean product. You will learn to apply a slab to the mold and attach level feet. The beauty of these bowls is that the quiet form lets you go wild with carving designs or painting on graphics with underglaze, or keep it simple with a beautiful glaze.

  5. Pendants (Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced)
    Did you know that you can make gorgeous jewelry from clay? We have a large assortment of beautiful stamps, or get really creative and carefully sculpt your own design to create a one-of-a-kind art piece from our smooth porcelainous clay body.

  6. Fish Chime (Intermediate/Advanced)
    This is a fun project that will yield a lovely addition to your garden. This multi-section “chime” is made with pre-cut tar-paper patterns. You put together the clay pieces that have been embellished using incised roller stamps, the pieces are glazed, fired, and then assembled onto a wire with beads to hang so the sections can move freely and chime in the breeze.

  7. Garden Markers (Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced)
    If you love your garden and you’d like to make some really special markers that will last and last, this project will suit you. It’s simple and fun and great for friends to do together.

    While we aren’t offering formal classes for these projects at this time due to COVID-19, we will be creating classes for them when we can safely gather in the studio again. Please note that these projects require multiple visits to our studio to complete and drying times for items will vary based on size and clay thickness. If you’re interested in doing a project, just email or call us (970) 731-1619 and we can give you specifics as far as how much time each project might take and the costs for each.


Hand-Built Mug
Paint-Your-Own Fun!

Come in to visit us at Belvedere’s Gallery and Workshop! 

Give the Wheel a Whirl!

Masks are required! We are observing social distancing and increased hand -washing.

To visit, just give us a call at (970) 731-1619 and book your time during our regularly scheduled workdays (Weds-Sat from 10-4). Come in to tour the Gallery and see what is offered for sale, or… if you are the creative type, set-up a wheel-throwing session – or maybe get your hands into the clay with a hand-building project in which you’ll be able to create a useful item in a few hours time. We also offer “paint-your-own pottery” experiences which are great for friends and family! We are flexible in our offerings so share your creative wishes and we will do our best to accommodate!

Happy 2020 from Belvedere Arts

Susan Martin-Serra ©, Sunrise in Chromo, CO

On January 15th our gallery hours will be by appointment only. We will be in the workshop Wednesdays through Saturdays 10 AM – 4 PM. Give us a call and we will set up an appointment time just for you to visit us. (970) 731-1619

When you come in, we will give you a tour of our workshop spaces and share stories about us and the other artists we represent. In addition, you will likely catch us making beautiful new art for the upcoming season! As makers, we love, love, love to be creative, making fresh and unique new designs, and then offer them to you for your own personal collection or as gifts for those special people in your life!

Classes and open studio will be ongoing throughout the winter and spring. Our current class schedule is posted on our website (visit classes & workshops section) and sign-ups are presently being taken. Space is limited so don’t wait!

Don’t be shy… come on by! Just give us a call at (970) 731-1619.