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.