Sunday, February 12, 2017

Making Wine Goblets a step by step guide!

Last week I made some wine goblets on the wheel, and Laura kindly took some photos of me at work to supplement some that I took of the process.

There are a number of ways to make a goblet. It is possible to throw them with a fairly narrow stem all in one piece, or the goblet can be made in two pieces that are later joined together.

I made these goblets in two parts, first throwing a cup shaped bowl for the top of the goblet, then throwing a matching stem and foot.


I begin by putting 3 or 4 kilograms of clay onto the wheel, enough for making several goblets, and make it round by slapping the clay into a ball with the wheel turning slowly. Then, with the wheel turning quickly, I form the clay into a cone shape. I do not have to worry too much about getting the whole mass of clay perfectly centred, but do centre the very top.

(In June 2012 I put together a blog post about centering clay, with a short video of me doing so on a kick wheel, you might find it worth a look if you want help with this.)

I pause for a moment until a door knob sized amount of clay is running perfectly centred in my right hand.

Then I push both thumbs into the clay at the top and carefully form a bowl shape.
I give the clay just below the bowl a little squeeze to form the foot of the bowl.

With the wheel turning more slowly I open the bowl further with both my thumbs on the inside, and my fingers on the outside. This is one of the few times I would use my hands at "10 o’clock" when looking down on the wheel. In this position the thumbs open the bowl with just the right curvature inside and compress the base of the bowl well as they do this. I find it essential to have my hands in contact with each other.

Now I pull the bowl wider still from centre to 4 o’clock with my fingers on the inside.

And then do the final shaping with left hand fingers on the inside of the bowl, and the right hand fingers lifting the clay gently on the outside. My hands are still in light contact with each other.

Most of the forming of a small bowl like this is done with the fingers, but I like to do a gentle tidy up of the outside with a wooden knife, really just removing some of the sloppy surface slurry. It is probably more common to use a wooden rib or rubber kidney for this job, I just prefer the knife for something this small. Notice I am keeping the rim running true with very light pressure from the finger of my left hand, whilst working outside with the wooden knife held in my right.

I also gently use this tool on the inside around the top whilst supporting the outside lightly with my left hand.

Then compress and gently smooth the rim of the bowl with some leather (chamois leather known as "Shammy").

 Using cotton thread, I cut off the bowl from the mound of clay.

 And carry the bowl with the first and second fingers of both hands.

These bowls are destined to become goblets, so I make a matching stem for each bowl as I work. The stems are made the same way as the bowls, but are more cone shaped, and I keep the clay slightly thicker, especially at the rim.


The bowl and stem of the goblet need to firm up a little. Usually I would leave such things overnight and do the final assembly the following morning, but I found that I could move the process along with a hot air gun. I kept the work rotating slowly on the wheel and dried it to the point where the surface shine had just gone off.

 I place the stem on a little wheel that I use mostly for decorating.

Using a toothed metal kidney I scratch into the clay where it will be joined to the bowl. I like to cross hatch the scratches.

I brush on some water. The water that accumulates on the potter's wheel when the bowls and stems are made is good for this.

 I scratched the bottom of the bowl with the metal kidney, and made it just a hint damp with the water (you really don't need much).

The bowl is offered to the stem. First touching one edge then bringing it level helps expel any trapped air.

The bowl is given good wriggle until the clay grips the stem.

 I centre the goblet on the wheel. With the wheel turning slowly I make certain that the bowl was running true to the stem.

I use the knife to help weld the bowl and stem together -

quite roughly smearing from top to bottom.

I finish the join with light finger pressure, then stop the wheel and add my potter's mark to the foot.

On a Personal Note.

I had some problems with the shoulder after surgery and my recovery was slower than expected, but, on the advice of a friend, I started seeing a Chiropractor late December, who has been able to help me a great deal, particularly in reducing pain (I'll put in a little promo here for Stacey Medway Morgan at Knox Rehabilitation Clinic). I was amazed at how effective an intelligent application of massage and pressure on trigger points was in getting rid of muscle spasms and troubling "knots and tangles", and I am now enjoying being almost pain free for much of the day.

On 17 January I managed to get back to the wheel again for the first time since October's surgery, and I made my first small pot out of very soft clay. It was a rather careful and modest start, but since then I have tried to get into the studio most days, even if it has been for only a short time, and I am starting to really enjoy getting my hands in clay.

I am happy to report that ACC have been very helpful and supportive through this difficult time, and I am very thankful to them.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Christmas 2016

My blog has probably disappeared off Google's radar due to my posting so infrequently. In spite of my silence, I haven't quite forgotten the world of potters and others that blog, and am thankful for the friendships that have sprung up and have been nurtured by this electronic means!

The recovery from the shoulder surgery I had on 10 October, has been more of a roller coaster ride than I would have hoped, in part due to the fact that I developed a frozen shoulder as a complication to the surgery. Night time discomfort has resulted in very poor sleep for the last 10 weeks, which is mostly why I haven't posted on the blog, I often haven't been able to think clearly enough.. In any case, I don't really want this to be a blog full of aches and pains and medical misadventures!

The poppy on the "card" that I put at the start of this post is a plant that is giving me a lot of pleasure at the moment. The petals are paper thin and grey with a red stripe. The flowers only last for a day and I marvel at their beauty and fragility. I love them for taking the trouble to look so lovely, even though their life is so short and apparently inconsequential.

There seems to me to be a Demand on artist in these times to make Art that has a Point to it, it makes a Statement, it seeks to Do something, to have Reason, to be a Voice, to Upset, to Innovate, to have a Brand! I use capitals for these things, because such art hits me about the head and causes it to ache and my soul to shrink and despair.

I am reminded by the poppy that there is value in no value, meaning in no meaning, point in no point!

For me one of the defining qualities of great art, be it literature, painting, music, dance, or what ever, is that it transports us to a place of the soul that is non verbal, boundless, eternal, transcendent.

Happy Christmas!