Updated: Sep 14, 2022
I wanted to start off with plates as they were the first things I ever made at home and don’t require joints to make so are a little easier to get your head around!
Tools you need:
Rolling pin (wooden)
2x Guides (around 3mm thickness)
Bowl of water
Matt (not necessary but protects surfaces in your home!)
plastic bag filled with flour
Step 1: Wedging (skip this step if using air drying clay)
Begin by wedging you’re clay. Click here to learn how to wedge clay.
Don’t push downwards too hard. You want to use momentum to push down and away so that it rolls on itself.
If the top part of the clay seems to be growing wider and wider, just slap it back into a shorter, fatter shape so that your hand can fit around it.
Step 2: Linen
Pick your clay up and place it on top of your piece of flat linen. Place your guides down in the same position again and just give one last roll out on the clay. After this you can remove the guides and the rolling pin to give you more space.
Step 3: Rolling out
For this stage you need to place your guides on either side of your clay. Use your rolling pin to start rolling out the clay, and make sure the rolling pin is always going over your guides. Remember, your guides are there to help maintain an even thickness through your rolled out piece of clay, so if you rolling pin isn’t over them you could put uneven pressure on your clay when you roll it out and that would cause it to be thinner in some areas and thicker in others. Every so often pick your clay up, flip it over and change its direction and continue rolling over it. This helps prevent it from warping and is extremely important, especially when making plates as they tend to warp in the kiln because they have the largest surface area touching the kiln shelves. Keep rolling the clay out until it is completely flat and your rolling pin is just gliding over the guides and your clay is no longer stretching out.
Step 4: Compressing
You will now need your metal kidney. You hold this with the flat part facing towards your hand and the rounded edge towards the clay. Hold it with four fingers on top and your thumb underneath. You want to hold this on top of the clay so that your four fingers are facing upwards and your thumb is facing the clay. Put a bit of pressure from your four fingers so that the tip of the kidney is flat against the clay. Now you want to swipe this access the clay in all directions, making sure to not press too hard on the edge of the clay so that you don’t lose the thickness of the edge of the clay. This stage is important because if any air bubbles are still trapped in the clay after wedging they will appear at this stage. This will come to the surface as what looks like a pimple, and like a pimple you want to burst them! If you need to dig a little to burst them, don’t worry, just use the kidney to smooth it over afterwords. Keep doing this until the surface of the clay is smooth and you have no air bubbles.
Step 5: Template cutting
Now you can get your pre cut template and position it over the clay. You Can then take your scalpel and cut around it. Pull the excess clay away and you are left with you plate shape.
Step 6: Shaping
Now that you have your shape in front of you. Start by putting four fingers under the rim of this shape and keep your thumb on the other side of it. Here you can either decide to bend the rim up fully to create 90º angle or you can just slightly raise the rim off the linen. Once you’ve chosen the finish for you place you can use your sponge to tidy up the plate.
You can wet the sponge (just make sure to ring it out so that its just damp to touch) and use it to wipe away any finger
marks or scuffs in the surface of the plate. You can also use it to thin out the rim of the plate by holding the sponge over the rim, and applying pressure lightly so slowly thin it out.
Step 7: Finish
Once you are happy with you plate you can fill a plastic bag or a sandwich bag with some flour (enough to weight the plate down). Move the plate to a place that you don’t mind leaving it dry on without being moved for 2 weeks. Place the weighted flower bag over it (avoiding crushing the rims) and cover it with a cut open plastic bag so that it can stay in a humid environment to dry.
It usually take 1 - 2 weeks to fully dry out, depending on the time of year and how damp the room is. Once it is bone dry you can take it to a kiln to fire it.
Taa daa! You’ve made your first plate.