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Pottery Ideas - Function and Aesthetic Combined

By Edited Dec 6, 2013 0 0

Pottery ideas can be elusive, popping into your head at the oddest of times, yet nowhere to be found when you finally sit down to work in the pottery studio.   My favorite pieces are functional as well as beautiful, so I try to think of designs that are both useful and at the same time have potential to be works of art. As a result, most of my ideas for new pieces are tableware or dinnerware with a stroke of playfulness or elegance.

I began pottery making roughly 15 years ago.  Although I own a pottery wheel and kiln, and all the things I need to make pottery at home, there isn’t room for them at my current home. I tend to prefer working in a class environment regardless, so I take classes at the local pottery studio. I don’t take a class every session because I don’t always have the time or money to indulge in it.  Nevertheless, even when I’m not in class I like to think about what projects I want to work on next.  Here are some of the pottery ideas I've been considering lately that I am itching to get my hands back in clay to make.

Set of Plates

Our collection of plates is a hodgepodge mixture of two dinner plates previously made by me (hand plates), two remaining dinner plates from an old set, two smaller plates from the same set and three or four other miss matched small plates.  I look forward to the day I can get back on the wheel and dedicate some time to making a full set of plates, maybe four dinner plates and four smaller plates, or just six dinner plates, all matching.  My skill is finally up to where I believe I can make plates that are thin and light and a pleasure to use every day.  Although my husband loves the two plates of mine that we have, I must admit that I prefer our other, commercially made plates.  I know I can make better plates now; I just need the time to sit down at the wheel and do it.

Hand Plate


Simple Pitcher

I once made a pitcher that is surely in my top five favorite pieces, if not my favorite, of all the pottery I have made over the years. The thing I love about it is its elegant, curving form.  The neck comes in small enough that no handle is necessary; rather it is simply held by its slender neck.  The spout was pulled from the thicker clay at the rim and flows smoothly with the rest of the form.  The pitcher itself holds enough water to water a house plant.  I want to make more of these and get good enough at it so I can throw the same form reliably each time.  This form is close to being my signature form.


Round Butter Dish

We always had a handmade, round butter dish out on the table when I was growing up.  When I got interested in pottery, and got good enough, a round butter dish was one of the first nicer pieces I made.  Since then, the original dish we had must have broken along the way.  My mom still has the dish I made, top and bottom, along with the tray that went with the original.  Although I like the dish I made years ago, some things about it  bother me. The shape and smoothness of the curve is not just right, but has a small ridge where I stopped trimming. The thickness of the top bell-shaped cover is not uniform but thicker near the top. The knob is a bit too small and thin to feel just right in your fingers. Finally, the glaze job is not very creative, or very attractive for that matter.

I actually made another of round butter dish in the last pottery class I took, but I never was able to finish it.  It is much lighter and more refined than the first one I made, but it sits as bisque ware up in a cupboard in my kitchen waiting to be finished.

round butter dish


Plant Tiles

I have made tiles with the impressions of leaves and flowers in the past and used them as coasters, but have given most of them away.  A friend and fellow potter has also made some beautiful tiles by pressing various plants into the clay.  The cool thing about her tiles is that she used specimens she collected in her botany class and painted them to match the actual plants. She can spout off the names and scientific names of each.

What I plan to do is make impressions of some of my favorite native plants and write the names beneath.  These may function, again, as coasters, but what I really want to do is install them as accent tiles in my kitchen.  Of course, I will need a kitchen that I actually own first.


Child’s Mug with Creature

When I was a kid, I had a mug that was mostly just a standard white mug, but inside, it had an alligator figure sitting there looking up at me.  I loved drinking hot chocolate in it.  At first, it appeared like any old mug, but as I drank and the level of liquid receded, something began to emerge.  With every sip, I could see more of this little green friend, until finally the whole alligator was visible.

I recreated this mug, or at least the idea of it, in a ceramic class in college, but with a dragon instead of an alligator.   Sadly, it was thrown away with some of my other pieces at the end of the semester because I failed to pick them up on time.  We were warned that this would happen, so I was careful to get there by the end of the day to collect my things, even though I had woken up with the flu that morning and was feeling quite sick.  As it turned out, we were supposed to pick up our pieces that morning, not by the end of the day, and all of my pieces had been thrown in the dumpster and shattered.  I was quite upset, to say the least. For me though, pottery is about the process as well as the final pieces. I can make all of those pieces, or at least pieces with their essence, again if I wish.


These are a few of the pottery ideas that I am contemplating for my next ceramics class. My goal with all of them is the same as it usually is with me and pottery: to make aesthetically pleasing, functional pottery that I will want to use day after day.  The thing I love about pottery is that it is an art form but it is also functional ware.  I don’t care much for purely decorative ceramics.  Don’t get me wrong, I can and do appreciate them, but I don’t care to own them.  What I love are the beautiful pieces that are actually used, not just sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.  This functional aspect, for me, adds another layer of aesthetic to the piece, a tactile aesthetic that is not only appreciated, but becomes  integral to our daily rituals.



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