“Thereafter beginning from the left he poured drinks for the other
gods, dipping up from the mixing bowl the sweet nectar.
But among the blessed immortals uncontrollable laughter
went up as they saw Hephaistos bustling about the palace.
Thus thereafter the whole day long until the sun went under
they feasted, nor was anyone’s hunger denied a fair portion,
nor denied the beautifully wrought lyre in the hands of Apollo,
nor the antiphonal sweet sound of the Muses singing. ”
– The Iliad, By Homer, Book 1
The Mixing Bowl
One of the most useful pottery forms (besides common mugs or soup bowls) are mixing bowls. Mixing bowls are diverse and can be used in many ways. A large bowl makes a great centerpiece, like on a kitchen counter or dining table with fruit inside. Large mixing bowls are also useful for baking and mixing recipes, raising bread dough, or soaking beans.
To make a mixing bowl, I start with 8 to 10 lbs. of clay. I knead the clay to get the air pockets out and mold into a cone shape. This makes it easier to center on the wheel. In the past, I have also added smaller lumps of kneaded clay on top of each other to make the cone while it’s on the wheel head.
I then place the large cone on the wheel head and turn the wheel by hand, slapping the cone while rotating the wheel to center it. I stand to throw and have my wheel up on blocks. This helps me prevent back injuries from being hunched over.
Throwing the Bowl
When the lump of clay is centered on the wheel, I cone it up and down a few times to center the clay throughout the whole lump. I then flatten the cone on the top, pushing down to compress the clay. Now it is time to open the clay.
I roll my thumbs in and push down until I have about a 1/2-inch base. I pull the clay out, creating the floor. I still leave the clay narrow (like making a vase) and pull up for height before pulling out. At this point, it is important to compress the sides and rim after each pull up.
Once the height is achieved, I pull out the sides and create the bowl shape the way I like. Sometimes I use a small mirror on the other side to see the shape from the back. Once the shape is how I want it, I then compress the sides and top some. I take a rib and compress and shape the inside, removing any ridges or grooves that could catch a spoon. For this, I use a large throwing rib or a plastic pizza cutter.
Now the inside is compressed and shaped, I cut the top rim with the pin tool to even it out. I then compress the rim and thin it to prepare it to be rolled. I carefully roll the rim over and compress the underside. A rolled rim seems to strengthen the bowl, which helps it keep shape during drying and kiln firings. I cut the bowl off the throwing bat with the wire tool and let it stiffen up.
Drying and Trimming
Once the bowl is stiff enough to handle being flipped, I turn it upside down and expose the bottom to air. It is important to let the bottoms dry first. Once it’s leather hard, I trim the bowl and make sure it has even thickness in both the sides and bottom. Even thickness prevents cracking from uneven drying.
It is possible to speed dry if bottoms are put to heat to dry first. Some set their large bowls upside down in the sun, upright on a kiln lid, or set on metal shelving over a wood stove to heat the bottoms and dry all the way through.
When the bowls are bone dry, they can be loaded into the bisque kiln. Center and top shelves are good for bowls, as they need more even heating. If using a gas kiln, they need to be protected from the direct flame and the kiln needs to be heated slowly until just after red heat. Once the kiln reaches bisque temperature, the bowls should cool slowly to prevent cracking from thermal shock. Now the large bowl is ready to glaze.
Glazing the Bowl
I blow into the large bowl to remove any dust, then fill the bowl to the rim with glaze from a 5-gallon pail after stirring it well with a paint mixer attachment on a drill. Then I dump it out. Depending on the glaze’s gravity, it may need to be done twice if thin. I let the bowl dry completely.
To glaze the outside of the bowl, I dump glaze into a large tub, then hold the bowl upside down and at a slight angle. I dunk the bowl and then turn it straight to create an even glaze line about a 3/4 inch up from the bottom. I pull the bowl out and let it dry. Wait for the drips to stop before carefully turning it upright.
Firing The Bowls
Once dry, the bowl is ready to fire. I make sure no glaze is on the bottom and even up the lines if I need to. I load the bowls in the kiln. For my kiln, a gas firing takes about 6 hours to reach cone 6 or 2223F. The kiln then cools for 24 hours before it is opened and unloaded.
After being unloaded, I check the bowls for cracks. I then wash them out and send them off to their new homes, post them online, or take them to area shops for sale.
I do hope you enjoyed this little post on how bowls are made! Have you tried to make large bowls? How would you use a large mixing bowl? Let us know in the comments!
Creek Road Pottery LLC
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC
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