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How To Handbuild Large Pots: Helen Charles Workshop

How To Handbuild Large Pots:  Helen Charles Workshop

I recently attended a workshop taught by Helen Charles on handbuilding large vessels.  The workshop was offered by the Gold Coast Potters Association with Lynette Rogers as the convenor.  Short version:   IT WAS AWESOME!!!!

I never actually WANTED to hand build GIANT POTS!  I am a thrower!

But when I saw the offering, I signed up!  I really didn’t think much about what I wanted to make and there in lies the problem!  I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to make!

My Drawing of the Pot I Hoped to Make and the Measurements.

My Drawing of the Pot I Hoped to Make and the Measurements.

So I quickly made a drawing on the back of the workshop handout!

Once we had decided on what we wanted to make, we then had to MEASURE the drawing!  Cripes! Maths!  Hate math!  But…I did it! By multiplying each measurement by an increment (I did 3), the final pot will be, say 3 times, as large as the drawing.  Works like a champ!

Helen Charles Demonstrating The Process Of Drawing Your Pot and Measuring It.  Her Pots Are On the Right Side of the Photo.

Helen Charles Demonstrating The Process Of Drawing Your Pot and Measuring It. Her Pots Are On the Right Side of the Photo.

And…that is ONE of the secrets to successful large pot building!  We had to measure each step of the way and then correct if we were off course.

BRT Clay Worked Great!

BRT Clay Worked Great!

The other secret was to use BRT-a groggy raku clay that didn’t need slipping or scoring!

The final secret is to dry the pot as you are building it with a gas burner.  This permits you to work more quickly and the pot can sustain the weight of each addition of clay.

Helen Charles Demonstrating Drying Your Pot with a Gas Burner.

Helen Charles Demonstrating Drying Your Pot with a Gas Burner.

Helen Charles Demonstrating Drying Your Pot with a Gas Burner.

Helen Charles Demonstrating Drying Your Pot with a Gas Burner.

The pot is built by rolling out coils, then flattening them with a rolling pin.  These are then attached to the pot.

Helen Charles Making Coils.

Helen Charles Making Coils.

 

Helen Charles Demonstrating Rolling Out Coils to Make Slab Coils.

Helen Charles Demonstrating Rolling Out Coils to Make Slab Coils.

Blog Tip:  On any of these small pics, just click on them and it takes you to a larger pic and then it will run a slide show of the pics in that group.

Here is my pot and the progression of building it:

Ultimately, I had to have the MASTER!!! help me out as it had gotten off course!

Helen is a genius and helped me re-engineer my pot.  She also SAVED!! several other pots!

Here are all the pots at the halfway point:

Here are pots in progress:

Here are pots being presented and critiqued by Helen and the group:

Helen Charles class is awesome!  I highly recommend it!

One of the most enviable students was a total newbie to clay, Camilla.

Camilla (first time potter!) with her lovely large potato chip bowl!

Camilla (first time potter!) with her lovely large potato chip bowl!

She built the most amazing large bowl!  I told her that she should be very proud of herself as most people’s first pot is an ash tray (at best!).  In fact, that is what I want to make next!  A great big bowl.

So I went to Picasso’s Ceramics and Brad loaded me up some BRT!!!

Pot on, my pretties!

Click here for more fantastic blogs on pottery at Mud Colony.

Written by Marian Williams

14 Comments

  1. Camilla · July 5, 2013

    We did have a fabulous weekend and I still can’t believe I made a pot 🙂

  2. Christine Covert · July 5, 2013

    Sounds like a wonderful workshop and great results including your thorough documentation.

  3. Julie Sieving · July 5, 2013

    Love it Marian, thanks for the great information and pictures. So how long to dry and how did you fire them.?

    • Marian Williams · July 16, 2013

      They are drying for 3 weeks, then fired in kiln at Gold Coast Potters- glazing will depend on shrinkage- if it will fit in my kiln??!!

  4. Kirsten Hague · July 6, 2013

    Thanks Marian, you have really captured our progress. it was a fantastic weekend. I had a ball.

  5. Georgia · July 10, 2013

    Wow good fun, and a great record of it! I wouldn’t mind finding a gas torch after seeing those pics …

  6. Bentham Pottery · July 13, 2013

    Great course! Id love to see the pots glazed. Did you just share one gas burner between the whole group?

    • Marian Williams · July 16, 2013

      Thanks! Ill try to get pics of the pots glazed! Yes, we all used the same burner- worked fine as it doesn’t take long and we all needed it at different times!

  7. FutureRelicsGallery · July 16, 2013

    Great pots. I like the idea of measuring your sketch, brilliant.

    • Marian Williams · July 16, 2013

      Yes, the measuring really helps! However, I just made a big bowl-and it DOES NOT look like the sketch! So it helps, but staying on course is the trick!!!

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  9. Ann Schrader · August 23, 2013

    They all look incredible! I’ve built quite a few larger pots, but used smaller coils. Takes forever. I also only get to work on my stuff nights and weekends. I’ve been wanting to try the flattened coils. How how thin did you roll them out to?

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