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With Empty Bowls Utah coming this May, I thought we should share some ideas for making bowls and fun group ideas.  Visit the Empty Bowls forum for more info on Empty Bowls.

Bowls are great for trying new glazes or glaze combos because they have nice angled shoulders along the sides that let glazes run nicely - but without any danger of dripping on the shelf.  Glaze variation ideas include:

Rim dips of a second glaze which allow for a wide variety of combinations - even if your studio or classroom has limited glaze options. 

Running a glaze can be done by drizzling a second glaze along the inside top of the bowl wall to allow it to run down into the bowl in the kiln.

Breaking a glaze is a great effect caused by placing a dry glaze (dry glazes do not usually run) on top of a high gloss/runny glaze.  I the kiln the glossy glaze runs causing the top dry glaze to break apart into cool patterns. 

Bowl by Jim Stewart, Utah potter
Bowls are great for drawing and carving because they can have a wide open form with plenty of interior space for images, or tall walls with space for external imagery. 

Be careful not to put detailed drawings on outside bowl walls that are sloped at an angle.  no one will see all the hard work without pouring their soup on the table.  Drawn or painted images inside the bowl can be seen and are fun to reveal as the food is eaten.

Do not carve inside a bowl where soup will sit.  Carving is hard to clean and creates razor edges that can chip against a metal spoon.  Carving on the outside of the bowl lets the user feel the carving when holding the piece.  This is particularly nice on tea bowls which are made to be held.

Hump mold formed bowl by Dawn Atkin, Utah potterAnd bowls are great for practice because they can be easily made with any technique, wheel throwing, pinch, coil, slump mold, hump mold, etc.  This bowl was made by carving a mold out of recycled clay.  Once the clay was bone dry, it was covered by tissue paper and then a slab of porcelain.  The Porcelain was pressed against the form to get nice corners and then the edges were cut.  A foot was added using strips cut from the same slab.  It was allowed to dry to leather hard then removed from the form.  It was then pierced and finished. 

Watch this page for fun bowl projects to be posted this week - or add you own!


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Crab bowls by Suzanne Storer, Utah artistIn 2004, Utah artist Suzanne Storer donated these whymsical crab bowls to Empty Bowls, Utah.  A simple slopped form cut into great shapes.

A fun class project or group challenge would be to place the names of a dozen animals in a hat.  Each artist pulls an animal from the hat and tries to make a bowl with that shape.  A big part of the challenge is to figure out the features needed to portray that animal.  Everyone knows a giraffe needs a long neck and an elephant needs a trunk - but what makes a shape look like an Armadillo?  How do you get Octopus legs under control to form a bowl shape?  Make the animals a challenge without making it too hard for the artist age group.

The bowls can be made the same way as a Hand Bowl.  I will post instructions for those shortly.


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Hand Bowls - An Elementary Project

If you can make a turkey from an outline of your hand, you can make a Hand Bowl.  You will need:

Small bowl with a flat bottom (paper or styrofoam bowls work for classes.) 
Slab of clay (3/8 inch thick works well)
Pin tool or wooden skewer
Tissue paper or napkin
sponge and bucket of water

Place a sheet of tissue paper or unfolded napkin into the bowl.  Don't worry about some wrinkles.  A spray of water will make the paper more pliable if needed.  It does not matter if the paper is wet or dry for this project.
Place your hand on the slab of clay with fingers slightly apart.  Trace around the hand with the pin tool or skewer.  Once the line is drawn, you can move your hand and complete the line at the arm.  Then go over the line while pressing harder to cut through the clay.

Add any carving or drawing on the top of the hand as desired.

Place the hand into the bowl on top of the tissue paper.  Move it around into a nice form.  (NOTE:  The clay must go inside the bowl so it can shrink when it dries.  If you turn the bowl upside down and place the clay on top, the fingers will crack off as the clay shrinks and breaks against the bowl)

Let dry until leather hard and remove.  The tissue paper will make it easy to remove.  Then pull off the paper.  (A few bits of paper stuck in the clay will not cause any harm.)

Use a wet sponge to rub the corners off all the edges.  Corners can get very sharp when fired, so make sure all edges are rounded and smooth.  The sponge will also remove any fingerprints or smudges in the clay. 

Let dry completely and bisque fire.

Glaze the top of the hand (The bottom will touch the shelf, so it cannot be glazed) and glaze fire.   

This project can be done with other shapes too.  In fact, it is an easy way to do the animal bowl project in the last post.
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