My recent posts were about putting handles on cups and turning bowls, each of which made use of the appropriate technology. I went on to cups and saucers, which were thrown on the wheel and then turned, and as I was making them I started to wonder if was using the correct method.
Throwing gets to potters: they enjoy it, for many of them it was the fascination of throwing that drew them into pottery in the first place, and however much they do it there will always be the challenge of doing it better. I make on the wheel partly because it is quick, partly because I like it, but partly because a sort of inertia prevents me from investing time and money in a different way of working. Slip casting, even though I know the rudiments, would entail a steep learning curve and because it has its own aesthetic it would call for a revision of my range.
But what about saucers? They are troublesome. A small plate is thrown on a batt and left to stiffen overnight; then a well for the cup is cut into the surface, the saucer is wired off the bat, turned over, placed in a chuck and the foot-ring is cut into the base. The clay has to be soft enough to cut cleanly; too dry and it cannot be done well or fast enough. But a thin saucer – which is what I want, not a great thick lump – distorts when it’s finished and lifted off the chuck.
The appropriate technology for this type of thing is a jigger and jolly machine, shown in use in the video above. Alas, this lovely piece of kit is impractical for me: no room and an outlay of several thousand pounds. Patience and perseverance will have to do for now.