Six hundred grams of clay makes a whopping big mug. In fact, it makes a beer stein. Today I put the handles on 24 beer stein-sized mugs.
Late last week these were thrown, with little to trim away later. A day later, the bottoms were "thumbed off" around the edges to clean them up. This is satisfying. It's just a firm thumb swipe all around the bottom edge to pull off extra clay. It beats trimming with a tool for speed and casual accuracy, and it feels...elemental. A sort of visceral clay-thumb connection takes place.
The mugs were "fluted" after that. I took a loop-shaped tool to the first mug, and swiped a shallow line down the outside, starting at the center of the belly and sliding straight down to the bottom, over curves, like riding a sled with a single runner down a hill. (You have to do this with a sure touch, or what you've done just looks like an uneven gouge.) This move creates an indentation about 1/8" wide and less than 1/16" deep. Smooth little glides of clay come off the loop tool as you go along. Then- this is a nice contemplative action- I followed the first swipe with another beside it, then another, all around the mug. The lines go marching, the potter gets in the zone, and this is called "fluting".
Fluting was followed by sponging off. Cutting a flute in a soft-ish pot leaves little burrs of clay along the cuts. A well squeezed-out sponge moving up and down swipes the burrs away and leaves clean lines that will not be sharp-edged after they've been fired. A nice upward delicate swipe gives the top of each flute a little arch. I know I'm getting into the minutiae of the flute here, but hey, I'm alone in the studio much of the day, I ought to find my work engrossing. Flutes are more interesting than my navel for gazing purposes.
By the time I was done thumbing and fluting, the day was at an end and so was the work week. About 8 pieces of dry cleaner plastic covered the board of mug bodies for a couple of days. I couldn't get to them, but they were on my mind. Well, thinking of unfinished mugs beats worrying about my kids, traveling in Cambodia and Laos on vacation.
Thumbing. Fluting. Now, pulling handles. Today was handle day. The Muggi Jumbo-issimi needed sturdy handles. 16 to 20 ounces of fluid have to be held up comfortably. Even if your wrist gives out from the weight, the handle should be up to the task. I paused to consider the length and width of handles required. Then, with a couple of long boards set up to take the handles as I made 'em, I "pulled" 24 handles, plus a few spares in case.
Finally, I applied the handles, and added thumb rests to top each one. Re-covered lightly with plastic in my new, improvised damp cabinet (baker's rack plus plastic- thanks, Dirtkicker Pottery, for the idea!), the mugs and handles are downstairs communing with one another and exchanging body fluids... I mean, evening out the dampness between body and handle, so they will not crack apart by drying too quickly. (But who knows what really goes on when the mugs are mugging alone together downstairs.) Now I can think of what I would like to make next. I think it will be other sorts of mugs and cups. My website needs a design-a-mug page and I want to give the people photos of their size-shape-color-handle type options!
Engrossing, muggy First of June, 2010.