Ceramics at Home: Building Dishes by Hand | Emily Reinhardt | Skillshare

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Ceramics at Home: Building Dishes by Hand

teacher avatar Emily Reinhardt, The Object Enthusiast

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Hand Building: Slump Mold


    • 3.

      Hand Building: Slab Build


    • 4.

      Hand Building: Pinch and Coil


    • 5.

      Prepping Your Pieces for FIre


    • 6.



    • 7.

      Adding Detail and Design


    • 8.

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About This Class

The craft of ceramics is beautiful, but gathering the resources can make it tricky to get started. Enter: hand building!

Join ceramicist Emily Reinhardt in her studio in Kansas City for a beautiful and informative 30-minute class on 3 different ways to make your own ceramic piece by hand (no pottery wheel required). Emily creates 3 dishes from start to finish, using a different building method, clay, and glaze for each — and then adding final painted details to give each piece a personal touch.

If you're curious about what pottery is all about, or just interested in making something beautiful, this class is for you. Throughout the lessons, Emily's work style reveals the simple yet wide breadth of ceramics possibilities, and you'll be sure to want to create your own piece!


Note: In this class, Emily primarily uses her own kiln to fire her pieces. If you are hand-building at home, please seek out a local ceramic studio with a kiln to fire and finish your work.

Meet Your Teacher

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Emily Reinhardt

The Object Enthusiast


Emily aims to find the artful in the ordinary. Since discovering ceramics in college, she delights in creating vessels that will become heirlooms for the modern traditionalist.

Emily's ceramic work is characterized by earthy imperfections, a range of shapes that emerge organically, and playful, irreplicable patterns. I want my pots to be multifunctional; what one person uses as a planter another may use as a home for tiny treasures.

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Emily Reinhardt from The Object Enthusiast. Today, we're in my garage studio where I make finishing fire of my work and we are in Kansas City, Missouri. I started working with clay in 2008 as just a 3-dimensional requirement for my photography major at the time, probably scene of the class, I'd realized that I wanted to be working with ceramics all the time. So, I switched to a major, I started selling my pottery online and it was mostly just stuff that I made in college, so they wanted to get rid of, and just quickly fell in love with what I was doing. I primarily make functional decorative home goods. I sell in a lot of stores across the United States with wholesale accounts, a lot of stores locally in Kansas City, Missouri, and then on my own website www.theobjectenthusiast.com. Today, we're going to be focusing on three different hand building methods, will be making geometric dishes and I encourage you to run with your own shapes and designs. These are some of the methods that I used to make my work and they will lay the groundwork for you to start on your projects. One of the best parts about working with ceramics is all the different ways you can build work, you can use a wheel, you can flip casts. But, hand building focuses mostly on working with your hands and tools and just building with what you have and working right at your table. We're going to be running with a lot of different clays ideas. So, you can dive really deep into this. The sky is the limit with colors and types of clay, but we'll just be focusing on three different clays and three different places and what finishing designs we're going to hope for with each result. These are two of my finished design pieces. One of the things to keep in mind when you're building from the beginning is what you want the finished piece to look like. So, I try to keep in mind the gold accents with silver accents from the start and I design my piece and build it with those things in mind. When you're working on your projects, I encourage you to keep in mind your own place details and design ideas that you want to have as your finished result, that way you can work it into your project and make it your own from the start. 2. Hand Building: Slump Mold: For my first hand-built triangle dish, we're working with a red terracotta clay. We're going to be using a slump mold and we'll be forming the clay into the piece and this just holds our form and keeps our shape uniform as we're working and it'll allow you to recreate multiples that are similar in shape and size and you'll be able to recreate each piece. So, I'm starting with a chunk of the clay, I just cut it right off the top of the bag and I'm going to break off a small piece and I'm really just going to start by flattening it out. I'm using my hand. You're welcome to use a rolling pin or however you want to do it. But it's about, I don't know, an eighth of an inch thick. I'm just going to start piecing it in there and kind of pressing it down. I'll grab another piece of clay and just keep going. This dish, I'm embracing the pinchy texture, so I'm not worried about smoothing out my fingerprints or keeping the edges really uniform and tight. So actually, I'm just pushing this in and I'll be sealing each piece together. You can erase that seam as you go, pull the clay in all directions to get it nice and tight. The corners are always slightly tricky, you'll probably just want to push some clay in there and then you can flatten it out and smooth it to the right thickness as the rest of the dish. Again, I'm purposely leaving these thumb prints and fingerprints into the surface of the clay so that I get this nice hand-built textured look. Once you get almost there, you can make smaller pieces to make the edge a little bit more uniform. So, I can just go in and smooth that out with my thumb. Again, I'm not really, other than this slump mold, I'm not really using any tools. I'm just using my hands and fingers. Cool. Once you have it smoothed out and finished and all of your seams have been attached to the next piece next to it, I try to loosen the edges of the wall just slightly. You might want to use your needle tool to release the edges. There we go. So, you'll see the opposite side, you'll see that all of your seams are still showing. So, just go ahead and do the same thing you did to smooth over. I go in both directions to really get that to attach nicely and close up. Smoothing out these seams on this side will give you the same pinchy texture that you have on this side on the back because right now you're noticing how smooth this is since it was in the mold. This will complete the look of the hand-built triangle dish. Once you've gotten all of your seams smoothed out, you will notice the change in texture on the opposite side, and you can add your logo stamp or your signature or however you like to mark your work. 3. Hand Building: Slab Build: So, for this dish we're working with a porcelain Clay and we're slab building this one. So, I've already rolled out my slab. It's probably about an eighth of an inch thick maybe closer to a fourth of an inch. I'm using homemade templates you can use cookie cutters, you can use anything that's traceable. These I just used a file folder cut shapes, so I'm using my needle tool to cut out and trace around my template and when you're working with a slab this big you're going to be able to make lots of cut outs in one slab. So, this is a great method of quicker production and making multiples that are all the same. So, this time I have a hump mold which is the opposite of my slump mold. And you can buy a lot of these online from ceramics supply stores or you can make your own using found objects or objects you've made yourself. I'm going to go ahead and cut some of the tips of each of my triangles but that's just personal preference, I like to kind of round them off and you can kind of finish yours the way you like it. I'm going to grab a sponge squeeze it out and I'll be smoothing the edges down. You don't have to get it too wet, just enough to let your finger kind of finish the rest. I'm going to smooth the corners kind of get a nice rounded edge there. And you can do some light sanding and sponging when this is dry and when you've finished building it, so you don't have to get it perfect right now. And then with my hump mold, I'll lift my piece up and kind of make sure that it's centered on top of the form, and then you're just going to be pressing down. And you'll go over it a couple times get the corners, get the edges, and if your slab has had enough time to set up this will be really easy to just form and take off. And it'll be holding its shape and you can move right on to the next one. This is kind of how I am able to produce multiples all at once, out of one slab of clay. So, I rolled my slab probably about an hour ago and I had it covered with a light towel and a piece of plastic over the top of it. And I just let my slab set up for about an hour while it's covered. You don't want it to dry out too fast. And that allowed the clay to be a little bit more sturdy and it kind of holds up a little bit better while you're hand building. Since we're not doing any attachments or any complicated forms or coil building with this slab piece, letting it set up for a little while before you work on it is going to be really helpful. It's always a good idea to get your logo or your signature stamped in while it's on the hump. That way you don't Press it in and mess with the shape of the piece. You might also notice some slight cracking if your clay has dried and you can heal those very easily with just a damp sponge and your finger. And then, get your logo stamped on there. Then you're ready for the next one. 4. Hand Building: Pinch and Coil: Once you have a slab ready, this one I went a little bit thicker. Since we're going to be hand-building and pinching on a wall or an edge to this dish, I kind of wanted the base to be a little bit thicker. Then I can also add that pinchy texture to it. Another one of my templates, just a recycled piece of folder and I've covered it and tape to keep the moisture out of it. I'm just tracing my shape here. I'm using a pure black clay here. It looks pretty brown right now but it will fire totally black. Be careful when you're lifting it up so that you don't warp the shape of your dish. It'll kind of stick to your surface. I've also saved a small chunk of clay over here to start using for my walls. This is very rough coiling. So I'm just starting to shape the coil with my hands. And again, for this look of the dish, I'm going for a pinchy, imperfect rim and hand-built texture that you see in it. So I'm not too worried about my coils being perfect coils, but if you want to use an extruder or your own hands to build perfect coils you absolutely can do that. This, I'll sized up. Will go ahead and use that for that wall and will just trim it. You'll be making three kind of rough coils. And those will be the edges of your dish. Again you can go in any shape. If this were a rectangle you could kind of build your walls and you can change the size of this coil so that your walls are taller or thicker. It's whatever look you're after. I always strive for making work that has the maker's touch in it and that imperfect edge in the... I don't have a very steady hand so my designs are all about embracing the imperfections and making things perfectly imperfect. Once I have my coils built, I'm pushing down as I'm pinching the wall. So I'm making it less of a coil and more of a wall on the dish and I'm pushing down as a pinch that wall out and will do that for all three sides. I don't want it to look like I just slapped a coil on there. I want it to flatten out a bit and look more like the edge of a dish. From here, I'll begin to start smoothing that seam out and pinching the wall upward just a little bit. Then you can also see how I will be sealing the inside seam. I'm kind of just like pushing down a portion of the coil. I'll go in and smooth that out with my fingertip, push that all the way down and just kind of clean that up. You'll start to notice your dish is taking shape and you can clean the outside seam too. Then keep pushing that inside one down. We'll get our third roll on here. Then I'm going to go in and fake that pinchy texture on the inside surface here. I'm just going to kind of go in and intentionally add these finger marks. That way it just doesn't look so slab-built and I'm running with that imperfect look. And that's pretty much it. Once you get it to the stage you like it in, you can let it slowly dry. Drying too fast might make things crack. I like to lay a light cloth over my pieces just loosely. Then a piece of plastic over that and let it set up slowly throughout the day and then later tonight I'll take it off and just let it air dry the rest of the way. So from here, we have our three hand-built dishes. The slab-built porcelain the kind of pinched out terra cotta and then this slab and coil built black tray. Once these have fully dried. And these are very wet. These are nowhere close to dry yet. You want it to be totally bone dry. So it'll be a couple of days. After that, you'll bisque fire it and they'll turn to this stage. You can see a noticeable difference between each piece once it's been fired once. Then now that these have been fired they're going to be ready for glaze and finishing techniques. At this stage, your most important piece of equipment is going to be your kilns. A lot of Camille studios and different cities across the world, you'll have access to kilns and you can pay for usage or space that you would use in the kiln. Also, Craigslist is a great place to look for used kilns. If you're willing to get in the car and drive a few hours there are people all over who are selling equipment that they don't need anymore. So finding your own kiln doesn't have to be this expensive brand new purchase. You can use studios in your town or look for a used piece of equipment of your own. 5. Prepping Your Pieces for FIre: One of the more important steps to remember when you're starting a glaze is to know exactly what temperature your clay body fires to, and what temperature your glazes fire to. I always liked to, since I use a lot of commercial blazes, there are so many colors and so many temperatures, and so many textures, and I like to sample out a big batch of glazes by making a test tile and this just allows me to see what the glazes are going to look like on my clay, and I'll get a sample for how they differ from a different clay body or from the glaze if it touches, or drips, or if it moves on my clay as it's firing. You'll get a lot of information from testing things. So before you dive in and glaze all your pots, make sure you know what your results will look like by doing a few tests first. That way, you're not disappointed with your final piece if the glaze doesn't turn out. So, I'm doing like a mid range cone five, cone six firing. I use a lot of different glazes. One of the best parts, this is our porcelain triangle dish that we made, the best part about porcelain is its ability to pick up almost any color, since it's a pure white clean slate, a peach will look really good on it, a light green will look really good on it. But with this black clay, it might vary, or change, or not be as vibrant, or the peach color might not show through. It's just one of the things that you want to test to find out which color and which glaze is going to look best on each dish. But that's kind of the fun part. You're going to get to experiment and see what happens when things are mixed or new results are tried. So, before I glaze, I always wipe down my pots. I don't want to use too much water but I just want to get all the dust off of the surface. So, just a damp sponge and I'm just wiping it clean, making sure I have clean hands as well, and I'll do that to all of my dishes before I glaze them. 6. Glazing: So, I've picked out a few glazed colors. My standby peach is one of my favorites. I also like to sometimes experiment with a low fire glaze on a high fire clay body. So, one of the things I've done lately is seeing what happens when a low fire clay has a low fire glaze on it and then a high fire clay has a low fire glaze on it. The results will change in the kiln and you'll get a lot of different colors or speckles or just variations with the different temperatures of firing. So with the porcelains, since we went with this really smooth slick surface, I like to go with really glossy glazes because it won't pick up any fingerprints, it'll be a smooth coverage, a nice even color coat, and you're going to want to shake, and stir, and mix your glazes thoroughly. Sometimes, they come chunky and bubbly even when they're commercially made. I have a nice brush and I'm going to be doing three coats of glaze on each of my dishes. When I'm doing multiples at a time, I like to lay them out in a line and assembly line production style glaze. So, if I'm doing these three triangles and this peach color, I'll go ahead and do the first coat of glaze on that one, the first coat of glaze on this one. You don't get the edges super perfect yet because we'll go in with a sponge and refine that but just get a nice even coverage over the whole surface. For these small dishes, a brushed on glaze is really nice, because you can control where it's going and they're small enough that it doesn't take you a long time. Again, I just make sure that my coats are even and that I don't have really streaky brush strokes. So, once I've got it coated, I just smooth out those brush strokes gently. In most commercial glazes, the average is three brushed on coats of glaze. If you've been working with some for long enough, you'll know ways that you like it. I have a certain speckled glaze that the instructions say three coats but I prefer only two coats, because I like a little bit less of a speckle look to it. Once you get to know your glazes and how they're supposed to react and act with your clay, you'll get to jump in and control things a little bit more to your liking. But that's where a test tile is always beneficial because you'll get the chance to test a lot of glazes at once and see them all together. There you go. So next, we'll get back to our damp sponge, I squeezed it out as hard as I can. Once your coats have dried, this one's not very dry yet, we will clean the edges off and I like to have a nice crisp glaze line. You can see it on this finished one, there's a very clear line between where the glaze and the clay body meet up. So, I'll take my sponge and since this is a nice straight edge it'll be really easy, and I'm just wiping that away in a nice clean crisp line. I like to turn my sponge, when I've wiped a spot, I'll turn it to a clean spot of the sponge because if I keep wiping with this glazed spot, I might actually just smear the glaze to the bottom of the piece. So, turn your sponge over and find a clean spot, and you'll just keep cleaning the edges. Again, with commercial glazes, the sky is the limit with colors and finishes. You can get a super glossy, you can find a satin, or a matte glaze, and different surface textures will give you a lot of different results. So that one's finished and it'll be ready to load into the kiln for the glazed firing. When your glaze is dry, you can go in with your dry fingertip, and just smooth out any brush strokes that you don't like. That one's ready for the kiln also. I'm going to go ahead and finish glazing these dishes. Since all of my clay is in the same firing range, I'm going to take these to cone five, which is about 2185 degrees. It's a pretty long firing. I like to go slow firing on my glazes, just to get all that moisture out really slowly. We'll get back to these when we're done. 7. Adding Detail and Design: For these dishes, once they've been glazed, I like to use a gold leaf. It's like an imitation gold leaf and it's not something that needs to be fired on, but it is not food safe. So these are decorative dishes only. I do a gold or a silver leaf and then a clear coat of enamel to protect it. I've gone with that because it's a nice smooth surface and I know what to expect with the porcelain dishes with their smooth texture. While these pinchy ones, because of the way we've built it, the glaze will dip into those pinch marks and it will kind of look differently. So this is just a glossy white glaze but you can kind of see some of that pinchy clay texture coming through, which is something I wanted in this dish. I didn't want this perfectly glossy glass-like surface. I'm always striving for that imperfect look. So for these, again, you're going to want to wipe these, and since these dishes have more of a wall than the porcelain ones do, you can kind of tweak the way you glaze. You might want to glaze up to the edge. You might want to glaze over the edge and have a nice line here. I like to go just inside and not on the edge but, again, it's up to you and I encourage you to find the look that your pieces will appreciate. I wipe everything clean before I glaze it, get all the dust off of there. You might get some glaze imperfections if there is a pocket of dust trapped under the glaze during firing. So for these flat porcelain dishes, I use an adhesive size and imitation leaf. So this is the silver option, it's so thin and blustery in the wind here. But it's a nice alternative to the gold luster, which is a little more expensive and requires a third and final firing. This is the premium gold luster that I use. It's about $45 per bottle, and unlike the glaze, it'll only require one coat. Same thing with the adhesive, you can just paint your design on. The adhesive you want to wet dry a little bit and then put the leaf on and then the luster will be your firing. One of the important things to remember when you're working with luster is to wear protection. I usually wear rubber gloves and I also use my respirator. The fumes and it's also a lead based product. It's just not good for skin or breathing in. I like to use a really small detail brush because I'm kind of making these like small dash marks. But if you're after a different design or look you can switch up the size of your brush to suit what you're working on. So one of the important steps before you go in and luster a bunch of dishes would be to test what the luster looks like on the glaze that you're hoping to work with. I haven't tested the luster on all of these places and some of it I'm not confident that it would show up like this crankily Mac glaze. But a good idea would once you have your test tile though or your individual test tiles, you could go in and add a little dash of gold onto each glaze and just make sure that you like the final look of it. Matt glazes or satin glazes might give you more of a Matt gold look, while a glossy white glaze or any glossy glaze would give you more of a glossy gold look. So it'll kind of change based on what your glazed looks like. So once you have a big enough load to fire a luster firing these fire at a much lower temperature than the glaze against it's like Koehne 018 maybe 019, and that roughly is about 1300 degrees Fahrenheit. So these are some of our finished pieces. These are all of our gold leaf and silver leaf pieces that have their clear coat over the top, that just protects it from scratching but again it doesn't make its food safe, so these are great jewelry dishes or decorative dishes for your home. Again I'm running, I'm always running with that imperfect pattern that it's easy to replicate but each one comes out slightly unique because of the just organic nature of the dish or the pattern or the material you're working with. So I focus on keeping it up on the walls and having this pinchy texture and this kind of organic look with the red clay and the deep contrast between the white and the red. Again, with your clay and your glazes and your finishing techniques, your dish can look totally different than this, but could be built the exact same way. 8. More Creative Classes on Skillshare: