Beyond pinch pots
October 3, 2010 2:39 PM   Subscribe

What are some practical or unique things I can make during pottery class?

I'll be taking pottery classes soon that give students a lot of freedom to make whatever they want, wheel or hand-building, any type of clay. I've taken classes before and have made my share of pinch pots, so I'm looking for more unique things I can make. Examples of ideas I'm looking for are berry colanders, rice bowls, even something like these ceramic bells.
posted by belau to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The most impressive and satisfying project I ever made when I was taking pottery classes was a wheel-thrown teapot!
posted by ootandaboot at 2:51 PM on October 3, 2010

I liked making a salt/sugar box, the kind you can keep on your kitchen counter with a tiny spoon inside for convenient use when cooking or making tea. I made mine look like a strawberry (self-link photo). Boxes are fun to make in general, a lot more sophisticated than pinch pots. That one was a hollowed-out ball of clay, and we also made soft-slab and hard-slab boxes.

But my favorite project was hand-building coffee/tea mugs. It surprisingly requires a lot of skill to make a really great comfortable mug, and all the not-so-good ones made in the process are still useful! You can aim for an espresso shape, a latte shape, a store-bought mug shape, etc. (Another self-link with a few of mine.)
posted by dreamyshade at 2:56 PM on October 3, 2010

How about an egg white separator?
posted by jaimev at 2:56 PM on October 3, 2010

A sake set would be very cool.
posted by headnsouth at 2:57 PM on October 3, 2010

Ashtrays! (Just kidding.)

Back in high school we did an "empty bowls" fundraiser, where we made a whole bunch of ceramic bows, made them pretty, then sold them at exorbitant prices at a soup dinner to raise money for the food bank. It was great.

I made probably 50 bowls that semester, but my favorite ones were a series I made of Wizard of Oz characters. The Dorothy bowl was painted blue gingham and had pigtails on top, and I made tiny, red shoes to put in the bottom as a "surprise" when you finished your food. The Tin Man was silver, had the hat, and a heart. Scarecrow, straw hair, hat, diploma. And so on. I don't have a picture, but here's a quick mspaint to show you the general idea because it's hard to convey with words: picture. In short, each of the character bowls looked sort of like the character and had an object in the bottom that related to the character in some way. (Lion: medal of honor, WWotW: hourglass. Toto: bone. If I had had more time I would have made Glenda and the Wizard, but, sadly, I didn't.) The bowls are all finished, so you can eat out of them/clean them just fine, they're just really over the top. And don't store well.

Anyway, the result was awesome, and if I had the materials, I'd totally do it again but with Star Wars characters. Yoda ears! On a bowl! Or imagine eating cheerios out of Chewbacca! So silly! Guaranteed to keep you busy and creative.
posted by phunniemee at 3:08 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I made really cool, funky, house numbers in one of my classes.
posted by kimdog at 3:21 PM on October 3, 2010

Here's a handout by Val Cushing with many, many ideas for aspiring potters that I dug up and scanned in (poorly) just for you. Enjoy!
posted by 1f2frfbf at 3:30 PM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

I was going to say ashtray. My friend made a party ashtray. It's like the regular ashtray, with little Us for a few cigarettes, only it was shaped like this big hourglass, so that the ash fell down the vortex and landed at the bottom. Also, instead of like 10-15 cigarettes this thing could easily accommodate 200+ cigarettes. Enormous, 20" tall ashtray. Square, but with this funnel like midsection down to the base. Mirror black finish.

Party ashtray.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:40 PM on October 3, 2010

As soon as I take a pottery class I'm going to make myself one of those butter crocks that can sit out on the counter. I've heard them referred to as Butter Bells. The butter goes in a little bell in the lid and water goes in the base, then when you put the lid on the butter is sealed from the air but stays room temperature for spread-ability.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:50 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

wacky houses
posted by lakersfan1222 at 4:23 PM on October 3, 2010

Someday I plan to make a washstand set where the toothbrush holder is easy to clean out and the soap dish drains properly (I hate a mushy bar of soap).

Also a pair of lamp bases would be cool.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:29 PM on October 3, 2010

how about a salt pig?
posted by kerning at 4:40 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing the butter bell, or a rectangular block butter dish for the fridge.

Sets of (cups/bowls/plates/little condiment dishes/tea set). Maybe a xsalt pigx (oh kerning got this on preview). Light switch covers? Serving trays/platters with handles? Altering thrown forms and handbuilding with those makes for some neat shapes (gravy boat).

I am not a fan of the colanders bc even though they are pretty, they need to be somewhat thick to be durable enough to get clunked around, which usually means heavy, and that's a functional minus.

Our studio gave students an assignment that produced unique but non functional projects-- take a painting and create it in clay (one girl did the van gogh sunflowers and it was 3 ft high). This is probably not the scale you're looking for though.

One guy threw a giant bowl to be installed as a bathroom sink.
posted by tangaroo at 4:50 PM on October 3, 2010

I love this work of art (detail), made from hundreds of colorful ceramic shells strung on a line. A smaller version could be wearable - or a musical instrument.
posted by moonmilk at 5:11 PM on October 3, 2010

I just got back from a street festival and was smitten by some pottery lanterns--they were sort of teardrop shaped, with freeform swirling cutouts to allow light to be transmitted. Tealight holders/pillar candle screens are another idea in a similar vein. I've also always found pottery birdhouses and bird bottles to be trés, trés cute.
posted by drlith at 5:26 PM on October 3, 2010

My kids & I make whistles and tiny furniture. This winter we're going to make a chess set.
posted by bricksNmortar at 5:38 PM on October 3, 2010

Seconding the butter bell.

Flower/house plant pots with attached saucers and built-in drainage holes. Love them. (Although the saucer on that one in the link is too small.)

Ginger grater.
posted by Majorita at 6:14 PM on October 3, 2010

I once saw some pottery olive bowls that I really regret not buying. I like the idea of having a bowl specifically for serving olives to guests - it seems so fancy! The bowls are like two bowls, one set inside the other, so that it has an in-built place to discard the stones. The only ones I could find online are wooden.
posted by lollusc at 6:24 PM on October 3, 2010

Bird house
posted by carmicha at 7:04 PM on October 3, 2010

Seconding whistles! There's a tutorial here or you can google 'clay whistle' to find one you like. You can even decorate your whistles all creative like, and they make cool gifts for anyone over the age of eight or so.
posted by Grafix at 8:19 PM on October 3, 2010

My sister is in high school and has been one of those pottery kids from the get-go. She made me (admittedly it wasn't intentional, but it worked out well) something akin to a large ashtray so I'd have a place on my desk to throw my keys, random pieces of jewelry, a dry cleaning ticket, etc. Basically those little things you have in your hand as you walk in the door at the end of the day. The base of the bowl / tray had a starfish carved into it. It was nice. Unfortunately, it ended up becoming a makeshift ashtray. (& no, I didn't tell her.)

If I took a pottery class, I'd make a skull, paint it, make it as anatomically correct as possible. Or a cup to store pens for my desk. Or a ceramic box-- rectangular, you could remove the top completely, maybe decorate the cover with jewels or a painted design. I'd use the box to store little sentimental things like postcards, letters, random photos, and so on and so forth.
posted by overyourhead at 8:28 PM on October 3, 2010

I love drinking out of ceramic tumblers. I also wish we had a big spoon rest near our stove.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:27 PM on October 3, 2010

Thanks everyone! Lots of great ideas here, which will not only be very helpful for the class but have also inspired me to be more creative.
posted by belau at 5:36 AM on October 4, 2010

Head vases / elegant chia pet pots!
posted by peagood at 7:33 AM on October 4, 2010

ornamental toilet
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:56 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

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