Making Bowls – Part I Throwing off the Hump – Technical Demonstrations

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Why would someone who has been making pots for nearly 50 years still be making bowls? They are so basic, so simple, and so… well, useful. If you take those three reasons and add that they are truly fun to make, you have my answer.

If you were to assume that the first three reasons are easy, you would be wrong two out of three. I have never found a simple form easy to make…easy to screw up… yes. As every potter knows, almost anything made on a wheel can turn into a bowl, so it is easy and natural. That is where the problem hides. Many bowls more or less form themselves, because that is what happens on a potter’s wheel in lapse moments. The last time I checked in with my clay, it was not in charge, and so forming itself is not an option. Cylinders that become bowls look like what they are…sloppy work of a beginning potter. So simple is difficult when done well.

The basic part of bowl making is also a challenge. All the tasks are truly basic, and so any one of them not properly thought through, or not well done, will lead to a series of failures. In other words, each basic job has to be very well done…skill in action, attention to details over and over and over again.

The useful side is easy. Once all the work is done, the owner just fills it up and gets to enjoy the look and touch of your bowl.

And yes, making bowls is a lot of fun. For me, being at a potter’s wheel is a lot like making babies. The first part is so wonderful, so much fun, and then it is a lot of waiting, hoping, attending and babysitting. In the end, the reward is so satisfying, like the gift that keeps on giving…not bad for a just a little bowl!

By the way, I have always thought of bowls as Fine Works of Art. Simple as that!


A few pictures and additional videos will be posted under in the technical area of this website over the next few weeks.


Harlan House RCA

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