So one of my favorite hobbies is pottery. Now before you start envisioning me at a wheel, let me correct that for you. I can’t throw on the wheel. I’ve taken classes and tried to learn, but i just don’t seem to have the touch. One of the first projects i learned to do with clay was a Leaf Platter. It is easy, fun, and makes a great gift.
Fair warning, this is real kiln fired white clay. Also to make it food safe you will need to glaze it. This means that this project requires you to have access to a kiln. I do own my own kiln, however before i acquired it i was a frequent visitor to my local arts and craft shop.
So what are you going to need? Well for starts clay, i used a standard low fire white clay.Also leaves (which ever type you like, but you want fresh green ones so they don’t crumble on you), some clay working tools (most importantly a needle tool), plus a rolling pin, a slab roller (if you don’t have one, you can make do with a rolling pin), plastic sheeting, a moulding frame (or you can use a clear plastic platter, i found one at the dollar store), a sponge, and a green scrubbing sponge.
Step 1, using your slab roller, roll you clay out to about 3/8 inch thickness. This is thick enough to handle light carving with out cracking while still being thin enough to dry evenly and be easily fired.
Step 2, place your leaves on your platter. For this platter i chose to place the leaves in regular repeating pattern, but for others i have done a random pattern. Most importantly, make sure you like it. 2 important things to remember. 1) you are going to want to make sure you put your leaves vain side down, this way the venation of your leaf will be preserved in your platter. 2) try to get your leaves to go all the way to the edge, right now you don’t know exactly where you will be cutting the clay.
Step 3, place your plastic wrap over your clay and leaves and gently roll with the rolling pin. No for this platter, i crinkled up my wrap so i would have texture in my final platter, but if you don’t want that pull yours flat.
Step 4, using your needle tool, gently out line each leaf. While rolling the leaves imprinted them into the clay, out lining them will help them stand out and hold in glaze in case you do what i usually do, and glaze the leaves a different color from the background. After you out line your leaves pull them up (i recommend outlining a leaf then pulling it up so you know exactly which leaves have been out lined and which haven’t). You can toss them now or compost them, but they really can’t be used for a second platter.
Step 5, gently lift your clay and drape it over the moulding frame. I always put my frame on a piece of ply wood so i can move it around. Also i lift the ply wood and drop it about 4-6 inches to help the clay settle into the frame with out getting finger prints all over the design.
(I forgot to take pictures of these steps)
Step 8, when the platter is dry “sand” it by gently rubbing it with a green dish scrubber. The harder you scrub the smoother the platter will be but the more detail you will lose. Because i wanted a more natural look i only lightly sanded it down to remove rough edges.
Step 9, FIRE YOUR CLAY!!! Make sure that you follow your clay manufactures directions. Different clay fires at different temperatures. Also NEVER use a kiln indoors, or when it’s raining. Make sure you follow your kiln manufactures instructions to the letter. Seriously, people have died doing this, BE CAREFUL!!!
Step 10, Glazing. Choose your glaze and apply it per manufactures instructions. I like to use brush on glaze because i get so much control, it is however the most time consuming way to glaze. Point to remember, glaze always changes color when fired, how much it changes varies from glaze to glaze, so chose your glaze based on the finished sample, not the liquid in the jar. Also, as with your first firing, follow manufactures instructions exactly. Glaze almost always fires at a higher temperature than bisque (that is plain, un glazed clay).
This is obviously not the platter from the earlier pictures. I forgot to take pictures of it and then i gave it to a friend for a house warming gift. I wanted to show you these pictures so you could see a different pattern and leaf, and also so you can see how cool the vain patterns look when glazed with a translucent glaze.
Let me know what you think and let me know any ideas you have.