By Eliane Medina
Ever since I started working in clay, I focused on making small scale, functional pieces. I never dove much into the world of large scale or sculptural ceramics, because the intimacy of a handheld, useful piece of art was what drew me to pottery. That being said, I’ve had several ideas for larger pieces formulating in my mind, some for years. I’m currently five months away from the end of my two-year assistantship at Rat City Studios, and have decided to use this time to finally attempt to turn these ideas into reality.
Before jumping in to “going big”, I first had to find a new type of clay to work with. I knew the porcelain I had been using for my pots wouldn’t hold up as well as a stoneware. I decided to use the Akio clay body from Tacoma Clay Art Center, as I have known it to work successfully for other ceramic artists. It has a large amount of grog, which would be painful to throw on the wheel with, but makes for a great, stable hand building clay.
My first project to become acquainted with this new clay was making an oversized margarita cup. Believe it or not, this was only a mockup of an even larger piece I have yet to assemble. The gargantuan chalice was coil built, which was also something I hadn’t done much of in the past. In fact, I thought the technique to be one I wasn’t a fan of. I knew my next endeavor would also be coil built, so practicing it first was a great way to get a feel for both the clay and how to adjust my process to work best with it. Turns out, patience is a virtue.
Next on my list was the project I had been most excited about. A toilet. I had made one practice piece and couldn’t wait any longer to get going on the toilet project I had talked about for so long. I was always daunted by the idea and held myself back thinking it needed to be fully functional on my first attempt, which resulted in me never starting. This time, I went for it. I started coil building the base and I built up until the clay was on the verge of collapsing. I would give it some time to stiffen up, and come back to it. I decided to flush away my hang up about functionality and just have fun with this project. It doesn’t need to be a working toilet on my first try! However, as a potter, not giving my pieces some sort of useful purpose tears me apart inside, so along the way I’ve been thinking up other uses for my toilet. It could be a giant planter or some yard art. Maybe a kooky chair of sorts. A bedside table. It helps me keep going. That being said, my toilet is still in process and I am excited to finish it! (Some of my process is available to watch on my youtube channel!)
One more large scale project I have recently started making is a multi-person beverage serving vessel. I couldn’t stay away from the functional pottery for long. I brought out the porcelain again and got my clay back on the wheel. My idea here is to be able to pour a beverage (wine, sangria, lemonade, etc.) into the top of the vessel, and have it pour back out into six cups. Even as a potter, I don’t usually throw more than one to four pounds of clay at once, so this project would be a challenge. I threw this piece in three main sections, plus the six spouts were all wheel thrown as well. The main pieces were all around six to seven pounds of clay to start. Once thrown, they were trimmed and assembled. Throwing large is difficult! My clay definitely got away from me at times and none of these parts are exactly symmetrical. But, in the end, it’s looking satisfactory. Yet another project I am excited to finish and share!
Please let me know if you have any tips and tricks for “going big!” Message me and follow my large scale progress on instagram @artbyeliane