flutes in progress

These are two fluted bud vases I threw and carved this week, both much more precise than my first flute piece. These photos are more blurred than I'd like but I've had a case of nerves and this is my focusing-on-something-else activity. The rear vase was fluted with a ribbon tool, the kind that comes with the beginner's 13-piece pottery tool kit. I love thise ribbon tools- there is a curved end that I use for trimming- that end typically wears so thin that it is no longer a loop- and a squared end, shown below, that makes a nice sharp line. The vase in the foreground was fluted with a Pampered Chef citrus zester. I tend to use it when the clay is wet and it leaves hundreds of rolly-polly strips of mud all over the vase. Works much better if I can make myself wait until the vase is leather hard to use the tool.

Here is my fluting set up. After trimming a foot and using a metal rib to compress the bottom and make it perfectly smooth, I prop the bowl up on nubbins of clay, or if it is a larger piece, I'll use my banding wheel. Since this is a small sauce-sized bowl, I just used a couple of coils of clay. I slice through the outer surface of the clay with the trimming tool, usually going from top to bottom in one breath. If I stop to breathe I wind up with little jags in the flute, so I have to cut a deeper, second cut, like I am here.

I flute my cafe au lait bowls the same way, except I use a tool that's made for making handles- one for mug handles, which I use for small bowls, and one for pitchers or jugs, about 3/4 of an inch wide. With these handlemakers I have to be careful to make shallow cuts or I will cut through the side of the bowl. This is especially a problem for those potters who throw a bit too thin rather than too thickly. Yesterday I cut through three of seven bowls because the walls were a mite too thin to flute- back to the reclaim bucket they go. I try to do these cuts in a single breath as well, or I find that the depth of the cut changes and looks clunky. Yesterday's trimming session was a short one, but I spent twice the time fluting the dozen or so pieces as I did trimming their bottoms.