Last summer, in a moment of temporary insanity, I agreed to volunteer my Sundays in January to make bowls with 25 or so K-9th graders at the Unitarian Universalist church. There will be a soup-supper in February where the bowls will be sold (full of soup) and the profits will go to local food banks and soup kitchens.

I asked for and got advice and ideas from potters on the clayart list, which I am looking over for future projects, but for the first class I decided to use a tried and true technique. This is a picture of a few of the 28 bowls we produced last Sunday.

I found cheap plastic bowls (four for a buck) at the grocery store, and Jeff used the belt sander to grind off the flimsy foot ring. Turned upside down, these became cheap and plentiful hump molds.

I used a round cutter about 5 inches across to cut each kid a circle from a thick slab of white (buff) stoneware. I made a stack of paper plates with a clay “cookie” on each one, sandwiched between squares of plastic wrap.

When I got to class, I gave each seated kid a plate with a clay cookie on it, and put a big chunk of dark brown clay in the middle of each table. After explaining what we were going to do, I helped them make very thin little “snakes” and tiny balls out of clay. They pressed the darker clay into the “cookies” to make designs, and when they were done, I came around with a rolling pin. I put plastic wrap over the design, and gently rolled it flat in several directions.

If the dark lines got too “squished” or too fat, (like fingers on a hand that blend to make a mitten), they can then go back with bits of white clay to clarify the line, and we’d roll again. Some kids made bullseye dots by varying light, then dark clay.

The finished cookie, still covered with plastic, was then put design-side-down on the bottom of the plastic bowl. The plastic wrap was peeled off the back, and the kids used coils, slabs and balls of clay to build the sides of the bowl, paddling them thin with wooden spoons.

They finished bowls by adding a coil ring (scored and slipped) or balls, or other inventive feet. The littler kids just left them flat. I had everybody dig through a bowl of dry ABC noodles to find the letters of their names to press into the bottoms of the bowls. The noodles will fire out in the bisque kiln and leave an imprinted signature.

In the time remaining many kids made roulettes and stamps to be bisqued for texturing the next bowls.

I’ll post the next batch when I bring them home to fire.