Saturday, May 28, 2016

My Beautiful Balloon Basket

Woven clay baskets present some challenges. Because there's a lot of air space, they obviously don't hold up well without support, at least until late leatherhard. Building within a mold is one solution, but gravity works against you: the horizontals stick to the verticals and complicate matters. You can build over a plaster or clay hump mold but then there is a very narrow window between "dry enough to stand on its own" and "oops, shrank too much and cracked around the mold."

Answer? Balloon molds! Balloons come in many shapes and sizes. The great advantage of them is that they are compressable, to accommodate the shrinkage of the clay, and they naturally shrink over time as they lose air. You can leave your clay basket over the mold all the way to bone-dry if you wish. Here's my demo from class:

Like a lot of my demos, I didn't spend a lot of time on spiffying up the details of this pot; mostly I wanted to offer the technique to my students. I used flattened coils, but you could extrude straps if you prefer a more consistent look. It begins with draping the verticals over the balloon. I use short-ish coils, and attached them at the "top" - really the bottom - but you could use longer straps and have them hang down on either side. 

Then I wove the horizontal pieces over and under the verticals. This is much easier than when you are building inside a mold, because you can get the vertical coil entirely out of the way, and put the horizontal piece exactly where you want it. The rubber of the balloon is just tacky enough to hold the coil in place until you put the vertical piece back down. I score and slurry at each contact point (Thanks, Captain Obvious!)

When I have all the cross-pieces laid down, I fold the remaining length of vertical strap over the last horizontal piece.
Last, I attach a flattened coil to be the foot. A thing I did not do, that you should: level this piece while it is still on the balloon! Place a bat or light board on the coil once it is leatherhard, and a level on top of that; shave away clay as needed to balance the bubble.
(Mudtools makes a great tool for doing the shaving. Love this tool!)

 And violet! Or something.Programming note: If you look to the right-hand column near the top, you'll see something new to this blog: a tip jar! I've been blogging less, and in particular have been doing fewer of the labor-intensive tutorial posts, in part because of some business advice that I got: to spend more time on the aspects of my business that generate actual income. (This was good advice! Not to be all TMI [j/k obviously, TMI is pretty much what I do here!] but there is now a comma in the balance of my savings account) I do enjoy sharing techniques and ideas, though, so will continue to do so as time allows. I know most of my readers are potters and clay students, so I completely understand not having a lot of disposable income! But if you find a particular post very helpful, or there's one that you keep coming back to as a reference and wish to show your appreciation, well, the tip jar is there if you need it! One dollar is a customary tip, so we aren't talkin' big bucks. Just click on the image of the jar, it will take you to a Paypal link. Bless you from the bottom of my muddy little heart!

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