Don’t let my recent blogging hiatus fool you – I’ve still been trying my best to build my pottery skills to a point where I can make useful items!
One of the projects I started at the end of the Summer term of classes was a series of butter dishes. The kilns at the college reach a relatively low heat of ‘only’ about 1200 degrees celcius, which means that the glazes are not fired enough to become either waterproof or frost-proof. This means that when you are planning your projects, you have to bear this in mind.
I hit on the idea of butter dishes, as the surface of the dish will be sufficiently non-porous to protect the butter, and will look great on the counter in the kitchen or on a shelf in the fridge.
My first butter dish was a total experiment. I rolled out a slab of clay, and, using a longish jam jar covered in paper as a rough mold, I shaped the slab into a butter pat shape. I had to leave the clay to firm up for a little while, and then I was able to fold the edges together to make the end result look a little like a block of butter in its original foil packaging. It was a litle tricky working with a slab in this way, but I was determined to see if it would work! I then used slip to seal the joins, and rolled a second slab to form a base.
To ensure that the top and the base dried evenly without warping, I slotted them together and allowed them to dry slowly, wrapped up in polythene for a few weeks. It was then fired, and painted in a high gloss. I’m delighted with the result! Ok, so it’s a little wobbly around the edges, but surely that’s part of it’s charm!
I learned a lot from making the first butter dish, which came in really handy when I moved onto making more.
For the second butter dish, I wanted to recreate that classic design of a loaf of bread. Learning from my previous difficulties of shaping a single slab of clay, I decided this time to cut one large slab to wrap across the top, and two, smaller, end slabs to fit in at the sides. I let all 3 slabs firm up, and afterwards, it proved much easier to assemble. The structure felt much stronger than it had on the orignal butter dish, as it had been fitted together properly! I made a slightly more decorative base for this one, and again, let them dry together, slowly, under polythene.
Painting this one was fun! I wanted to give the effect of a lovely, golden brown, freshly-baked loaf. I’m really happy with the crust colours, although I was hoping for a slightly less yellowy shade for the bread on the ends. I still think it looks great though. This butter dish is going to be a gift for someone, but I won’t reveal who yet as they might just be reading (I don’t think they read this blog, but I’ll keep quiet, just in case!).
The third and final butter dish for the time being was one that I had wanted to make for my Mum. I remember us having a cow-shaped butter dish when I was a kid, but I felt that my skills weren’t quite up to making a cow at this point! Therefore, I decided on a simple design, accented with a giant curl of butter as a handle on the top.
As you can see from the pictures, my skills are definitely improving by the third attempt! Again, I made this one by cutting several slabs and assembling them once they had firmed. For this one, I kept the base really simple, with a slight lip around the edges.
I’m not sure what you can see from the photograph, but the glaze on this one is gorgeous! It’s a sort of shimmery, iridescent variety of blues, swimming about. I had this idea to paint the base blue, and paint the top in graduating blues, moving up into white at the top. I got started, and was quite happy with how the work was progressing. I wrapped it up to continue work on the following week, but when I returned, the paint had all dried to a uniform colour and I couldn’t see where I was up to!
Therefore, I had to use a damp cloth to gently wipe as much as possible of the existing glaze off, and start again. I then mixed up some blue, white and transparent glaze and painted the whole item, base included, in the same colour, attempting to cover any existing traces of the original glaze work. Finally, I glazed the lovely butter curl in primrose yellow. The result is really fantastic! The blues swim about and catch the light, looking like water. Sadly, even if I put my mind to it, I could probably never mix that same colour again, but anyway the finished effect was a lovely surprise. Pleased as punch!
Every time I open my fridge, I get a tiny spark of delight when I see my hand-made butter dish on the shelf. I think it’s a great way to personalise the kitchen, and I’ve reconciled myself to the fact it’s a bit rough around the edges – perhaps, once my skills improve, I’ll make myself a better one! I’m definitely going to be making more of these, as they are really good fun to plan and create – I would imagine that there’ll be a fair few butter dishes as Christmas pressies this year!