A recent poster on the ceramics mail list, ‘ClayArt’, requested information about making oval plates that were not slump molded. I thought about it a while and took it on as a personal challenge
Different suggestions have been made so far, including, one that I’ve seen Bill van Gilder do, which is kind of tossing the plate outward from opposite sides once cut from the bat to form the oval. I considered a different approach and remember being told at one point about a potter (I think it may have been Warren MacKenzie) who created oval covered dishes by throwing the dish round, then cutting out an even strip from the middle and attaching the sides back together with a slip/score method. I thought I’d try it with the plate.
I started by throwing just a regular plate, leaving enough thickness at the bottom to trim the foot. Once the plate set up enough to flip it over, I trimmed the foot, allowing the clay to be a bit wetter than I’d normally trim, to accomodate the cuts I would make to alter the plate to oval.
Using a straight edge, guide lines were made with a needle tool on either side of the center guide circle that I created with I trimmed the plate. I went over these guide lines, cutting down with a sharp knife, virtually cutting an even strip down the center of the plate.
Each cut end was scored and slip applied to one side only. The two ends of the plate were then pushed firmly together, with the joined area compressed thoroughly with a rib on both the front and back sides of the plate. This gives an oval plate and a finished oval cut foot on the back side.
I’m not sure of the practicality of using oval plates in place settings around the table, but larger pieces might make for interesting platters. They are also rather labor intensive if you’re making up a batch – certainly more than regular thrown plates. I think if I were to do this again, I’d make up a few, bisque them, and use them for slab molds further down the line!