How to Make a Lively Thrown and Altered Teapot on the Pottery Wheel


alteredteapot_620It’s funny that once many potters have mastered throwing beautiful, round pots, they often find themselves wanting to explore some non-round forms. But, of course, it’s great to want to challenge yourself by tackling new forms. There are myriad ways to build non-round forms, but if you love throwing, you’ll probably find that throwing and altering works best for you.

In today’s post, Cheri Glaser demonstrates a lively squared-off teapot project. Not only does she cover throwing and altering forms, but she also shares some other neat techniques, like her thrown slab bottoms and pulled spouts.

Taking a wood-firing workshop was an eye-opening experience. The total attention and commitment to the process, and the warmth and life of the finished pot were considerably satisfying. After building my own 40-cu. ft. fast-fire kiln, my first pieces emerged with the warmth but not the “life.” I had to get to work on the forms and to rethink my production technique.

I started throwing on a treadle wheel and using softer clay. I altered the pieces by distorting them as I removed them from the wheel. I found that by throwing pieces without a bottom, I could make a variety of shapes, including squares, rectangles and triangles. Making the bottom separately allowed me to attach it after forming the main body of the pot. My production cycle lasts until I’ve filled my ware carts with bisqued pots, then I know it’s time to gear up to fire the kiln. It takes me two days to glaze, one day to wad pots and wash shelves, and one day to load. It takes between 12 and 16 hours to fire to cone 10 and I salt around cone 8 with five pounds of salt.

Making the Parts

To make a rectangular teapot, I first throw a disk about ½ inch thick that’s considerably wider than the base of the teapot (figure 1). After cutting the disk off the wheel head, I lift it carefully by the edge and allow it to dangle for a moment
to stretch it (figure 2), then fling it onto a plaster surface with the finger ridges facing up. This elongates the slab. Sometimes I fling it a second time for a more elongated spiral.

For the teapot body, I throw a cylinder on a bat using 2 to 3 pounds of clay. I open it up all the way to the edge of the bat, then I pull up the walls and form a gallery at the top for the lid to sit in. Once a satisfactory shape has been formed, I carefully measure the inside width of the gallery with calipers. I squeeze plenty of water into the form, which allows the walls to slide easily, then I cut it from the bat with a wire a few times. After pushing the sides into a rectangular shape with the palms of my hands, I let the form stiffen up a bit while I throw the lid and pull the spout.

The lid is thrown right-side up off the hump. Since I work in a series of six to eight teapots at a time, I throw a couple of extra lids. Using a second set of calipers calibrated to the first measurement, I measure beneath the flange where the lid
will sit on the gallery (figure 3). I cut the lid off the hump with a twisted wire, and as I lift it up, I give it a slight squeeze beneath the flange to create an oval lid (figure 4). If the round measurements are accurate, the parts should fit together after they are distorted into ovals.

I started pulling spouts for teapots and ewers to eliminate the twisting of a thrown spout after high firing. Pulled spouts allow for longer and more fluid shapes, including S-shapes. I start with a large carrot of clay and insert a dowel lengthwise through the center (figure 5). A tapered wooden dowel is better than a straight one because it gives the fluid stream a better flow in the finished product. Holding the dowel in my left hand (I’m right handed), I start pulling the clay, with plenty of water, in an upward direction (figure 6). I keep wetting the dowel by pulling it out and dunking it in water. It’s important to keep the dowel wet so the clay won’t stick to it. I keep pulling until I get the right size spout for the pot I’m working on. For variety, you can twist the clay while pulling. I then slide the spout onto a board where I shape it into an S (figure 7).

Magic Water

To prevent cracking and separation of parts, I use Magic Water in place of water or slip when attaching pieces. To make your own Magic Water, add 3 tablespoons of sodium silicate and 5 grams of soda ash to 1 gallon of water.


All the pieces come together on day two. I flip the slab over so the spiral is on the bottom. I place the teapot body centered on the slab and draw around the perimeter, then I score the slab and body, slip with Magic Water (figure 8)) and gently squish them together. I use a chopstick with a piece of foam rubber attached with a rubber band to seal the seam on the inside of the pot (figure 9).

I cut the excess clay from the slab and finish off the outer seam, and compress it with a roller (figure 10). Next, the lid is fitted, without too much further adjustment, I hope. If the lid is very shallow, I add a small piece of clay to the back as a catch.

Before adding the spout, I trim the base and carve out the excess clay from the inside of the inside of the spout to create a wider space (figure 11). After cutting the hole from the teapot for the spout, I pinch the edge out a bit to allow greater surface contact with the spout base, then score and slip it into place with Magic Water. Prop the spout until it sets up (figure 12). For the finishing touch, I add the handle, which I pull off the pot and sometimes add coil feet (figure 14).

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