Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tool Talk - Handles

There has been a lot of talk going on concerning pulling handles and I have to admit that it is my least favorite task in the studio. I haven't pulled a handle in a while so I was avoiding making mugs. But all of the current talk about handles renewed my interest and I actually enjoyed making these. For those of you that are experts, this may be old news, but I know that when I was beginning, I used all of the little tips I could find! So, pulling a handle requires a gentle, patient touch. They say its like milking a cow, but I wouldn't know (even though I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan). I focus on keeping the clay damp and work over a bucket for easy access to water. Then I gently drag my hand with very little pressure, flipping the ball of clay from front to back quite often between pulls to make sure the handle has even thickness and width. I make extra handles because there are always a few that get dented and lose their flow of line. When the handle is longer than necessary, I tip it upside down to set for a while. Take a look at the pic above to see how the handle begins drying in a curve when set this way. Make sure to set them at the edge of a table so the handle can drape loosely without getting distorted.

Once they are set a bit, I cut the top of the handle off of the ball of clay at quite an angle. I attach and then flip the mug upside down so the curve does not get pulled down by gravity. I trim off the end of the handle flat and attach. Then I leave the mug upside down to dry with the handles facing in so they dry a bit slower than the body of the mug. I keep them covered for a day to slow the drying time as well so that the handles do not dry away from the body. It is also a good idea to turn the handles away from the walls of your kiln to avoid shocking them during the firing process.I usually add a little stamp or circle to the bottom of the handle. This not only adds a little design element, but ensures that the handle is stuck on properly. I hope you can find a new little trick in this post because I love buying new ceramic mugs. I have a shelf full of them in my kitchen. Any potters up for a mug swap?


Natalie -- NKP Designs said...

I like your handles!

I was going to show how I do handles on a demo You Tube and when I saw it in editing, I thought it looked, well, inappropriate! LOL! So I chuckled quite a bit at the thread in the etsy mud team forum the other day.

I usually mix together clay from throwing with fresh clay, but it's still quite moist. Then I'm over a bucket of water, wetting my hand each time. When I pull at the clay I usually twist my hand so that the pull is round, so I'm moving both wrists toward each, like two cogs linking together, but toward each other, but pulling down with the pulling hand (if that makes any sense).

I usually put the handle right on the cup. It has to be just the right consistancy though or it droops, which is why I utilize some fresh clay with the wet clay.

I DO have a you tube video on putting a handle on a cup, but I don't know if it is all that helpful now that I think about it.

But again, I think your handles are great!

Pam McFadyen said...

LOL! You would get a lot of hits on that video!!! Your description is very clear. I like the idea of twisting. I'd love to see a video of pulling the handle off the cup. A few people have mentioned it but I don't remember seeing it in action.

Lisa said...

I love this, and you are quite good at making handles so I don't know why you don't like to do it!

Another secret to handle making it the paper towel trick. If you rip a long thin piece of paper towel and attach it on a freshly applied handle, it works to hold it up. Just run your strip of paper towel from the bottom of the handle to top of the handle, to the opposite side of the mug and its the perfect support system. This is helpful when the mug is too soft to set upside down.

Pam McFadyen said...

Thanks Lisa! I haven't heard of that one yet! I'll try it the next time I have softer mugs to work with. Brilliant!

Lisa said...

Awesome! And when I get some more mugs going, i'd love to do a mug swap with you!

Pam McFadyen said...

Lisa, Just let me know and we can discuss a swap. I love using other artists mugs - I am a bit of a mug addict and my shelf could use another new one!