Most of our ceramics students focus on the wheel for creating bowls or cups. However, ever since the middle of the year last year, I have been working with slabs. I fell and cut my hands really badly and could not throw for some time. This forced me to try something new. After being forced, as if by fate, to make slabs, I embraced it.

When my injury happened, I was in Honors Ceramics, and we could design our own projects. I decided to create a suit of armor. Doing this taught me so much about working with slabs. I experienced how delicate they were, how to strengthen them, and how to make them not explode in the kiln. It turns out that stacking slabs on top of each other and firing them is not a good idea—they blow up. However, the sword that this happened to actually ended up looking cool in a bunch of different pieces, after being arranged back into a sword like a giant puzzle. This experience taught me how to attach slabs together, and to make sure there were no air pockets in the connected area.

The first part of the armor I made was the helmet. This was like making a 3D puzzle. Each piece had to stand on its own and be able to hold up another piece that was similar to its own weight. This process would definitely have been easier with six hands, but I had to make due with two and it worked out. This was definitely the hardest part about making the armor.

Next I took measurements of my body in order to make the chest plate, shin guards, shoulder pauldrons, arm guards and shin guards. These parts were easier because they were just attaching slabs together and letting them dry in a certain shape.

John’s armor

 

Eventually I had made a wearable suit of armor. Making this armor made me more creative. I had to solve the problems of using slabs that were a lot different than what I was used to with throwing bowls on the wheel. The experience helped me grow as an artist and become more outgoing in the tasks I will take on in the studio.

I am going to bring my different style of art to the event this year. I am going to make slab cups. Making slab cups takes a lot of refining around the edges. Ms. Plows has taught me to pay attention to the edges of the pieces, and will not let me finish a piece until all the edges have been tended to. So to be able to make these cups I have to pay attention to the details, just like the suit of armor. With this different approach I hope to add some diversity in form and technique, and hopefully to teach others another approach to working with clay.

 

Slab-built cups