The Process of Making an Oval Bonsai Pot

The following is a video overview and the steps in my process to create an oval bonsai pot from stoneware clay. The most interesting part about creating oval or rounded rectangle bonsai pots, to me, is the combination of both wheel throwing and hand building techniques. This combined process makes for a stronger and more elegant shaped piece than hand building alone.

Step One

The process starts with high quality, commercially prepared stoneware clay that is ready for throwing.

The clay is weighed, wedged and brought to the potter's wheel. On the wheel, the clay is thrown into a round shape, without a floor, to create the rim of the pot only.

Once the piece has been pulled out to the approximate width and height desired, the piece is cut off the wheel with a stainless steel wire and set aside to become "leather hard". When each piece reaches this stage of dryness, opposite sides of the round shape are pushed towards each other to create an oval shape.

Oval bonsai pot rims drying on wooden bats after shaping

Step Two

After the rim of the pot has been created, I trace the new oval shape onto flat clay slab (which has cured and processed for 8-10 hours on canvas wrapped slab) to create the bottom of the pot.

The bottom is then pierced with drainage and wiring holes and scored with a sharp tool (roughened) to facilitate combining the bottom together with the rim of the pot.

Separate oval bonsai pot components

Step Three

All of the corners and seams of the bonsai pot are reinforced with a clay bead which provides extra strength and ensures all joints are fully sealed. This technique also creates a subtle inner curve inside the pot which assists with proper water drainage.

Clay bead being smoothed into the seams of the bonsai pot

Step Four

Finally, after some cleanup, the bonsai pot feet are cut out and attached to the pot. They are scored and painted with clay slip (a combination of dried clay mixed with water) before being fixed to the pot.

After the pot has been fully assembled it is allowed to dry in a controlled manner over several days. Once it is dry it will enter the firing process in the kiln where it is fired twice; once to bisque temperature and a second time for glaze firing.


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