Hand Painted Pottery with Animal and Dog Art by Nan Hamilton Boston MA

Designing Pottery: Shapes of Pots

Once I have an idea, the next thing is to decide on a shape that will work best for me. Generally, it would be hard to get a tall form like a giraffe or a flamingo to work on a short, wide pot or a compact form like a toad to work on a tall pot. It can be done, like bending the giraffe down to drink or having the toad dangle from a branch, but generally certain designs lend themselves to certain shapes.

Symetrical pots thrown on a potter's wheel can expand out, like a bowl; have straight-sides like a pencil holder or a mug; or can expand and contract, like this vase. On this pot, straight lines have been drawn top to bottom. The distance between the lines contracts at the neck and the bottom and expands in the middle. When you look at this pot, the line directly in front of the viewer looks straight but every other line creates the illusion of being a curve. It would be difficult to draw a square on a shape like this. This flowing in and out of a line can work with the design or against it, emphasize the shape of the pot or alter it.

On this pot, a circle has been drawn on the shoulder with additional circles around it. Head on, it looks as if the circle pattern has been distorted in the neck area, that the distance between the lines has changed. When the pot is turned, you can clearly see it hasn't. The illusion is caused by the curve moving inwards, squishing the circles and forcing them up. Looking at the pot head-on with the circle in the center, the pot looks round and full. Looking at the pot with the circles off-center, the more vertical lines makes the pot look thinner.

Designs on the interior of a bowl are at the mercy of the curve, closing in the center and opening out at the rim. The design on this bowl works around the problem with a simple reverse curve design that tightens at the rim and is open in the center. There is also the issue of the angle of sight, across the bowl or directly into the center, which changes the design radically from a tight cluster of colors to broad open bands.

Some animals fit naturally on particular pot shapes. Here the fullness of the duck body echoes the belly of the pot and the head fits neatly on the smaller neck of the vase.

Here are three pots, each with a flamingo drawn on it. On the pot to the left, the neck of the flamingo must be shortened to get the body to fit the roundest part of the pot. On the pot on the right, the head of the flamingo is on the reverse curve of the rim causing distortion (it was the most awkward to draw). On the pot in the middle, the flamingo fits with a natural ease.

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