Pat Simons Virtual Gallery

Making the Animals

The pieces start as basic wheel thrown cylinders. They have evolved over the years from adornments on traditional pottery to animated sculptures, created from hand built and thrown parts.

The soft clay is manipulated so that the folds are a natural part of the process. The work is done while the cylinders are still wet. The clay is near its limits and often needs foam to rest upon as it sets or the entire piece will collapse.

Click the picture to see an animated sequence. [79K]

Ears are the hardest part. Originally, they used to fall off in each stage; making, drying, glazing, firing, and shipping. Each animal necessitated its own solution. Elephant's ears are thrown pancakes. After being cut off the wheel, these pancakes are elongated by slapping them on a flat surface. Fresh cylinders around the neck are added to attach the ears.

Dogs ears, as shown in the pictures, are created out of two separate cylinders. The bottom part is stretched and then attached to the head. A longer cylinder goes over the head and is attached at each side.

A different colored clay defines the toes, eyes and nose. At this point in the process the artist feels the creatures start to come to their own life, each fold and movement of the clay helping to make each piece unlike any other.

The last element is to paint the piece with AMACO underglazes, to accent the color the brought by the clay.

Each piece is fired to 2300 degrees, and a touch of high fire glaze in eyes brings out their life. The final effect is a ceramic animal that feels organic and remarkably alive.