I love clay tools. I, like many potters I know, collect various clay tools like they are going out of style. I have three, no maybe four pin tools. My ribbon and loop tools number close to the double digits. The tools I use most frequently are kept in an old clay cylinder too small to really be practical. Not to mention the, um … well, shelves of templates, stamps, forms and lesser used tools on my cart at the studio. One could even say that I have a tool collection problem.
The funny part? I don’t really need any of my fancy, more expensive tools.
One of my favorite tools is my paddle. I have three paddles. Oops! I just remembered the red one, so I have four paddles. Well, okay, I actually own close to ten if you count the ones I purchased for the traveling supplies box I use when I teach clay in non-studio spaces. I did say I had a problem.
Paddles are universal wonders though! They can round and shape a form; remove divots, folds and other unevenness; and create all sorts of really wonderful textures. I use my paddle, you got me paddleS, for almost every piece I create.
That being said, I do feel that people often overlook the usefulness of a paddle in the clay world. People are always surprised to hear that I got a certain texture or effect using a bamboo spoon I got two for a dollar at the dollar store.
Don’t believe me?
I’ve been making honey pots for a few months now. I actually use a paddle in three ways to create these fun little jars. First, the main body of the jar is two pinch pots joined together and paddled to perfectly round smoothness! Second, I use the side edge of my paddle and hit against the body to create the squash or onion look. Lastly, I make the lid out of the piece of the body I cut out for the opening. The textured cut out is paddled smooth and thinned on a form before I trim it and add the knob.
Custom orders can often generate some great new ideas for my work like this mortar and pestle. I used a paddle in two ways for this mortar. First, I created a pinch pot and then paddled it to a smooth inside and out on a form. Second, I used the corner of the bottom of the handle to create partial rectangle indents all over the mortar bowl. I could have probably have used the paddle to round the pestle end as well, but I rolled it on the work table instead …. hmm … how did I miss that! Oh, well next time!
A few other examples to wet your imagination.
Slab cylinder tea bowls with a paddled round bottom and distinctive paddle handle indents.
A dinner ware set I made for my brother and his girlfriend. Texture was hit into strips of clay and then paddled into the edge of each piece to create the trim.
Hopefully, I’ve inspired my fellow ceramic artists out there to start their own paddle obsession and given my customers and fans a little more insight into my process.