The Austerity Bowl


Final haul from the kiln this week, and the first piece I wanted to write about was the one I made for my karate instructor and his wife.

©Shireen Nadir 2013

As you can tell from this shot of the rest of the haul, I never, ever work with white. I had this idea though, inspired by Japanese design, of this austere bowl that would have to get by just on its form and function – with no shiny, colourful glaze work to detract from the shape.

The challenge with this is that the bowl itself, lacking ornament, must have sufficient gravitas and perfect form. I started myself on the task by wedging up about 8 lbs of clay. Even with the water loss after 2 firings, this means that it’s a pretty heavy bowl.


The negative space enclosed by the bowl is pretty large, deep and accented only by the fact that I allowed myself to leave just a shadow of the original throw-lines in, the time-honoured mark of a potter’s hands.


To keep the outside austere, but not bland, I filled my hands with a wet, gloppy mixture of clay and water and smoothed it over the outside to create a soft, organic texture.


Finally, the piece was glazed a flat, featureless white. I even wrapped it in white, because to do otherwise would have been too incongruous with the bowl design.

Nothing makes a potter’s heart happier than taking something through all the design stages, coaxing form and function from bags of mud, and having it find a loving home at the end. My teacher opened it last night, and he loves it :)