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[personal profile] offcntr
A long time ago, I wrote, "Making handles is the penance I pay for the ease of throwing cups." And it's kinda true.

Throwing mugs is easy, especially tall mugs. The sides are straight, the only real fussy bits are the base, made with a profile rib, and the lip. In between, they mostly just need the throwing rings smoothed out with a rib. (Although I need to replace my rib; it's wearing into a curve, and I need it straight, dammit!)

Handles are fussier, especially if you're pulling them directly onto the cup. I'm not, so I have a little leeway. If I mess one up in the pulling, I don't have to clean off the mug and smooth out the scoring; I just set it aside and start another. It's a technique I learned years ago from Dennis Parks at Tuscarora Pottery School, and I use it for everything but pitchers.

First, you wedge up your clay, then pinch off a bit. Roll it into a coil on a smooth surface (this is a piece of drywall. My table is canvas-covered, which leaves an extra texture to get rid of.), then taper into a carrot. Thump both sides on your drywall to flatten it out.

Now comes the fun part. Hold the thick end in your non-dominant hand, pointy side down over a container of (preferably warm) water. Using the thumb and forefinger of your other hand, with water as lubricant, pull and shape your handle, tapering edges, grooving front and back. Once it's the proper shape, rotate it so it's butt side down, handle curving up and over 'til the tip touches down again.

Repeat forty times.

Then go do something else for a while. Smooth and stamp the mugs, turn them over so the bottom dries a little. Throw a bag of plates, have lunch, do dishes. Let them sit four or five hours (less in summer), so they're slightly firmer, and no longer sticky.

Now it's time to put it all together. Start with the mug: score and slip the handle attachment points. Take a handle in one hand and a wire cheese slicer (roller removed) in the other. Cut away the butt end of the handle, curving to match the cup, angled slightly so the handle springs up and outward.

Holding the handle between thumb and forefinger (thumb on top, finger supporting), press the handle into the cup. Your thumb will make a little dimple in the top for the user's thumb to grip, and the handle will spread a little wider at the top, which is visually and structurally stronger. Press the bottom into place, smooth and align the outer edges of the top, and clean up any extra slip or score marks. Adjust the curve of the handle from underneath with your finger. Go to the next one.

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