Introduction: Flawless Geometric Designs Made With Tape

About: The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I've found it!), but 'That's funny...' -Isaac Asimov.

You don't need a steady hand to decorate a pot with attractive and modern geometric designs. Just a pot, tape, a few tools and lots of time and patience!

Step 1: Planning the Layout of Your Pattern

First of all, you have to figure the grid you will use to project your 2D design on the 3D pot. In the example, I used a grid composed by equilateral triangles. This is, a number of equidistant vertical lines crossed by diagonal lines at a 60 degree angle (A). This grid contains all the lines that will surround each colored area of the design (B) and some extra lines that will be removed to reveal the final design (C).

Step 2: Additional Considerations to Wrap the Design Around the Pot

Now you have the pattern figured out. This design will "wrap" around the pot, but you want to make sure that the ends meet seamlessly, so if you display the pot on a rotating base, it will be impossible to tell where the design starts and where it ends. For this, you need to determine the number of vertical sections that contain a "repetitive unit". This is, how many vertical lines between two points that are equivalent (e.g. the top corner of the purple shape). As shown in the picture, this design repeats every 6 vertical lines. This means that you will have to divide the pot in a number of vertical sections that is a multiple of 6. The more sections the smaller the colored areas in the final piece.

Step 3: Tools for This Project

You will need a bisque fired pot, vase or bowl that you can make or buy. You will also need a pencil, a water proof marker, scissors, an Exacto knife with a sharp blade, a protractor and tape for fine masking, also called car detailing tape or pinstriping tape (this one was 1/16" wide). You will also need a hexagon pattern; I got one in a quilt shop, but you can cut your own from a piece of transparency film. Make sure that it is a REGULAR hexagon and mark the diagonal lines connecting opposite corners with a waterproof permanent marker. The compass is optional, but I like to use it.

Step 4: First Measurements

As discussed in step #2, you need to divide the pot in a multiple of six number of vertical sections or "wedges". Thus, start marking 6 equidistant points on the rim as reference. The simplest way to do it is to measure the rim's radius as that distance will fit exactly 6 times in the circumference, but this will only work when you need to make 6 sections. In other cases you will have to divide 360 by the number of divisions you want to make. In this case 360 divided by 6 equals 60, so you can use a protractor and make a mark every 60 degrees or just mark the first section at 60 degrees and use the compass to mark the rest. Once you have six sections, you can divide each section in an equal number of smaller sections. In this example I ended up with 36 marks. For the smaller sections I used a ruler and some eyeballing. However, always remember that the more accurate the measurements the better results.

Step 5: Taping the Grid

Use tape for fine masking to draw a horizontal line very close to the rim and to make vertical lines starting at the marks you previously made on the rim and all the way to the bottom of the piece. Make sure that they are VERTICAL!! You will notice that the distance between lines changes as the diameter of your piece changes. This applies to vases, bowls, bottles and any other shape made on the wheel. The lines will be parallel only if your piece is a cylinder, because the diameter in a cylinder is the same from top to bottom and so is the distance between vertical lines.

Once you have finished taping the vertical lines, use a permanent marker to indicate the points where the diagonal lines will intersect. To keep the proportions right from top to bottom, you have to keep the angles constant. For that, place the hexagon template so the marked diagonal matches one of the vertical tape lines. Move the template up and down until the left and right lower edges and the rim line match. Repeat for every other line around the pot. Then repeat for the vertical lines that are not marked but this time move the template down until the two edges and two dots match. Finally, repeat the process alternating lines in each level until you reach the bottom of your piece.

Now use tape to connect the dots in one direction.

And then in the other direction to complete the grid.

Step 6: Revealing the Design

Use a sharp knife to selectively remove specific segments of tape and reveal the design. Sometimes it helps to have a sketch of the design (so many lines can be confusing!!!).

Step 7: Adding Color

Using a brush, color inside the lines. You can go a little over the tape, but try not to color the neighboring
area, as you should alternate colors in a way two areas of the same color are never next to each other.

You can use any glaze that you have previously tested and proved to be stable. I have used this technique with cone six glazes and underglazes but I always test the glazes first to make sure they will stay put when fired (after all the time invested in taping and coloring you do not want to open the kiln and find that the glazes ran and ruined your design).

Step 8: Peeling the Tape

To peel the tape, make sure that you do it in a ventilated place, preferably outdoors and ALWAYS use a particulate respirator. Dust particles released in this process can be harmful to your lungs!! Make sure that you know how to use the respirator. It has to form a seal around your mouth and nose, otherwise you will not be protected. Facial hair will prevent the seal from forming, so if you have a beard you are going to have to choose between your look and your respiratory health (I'm lucky to be a girl!)

Clean the piece from dust with a soft, dry brush.

And now is the time to FIRE!!!!

Step 9: You Can Do It!

... and these are examples of what you can do!

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Clay Contest 2016

Second Prize in the
Clay Contest 2016