Introduction: Porcelain Roses - Nested Bowls

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When stacked together, little bowls form a delicate rose. When separated they make lovely dipping or condiment sets. The rose sets are so beautiful and unique they make wonderful presents and perfect wedding gifts.

Step 1: What You Need

One of the great things about this project is how little you need. Just clay, glazes, brushes and a kiln. A sponge is optional.

I'm going to give the instructions for porcelain, but you can use any kind of ceramic clay you want. If the bowls won't be used for food, you can even use polymer clay or paper clay.

Step 2: Do Too Much

Each bowl is unique and irregular. This is what gives the roses a realistic look. In order to achieve this and have the stacking seem natural, I make many more bowls than I will need for the roses. It's not until after the bisque is fired, that I mix and match bowls to make my sets. I make different sizes from the beginning so the bowls will be able to nest.

Step 3: Prepare the Clay

My bowl sizes are determined by the amount of clay I start with. I make a set of clay balls going from roughly 1/2" to 3" in diameter. The sizes that feel right for you will depend on the size of your hands. (I have small hands and don't usually work with a clay ball bigger than 2" for this project) And since I said to make more than you need, roll out 3 balls in each size. The rose nesting sets look best with 4 - 7 bowls per rose. So to make sure you'll have what you need, you'll be rolling about 21 balls of clay in varying sizes. You may get one good set. You may get four sets. Just enjoy the process.

Cover the balls with plastic until you're ready to use them.

Step 4: Start Making Bowls

Press one ball of clay into your palm with your opposite thumb. Keep pressing the clay into your hand in a circle until you have a fairly uniform bowl about 1/4" thick.

Step 5: Like a Pinch Pot

Making pinch pots is one of the oldest and most basic ceramics techniques. You thin out the sides of a pot or bowl by gently squeezing the sides with between your thumb and fingers. For the rose project, rotate the bowl as you press on the sides. Alternate the pinching with pressing your thumb against the clay into your palm. This will give the bowl edges the petal texture. Keep pinching, pressing and rotating until the bowl sides are just a few millimeters thick (try to keep the thickness even). The bottom can be a little thicker.

Step 6: The Bottom

Set your fragile little bowl down carefully on a flat surface and see how it sits. Adjust the position so that the bowl is mostly level, or at least won't flop over. Press the center gently so that the bottom is slightly flattened.

Now let it dry fully so you can fire it.

Step 7: Make Lots of Bowls

Using the same process, make bowls with all of your balls of clay. Keep the thickness of the bowl walls and bottoms consistent, regardless of the size of the bowl.

Remember; the irregularities in the edges are what give the stacked bowls their petal-like appearance, so embrace a little imperfection.

I like to line the bowls up as I go so I can make sure the shapes are similar. A very round bowl won't nest well with a taller, narrow bowl. They don't need to fit like puzzle pieces, but they do need to be compatible. This is part of why you need so many bowls. As long as you make them all the same way, some are bound to nest cozily inside some others.

Let them all dry.

Step 8: First Firing

When my bowls are all dry I like to take a barely damp sponge and smooth each entire bowl. This is done by gently wiping the sponge all over the surface of the bowl as well as along the top edge. Be very careful. This step is optional since the glaze will smooth out the surface as well.

Load your kiln and fire according to your kiln and clay instructions. It's okay to nest the bowls that fit loosely to make room in the kiln.

Step 9: Collect Your Sets

This is my favorite part.

When all the bowls are cool, group them by size on a table. Now play. It's just like kids' stacking blocks. Try nesting different combinations of bowls until you have a set or sets you like.

Keep these together or mark with a glaze pencil. (It's amazing how fast I lose track of my sets sometimes.)


Bowls that have no good matches can be saved for the next time you make a batch of bowls. Or maybe you'll have a set of same-size bowls that will work well together without nesting.

Step 10: Rose Colored Bowls

Decide what color you want your roses and color all the bowls in a set the same. White roses just get a clear glaze. I make the other roses white (clear glaze) with color on the top edges only. You can color all of each bowl if you prefer, though. Make sure you glaze the inside and outside of each bowl.


Follow the instructions for your glazes. Underglazes work fine also - you'll just have one extra firing.

Step 11: Fire Again

This time you will need a stand for each bowl. Keep them separated.

Follow instructions for the kiln and glazes you are using to fire your bowls.

Step 12: Make Roses

Allow your bowls to cool completely. Then stack each set. You may need to rotate some of the bowls so they nest nicely. The bowl edges become petals and your sets become beautiful roses.

Get creative.

Enjoy the roses.

Have fun!

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