As a potter I find that most people view a vase, plate, cup, etc. as a whole, looking at the form of the piece and the colors of the glaze but don’t look at the bottom or foot of the piece. Believe it or not, the foot is one of the most important parts of a pot. A lot of thought and planning go into the foot.
First one must decide functionally and aesthetically whether to have a formed foot or not. (“Form follows function” is a potter’s mantra.) Then if one does plan to have a foot there is a proscribed method to create said foot. You have to throw the base of the pot thick enough to carve the foot while trimming later on while the clay is leather hard. Also the form the bottom of the pot takes is important to the piece as a whole. For instance, a bowl should be rounded on the bottom following the inside curve of the pot with the foot seemingly placed on the bottom for stability. *insert pictures* Whereas a mug, plate or other form can have a flat bottom with the foot protruding from the bottom. I happen to really like the look of a foot. This created a quandary for several reasons.
In my life I continually strive to reduce my environmental impact – I grow my own food, keep hens for eggs, I reuse and recycle everything that I can, use LED light bulbs, my electricity is 100% wind power, etc. So it follows that in my work as a potter I try to be just as conscious. I fire to cone 6 oxidation (electric) because it saves energy and uses wind power. I am very careful what chemicals I use for glazes. I also reuse every scrap of clay that I can, which brings me back to the foot.
Clay trimmings are annoying; they fly everywhere and make a mess adding dust in the studio, which is a health hazard. They are also drier than the other clay that I save and reuse, which makes it more difficult to recycle without alot of work or a (very expensive) special machine which I don’t have. Trimming also adds another step (well 2 really if you count cleaning up) to a long process and as a mother I don’t have all that much excess time. Over the years I decided to use a method that my first teacher used with great success and showed me. It is not easy. I make the foot as I throw the pot rather than trimming it in afterwards. I have to think of the foot before I even begin to throw the pot so I can leave just the right amount of clay at the bottom of the walls to create the foot. I throw with as little water as possible so that the clay doesn’t become too wet to support the walls; I also have to be very sure to compress the bottom of the pot so it doesn’t develop an S crack later on. I have found that if I make the foot before the final shaping of the piece I can get a much more pleasing shape for the final form. *insert picture* I have been working at this for many years and I can finally say that I am happy with the result even though it isn’t done as it “should” be. There is no wasted clay; less dust; I save time; my pieces aren’t too heavy (most of the time); they look good; and as an added bonus the ring created under the pot looks great with a little glaze.
I hope that I have been able to share a little insight into my foot.