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Michelle Erickson and Robert Hunter
Making a Bonnin and Morris Pickle Stand

Ceramics in America 2007

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Contents
  • Figure 1
    Figure 1

    Aryballos, Greek, Attic, late 6th century B.C. Terracotta. H. 2 7/16". (Courtesy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1923; image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.) Molded in the form of three cockle shells, this small bottle held cosmetic oils.

  • Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Pitcher, Bernard Palissy and workshop, France, 1556–1590. Earthenware. H. 7 1/2". (Courtesy, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Musée du Louvre, Paris; photo, J. G. Berizzi/Art Resource, New York.)

  • Figure 3
    Figure 3

    Fragment, cast of shells, Bernard Palissy and workshop, France, 1556–1590. Terracotta. L. 16 1/4". (Courtesy, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Musée de la Renaissance, Écouen, France; photo, R. G. Ojeda/Art Resource, New York.)

  • Figure 4
    Figure 4

    Pair of silver shell dishes, 
    Paul de Lamerie, London, 1732. W. 5". (Courtesy, Christie’s New York; © 2006 Christie’s Images Ltd.) The realistic nature of these shells suggests they were cast from molds taken directly from a Pecten maximus shell.

  • Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Pickle stand, Derby porcelain factory, England, ca. 1765. Soft-paste porcelain. H. 14 1/4". (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)

  • Figure 6
    Figure 6

    Irish scallop (Pecten maximus). H. 5". This example is the deeply cupped right valve of the scallop. Note the rounded ribs in cross section and the large anterior ears or wings at the hinge.

  • Figure 7
    Figure 7

    A thick-walled shallow casting vessel is thrown on the wheel. The scallop shell is centered and pushed into the soft clay bottom. A thin coat of oil is applied to the scallop shell as releasing agent to prevent it sticking to the plaster.

  • Figure 8a
    Figure 8a

    Once the clay wall of the casting vessel has dried to leather hard, a mixture of plaster is slowly poured into the form over the shell, trying to avoid trapping air bubbles, and filled to the top.

  • Figure 8b
    Figure 8b

    Once the clay wall of the casting vessel has dried to leather hard, a mixture of plaster is slowly poured into the form over the shell, trying to avoid trapping air bubbles, and filled to the top.

  • Figure 8c
    Figure 8c

    Once the clay wall of the casting vessel has dried to leather hard, a mixture of plaster is slowly poured into the form over the shell, trying to avoid trapping air bubbles, and filled to the top.

  • Figure 9a
    Figure 9a

    After the plaster cures, the clay walls of the casting vessel are peeled away and the scallop shell is removed from the mold. Once dry, the mold is ready for casting.

  • Figure 9b
    Figure 9b

    After the plaster cures, the clay walls of the casting vessel are peeled away and the scallop shell is removed from the mold. Once dry, the mold is ready for casting.

  • Figure 10a
    Figure 10a

    To begin the casting process, the porcelain clay slip is poured into the mold.

  • Figure 10b
    Figure 10b

    To begin the casting process, the porcelain clay slip is poured into the mold.

  • Figure 11
    Figure 11

    It is essential that the mold be filled to the edge of the casting. The soft clay wall at the rear of the mold keeps the slip from running out and aids in the “pouring off” of excess slip.

  • Figure 12a
    Figure 12a

    The filled mold is left to stand for several minutes while the plaster body absorbs moisture from the porcelain slip. The thickness of the cast depends on how long the slip remains in the mold before it is carefully poured away.

  • Figure 12b
    Figure 12b

    The filled mold is left to stand for several minutes while the plaster body absorbs moisture from the porcelain slip. The thickness of the cast depends on how long the slip remains in the mold before it is carefully poured away.

  • Figure 13a
    Figure 13a

    After the cast shell hardens, the soft clay retaining wall is peeled away and the shell is carefully removed from the mold.

  • Figure 13b
    Figure 13b

    After the cast shell hardens, the soft clay retaining wall is peeled away and the shell is carefully removed from the mold.

  • Figure 13c
    Figure 13c

    After the cast shell hardens, the soft clay retaining wall is peeled away and the shell is carefully removed from the mold.

  • Figure 14
    Figure 14

    Two other plaster molds were needed to create the remaining major components of the pickle stand. A one-piece mold was used to create the top cup for the stand. A two-piece press mold was used to form the central stalk.

  • Figure 15
    Figure 15

    The molded major components of the pickle stand at the leather-hard stage.

  • Figure 16
    Figure 16

    The creation of the various smaller shells, which represent an encrusted marine environment, requires a number of small press molds taken directly from natural shell specimens. (The examples shown here were selected for demonstration purposes and do not necessarily correlate with all the smaller shells used on the original Bonnin and Morris pickle stand.) To create the molds, the shells were carefully pressed into prepared slabs of soft porcelain clay.

  • Figure 17a
    Figure 17a

    The porcelain slabs were allowed to dry and subsequently fired to bisque temperature. A small ball of porcelain clay was pushed into the molds and extracted to create the necessary clay shells. The porous nature of the bisque porcelain allowed the casts to be removed from the mold right away.

  • Figure 17b
    Figure 17b

    The porcelain slabs were allowed to dry and subsequently fired to bisque temperature. A small ball of porcelain clay was pushed into the molds and extracted to create the necessary clay shells. The porous nature of the bisque porcelain allowed the casts to be removed from the mold right away.

  • Figure 17c
    Figure 17c

    The porcelain slabs were allowed to dry and subsequently fired to bisque temperature. A small ball of porcelain clay was pushed into the molds and extracted to create the necessary clay shells. The porous nature of the bisque porcelain allowed the casts to be removed from the mold right away.

  • Figure 18
    Figure 18

    A variety of working molds were necessary to create the repertoire of smaller shells similar to those used on the Bonnin and Morris pickle stand.

  • Figure 19a
    Figure 19a

    Representations of the small tube worms were hand-modeled as clay coils. The openings were made using a flat metal blade.

  • Figure 19b
    Figure 19b

    Representations of the small tube worms were hand-modeled as clay coils. The openings were made using a flat metal blade.

  • Figure 20
    Figure 20

    Michelle Erickson laying out the molded components of the pickle stand before assembly.

  • Figure 21
    Figure 21

    A schematic representation of some of the clay components of the pickle stand. Each of these objects would have to be prepared and ready at the time of the assembly. More than seventy separate elements were required to re-create this object.

  • Figure 22
    Figure 22

    The assembly of the clay components begins with the orientation of the three large scallop shells. The ears of the scallop shells are cut away before they are fitted together to form the base.

  • Figure 23a
    Figure 23a

    A triangular clay strip acts as a fillet between the shells, providing an integral structural connection. Drops of slip are used to strengthen the adhesion and the strip is worked into the crevices.

  • Figure 23b
    Figure 23b

    A triangular clay strip acts as a fillet between the shells, providing an integral structural connection. Drops of slip are used to strengthen the adhesion and the strip is worked into the crevices.

  • Figure 24
    Figure 24

    The clay fillets are stippled to simulate fossil coral. The stippling also helps reinforce the structure of the stand. The base from the original is shown at the far right.

  • Figure 25
    Figure 25

    The inside edges of the scallop shells are cleaned with a wet sponge.

  • Figure 26a
    Figure 26a

    The upper crevices between the scallop shells are filled with small clay strips and stippled. The stalk is now adhered to the center of the scallop shells. Note the flange at the bottom of the stalk, which aids in the attachment. The flanges are hand-worked down over the shells to form a secure bond.

  • Figure 26b
    Figure 26b

    The upper crevices between the scallop shells are filled with small clay strips and stippled. The stalk is now adhered to the center of the scallop shells. Note the flange at the bottom of the stalk, which aids in the attachment. The flanges are hand-worked down over the shells to form a secure bond.

  • Figure 27
    Figure 27

    The top cup is joined to the stalk using slip. As with the base fillets, the stalk is stippled to simulate fossilized coral, a sample of which is shown.

  • Figure 28a
    Figure 28a

    A strand of seaweed is represented by a flattened coil of clay wrapped around the stalk. This device serves to conceal the joins of the stalk at the base of the top cup and provides a point of attachment for the small snail-like shells as they ascend the column.

  • Figure 28b
    Figure 28b

    A strand of seaweed is represented by a flattened coil of clay wrapped around the stalk. This device serves to conceal the joins of the stalk at the base of the top cup and provides a point of attachment for the small snail-like shells as they ascend the column.

  • Figure 29a
    Figure 29a

    The pickle stand is ready for the attachment of the small shells. Using the originals as a general guide, a group of cockle shells is built up along with a tube worm. Drops of slip are used to help secure these shells.

  • Figure 29b
    Figure 29b

    The pickle stand is ready for the attachment of the small shells. Using the originals as a general guide, a group of cockle shells is built up along with a tube worm. Drops of slip are used to help secure these shells.

  • Figure 29c
    Figure 29c

    The pickle stand is ready for the attachment of the small shells. Using the originals as a general guide, a group of cockle shells is built up along with a tube worm. Drops of slip are used to help secure these shells.

  • Figure 30
    Figure 30

    A final cockle shell is placed in position. Note that this shell consists of two separately molded shells that are joined to simulate a live cockle.

  • Figure 31
    Figure 31

    After the three major clusters of cockle shells are arranged, the smaller marine shells and additional tube worms are placed on the stalk.

  • Figure 32
    Figure 32

    A needle tool facilitates the delicate placement of the smaller shells.

  • Figure 33a
    Figure 33a

    The final stage in the assembly is the placement of the cone-shaped feet, using a photograph of the original pickle stand base as a guide. The stand has to be turned upside down for this final step.

  • Figure 33b
    Figure 33b

    The final stage in the assembly is the placement of the cone-shaped feet, using a photograph of the original pickle stand base as a guide. The stand has to be turned upside down for this final step.

  • Figure 34
    Figure 34

    A view of the base of the assembled pickle stand next to a notated photograph of an original. Note the high definition of the rounded ribs and the presence of the circular growth rings.

  • Figure 35
    Figure 35

    Overall view of the assembled pickle stand in leather-hard state.

  • Figure 36
    Figure 36

    A pair of pickle stands in 
    biscuit and leather-hard states after the Bonnin and Morris originals juxtaposed next to a ca. 1765 Bow porcelain model. The additional stages of the finishing process include a biscuit firing, followed by the application of blue decoration and a final glaze firing. The unfinished stands would lose approximately 15 percent of their size during the two firings.