Ever thumb through your feed and catch a post of a Popcorn Bowl with a juicy half of cantaloupe nestled in it, and think, "Dang, that's a pretty bowl."? Well, it was made that way with a little help from our favorite tool, the Jigger.
The Jigger is a hand machine we use for making cups, bowls, mugs and candles. Basically, anything with concavity deeper than a plate. It’s an indispensable tool and that helps us make enough bowls for everyone to be able to have a few stacked in their cupboard.
The basic mechanism of a jigger is simple: an arm with a “knife” attachment lowers into a mold filled with clay on a spinning surface. But for those who like their information dense and detailed, here it is:
First, a plaster mold is placed on the spinning plate of the jigger, and then it's given a little zoom, zoom from the foot pedal to wipe the inside clean. Then, pre-measured lumps of clay (Thanks, Michel!), are plopped into the center of the mold, and a mallet pounds and squishes the clay tight to the sides. This takes some of the initial leg work off the jigger. Don’t fall asleep, it’s about to get good!
Add a little water, pull down on the arm, and voila— a bowl! The top knife forms the interior of the pot, while the mold forms the exterior. It's mesmerizing to watch form slowly reveal itself out of a lumpy, shapeless clay ball in the matter of moments. Because she is incredibly pro, Cierra makes it look like it requires way less skill than it actually does. It definitely takes the deft hand of a skilled potter to properly operate this 19th century tool.
Now, where do we get the plaster molds you ask? In house! Jessie and Matt make them over in the mold shop, along with the wooden shapes that attaches to the knife on the arm of the jigger. Since plaster is also a soft, natural material, and erodes over time by repeated exposure to water and sand, we usually have to make more molds relatively often. Relatively often meaning about every 6 months or more— so it’s a pretty sustainable procedure.
Maybe you are wondering who this “Michel” is that we mentioned earlier. Michel is our Clay Processor. He is always the first person at the factory, arriving before the first crack of dawn when most of us (pug operators and bakers, excluded) are sleeping. He processes every ounce of clay we use, which is an incredibly laborious job. Michel gets the numbers on what’s needed in the evening, and gets to work early the next morning on pugging, dividing, and weighing the clay.
This is a crucial step in ensuring the plasticity of the clay, and therefore the uniformity and strength of the final vessels. Proper pugging means less cracks and breaks when you accidentally knock your Everyday Bowl on the counter, or your toddler learns about gravity.
As you can imagine, a lot of clay gets cast aside during this process of jiggering, and by 5:00 PM, we’ve got a sloppy pile of scraps. Don’t worry, we give those back to Michel, who re-processes them in the pug machine.
While we are a dinnerware company and consumption is part of the deal, we do try to waste as little as possible, reuse as much as we can, and recycle when the opportunity presents itself. Interested in learning more about how pottery gets made and sold at East Fork, and by whom? Read this post about our marketing department!