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French Butter Dishes

September 20, 2012

My current project making French butter dishes was inspired by a friend of mine who asked me to make her one. I had never heard of French butter dishes before, but decided to give it a try. The French have apparently created a jar that allows them to leave their beloved butter safely out of a refrigerator. An air tight seal is created by storing the butter in a large gallery in the lid and submerging it in water at the bottom of the jar.  The diagram below is a helpful visualization.

The jar is pretty easy and is just thrown with a flat bottom. I threw the jars with flat sides and added my regular decorating favorite of ruffles.

The difficult part of this piece is the lid. The pictures online made the lid look deceptively easy. Lids are frequently made throwing “off the hump” on the wheel. Throwing “off the hump” allows me to throw multiple lids from one piece of clay and save time. The large gallery to store the butter adds to the complication of making sure the lid fits snuggly, by adding a large bowl inside.


The first step in making the lid is to center just the top of the large lump of clay. The part I center will be the lid. I open up the center of the clay just like regular bowls, but after opening up I push down along the outside with my finger to create the lip of the lid. Careful measuring is done with calipers to make sure the lip of the lid will actually fit the jar. Then I pull the clay up to create the gallery for the butter, making sure that the gallery is not too big for the jar or will be touching any of the sides. After the piece dries out a bit I trim the top and add a handle.

I began with 5 butter dishes after throwing and 2 have made it through the firing process. I have learned a lot along the way and have made more with a few adjustments. One major thing I found is that making a larger groove in the lid of the pot prevents the lid from sliding around so much. I decided I also like them better without a handle on the top. Since they are small a handle is not necessary and one can lift the lid from the sides with the larger lip around the edge, which is actually how most of the pictures online showed them. I have finished pictures of the first butter dishes with a wonderfully green glaze. When the newest version with lids without handles is fired I will up load them! Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures!


From → Pottery Projects

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