In the spirit of the season (the end of the baseball season and the World Series), I thought I would share a few thoughts on batts.
Although there are potters who throw directly on the wheel-head, I have always used a batt. And I have sampled plenty of batts. So when I set up my studio, I purchased several batts and as I have changed how I throw, I have developed a set of favorites that I tend to use more frequently. But, even if you work at a community studio, you may want to have a few batts of your own to accomodate your pots. Here are some features to consider when selecting batts.
Holes or no holes – I use batt pins which means all of my batts have holes to accomodate the pins. I have not found this to be problematic even when throwing a wide bottomed pot. But, many potters prefer to use hole-less batts. Hole-less batts can be secured using clay balls or a bat-gripper. Some batts split the difference and provide holes that don’t penetrate the batt to the throwing surface.
Size matters – Consider the size pots you make on a regular basis. If you make mongo-huge pots, you will need a batt to accomodate the bottom width of those pots. I estimate that 80% of the pots that I make have bottoms less than 6″ in diameter. But, when I make sets of plates, I need a batt wide enough to protect the width of the rim (it is never a good idea to have a pot rim wider than the batt because I inevitably bump it).
How many – If you work at a community studio, you may prefer to purchase a few batts to ensure that you will have a good quality batt available for your work. In such a situation, you may only need a couple of batts. However, if you are a production potter, you may need several to accomodate your throwing capacity.
Storage – Batts can consume a lot of space and you need to have storage space. I like to stack my batts flat when they are not in use but Julie prefers to stand them on edge. She uses a kitchen pot holder designed to store pans upright. Plaster batts must be stored flat or they chip easily. You also need to consider how to store batts when they are being used. Batts will consume a lot of shelf space as you wait for pots to dry before moving them to ware-boards. Square batts or tiles can help maximize shelf space.
Portability – If you work remotely, then you should consider the portability of batts. I encourage all of the community center potters to transport their pots home so they can control the drying time. It is best to use a batt that is larger than the pot width to protect against being knocked and to use a batt that is inflexible to avoid torquing the pot. Plasti-bats and masonite bats are prone to torque. Plaster batts may weigh too much and be too fragile for constant transportation. Wooden and tile batts are good choices for potters who transport their pots regularly.
Differential drying – Storing pots on impermeable batts such as a plasti-batt, can cause the bottoms to dry much slower than the rims of your pots. When I worked at a community studio, I used plasti-bats which were great because the impermeable plastic kept my pot moist for several days until I got back to work on it. Now, that I work on pots daily, the plasti-batt is not my choice because it keeps the bottom too moist and forces me to cover the rims until the bottom ‘catches up’. Plaster batts and tile batts can be good solutions if you need to balance the bottom drying time with the rim drying time.
In the next post, I will review specific batts for consideration.