Some of the doodads I featured yesterday were little animal head wine stoppers. I fell in love with them after I saw them on the La Maison Ivre site. Such sweet little stoppers, they inspired me to investigate how to make my own out of clay. After thinking about it, I’d like to make raku stopper tops. And some with classic bungalow style motifs…pine cones, gingko leaves. In my researches, I came across a jazzy blog called Creative with Clay. In this post, artisan and blogger Charan Sachar introduces us his new line of bottle stoppers. Here is Sachar’s Etsy storefront and a story about him. He says his decorative motifs are inspired by South Asian embroidered fabric. Such pizazz! A tiny chunk of clay can make a big statement.
Ceramic Knob — So, there are many avenues for this type of thing. What kind of stopper top do you want to make? Design considerations include size, shape, clay, and shrinkage. Techniques, too. Sgraffito, carving, sculpting…or maybe you want plain so you can show off glazes. How about colored slips, underglazes, and glazes? Charan talks about making test tiles, too, and, he’s right. Testing your tops for functionality is a must, along with experimenting with decorative elements.
How-to — You’re going to be boring a hole in the ceramic knob so you can attach it to your stopper. I suggest you get your stoppers and rods first. Then, test a range of hole sizes that you carve or bore into the bottom of your ceramic tops. It will be time consuming at first, with bisquing and glazing and measuring, but work it till you get the fit you need…then write the measurement down (width of the bored hole). Knowing the shrinkage rate of your clay is a must. After your prototype has passed muster and you’ve made your first good-to-go stoppers, you can assemble them. The site, A Big Slice, covers everything you need to know about making stoppers. Basically, carefully drill a hole in the cork, then you attach and secure the decorative hardware. The instructions would have us use a hacksaw to cut the head off a threaded bolt, but you can just buy threaded rods at a hardware store and save yourself the trouble. I appreciate this post and thank Clare Aslaksen and Ted Field for making this information available.
Cork Stoppers — It is preferable to have a real cork to stopper your wine bottle because the material makes a tight seal. Natural cork also allows wine to breathe. According to Wikipedia, screw tops “reduce the oxygen transfer rate to almost zero, which can lead to reductive qualities in the wine.” Natural cork also biodegrades, whereas plastic adds to landfill woes. It’s best to invest in the best quality corks for wine. A company called WidgetCo sells a full range of corks and something like this would be a good place to start. Of course, we know that corks can be used for other types of vessels, like olive oil decanters or vinegar cruets, but we’ll need to measure the bottle opening to choose the cork size that will work. Click here to find a pdf cork size chart.
Metal Stoppers — Such stoppers are graduated and, thus, able to fit a number of sizes of bottle openings. They are made of stainless steel. Lee Valley sells stoppers without tops for those who want to make their own. These stoppers are for woodworkers, but they’ll work for us just as well. These stoppers already have the threaded rod, too. Our tops would simply be glued in placed over the rod. Many online catalogs for woodworkers carry these cone-shaped metal stoppers. So, there you have it! The ceramic knobs we make will be small. We could easily whip a few out on the kitchen table, between times in the studio.