Make and Bake: Where Ceramics and Cookies Meet

by Ceramics

By guest blogger Melissa Armstrong

When making small talk, someone inevitably asks what I do, and I find I've gotten into the habit of saying, "I'm an artist ..." (dramatic pause) ... "which means I work at a bakery." Everybody gets a good laugh, and we move on to other topics, safely avoiding any further explanation. What they don't realize is that working at a bakery is a fascinating and eye opening experience about ceramics. This is why I have found that balancing my work at Harvard Ceramics and my work at Flour Bakery and Cafe is surprisingly rewarding. I have found connections between baking and ceramics that I never would have otherwise found. These images show the similarities.

Both professions start with a malleable simple medium, both are shaped by hand, both go through radical transformations upon being baked or fired, and both provide endless possibilities and variation in the end result. Both are art forms in their own right, can give great pleasure to their end users, and have extremely strong, small, and tight knit communities that I have been blessed to be a part of. Next time you're baking cookies at home, or throwing a pot on the wheel, think about the connections between baking and making. Maybe it will change the way you do each; I know it has changed both for me.

[Caption: First, there is the science of making the dough or clay body from scratch]

[Caption: We both use the exact same tools... scales, strainers and mixers]

[Caption: Tools for shaping: funny how pvc, which you might expect to see in a studio is used at the bakery, and rolling pins are key in ceramics...]

[Caption: The exact same wheel is used for trimming and decorating cakes and pots]

[Caption: Same tiny nozzled squeeze bottles and pastry bags for adding fine detailed decorations]

[Caption: Both are OCD about collecting containers of all shapes and sizes]

[Caption: Bakers racks are treasured finds at the ceramic studio]

[Caption: The real magic happens here, in our respective ovens where chemical transformations turn unusable dough into functional objects]

[Caption: And what comes out seems to have no relationship to what went in! Both are now functional and ready for consumption]

[Caption: And the relationship between the two end products could make for an entirely other conversation]