ALVAR VESSEL • Kate Lee Foley

The Australian artist Kate Lee Foley creates cheerful, colourful jewellery and vessels, often with geometric veneers. She draws inspiration for her art from the things that surround her such as nature and architecture. The tutorial that she prepared for you was inspired by Alvar Aalto’s mouth-blown lead crystal vases. She explains that she first came across them during a brief trip to Finland in 2006 and the delightful curvy shape of the vases immediately attracted her attention.

Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), was a renowned Finnish architect/designer. Alvar forged a remarkable synthesis of romantic and pragmatic ideas. His work reflects a deep desire to humanize architecture through an unorthodox handling of form and materials that was both rational and intuitive.

Using the method outlined below, you can create vessels in any shape you desire. However, it will take practice, patience, and care to get it right. So, Kate encourages you to take your time and enjoy the process.


polymer clay: black, white + 2 colours

stiff blade


grease proof paper

small piece of cardstock (for burnishing)

metal ruler

craft knife

Bake and Bond (or liquid clay)

texture sponge



Roll 2mm slabs of white and coloured clay. Trim into rectangles of roughly equal sizes. With a stiff blade, cut one strip off at a time, alternating colours to create a striped pattern. You will need approximately 3-4 8x10cm striped slabs, depending on the size of vessel you are creating.


Burnish your striped slabs, back and front until smooth and seamless. To burnish, place the clay between two sheets of greaseproof paper and rub gently with a small piece of cardstock.


Cut a slab diagonally, flip one half over and burnish the seam. Continue cutting, flipping, and burnishing until you are happy with the design and have enough to form the vertical wall (use at least two of your stripy slabs).


To create the wall of your vessel, use a metal ruler and cut 3.5cm wide strips (or slightly wider than your metal ruler). Burnish them together end to end. This one is approximately 40cm long. Keep the offcuts safe for later.


Roll a long very thin sheet of black clay to cover the stripy strip. Burnish well. Trim strip with a craft knife, using your metal ruler as a guide.


Slice each end on an angle, and carefully join ends together to create a loop. Take your time and burnish gently until you cannot feel the join. Use a blade to carefully remove it from the table.


Stand your vessel wall upright directly on a baking tile. Play with the shape, until you find something you like. Ensure the walls are completely vertical and sitting flat and firm on the tile. Cure at the recommended temperature for 1 hour.


For the base, create another crazy stripy sheet to roughly match the shape of your vessel. Burnish t