Saturday, January 26, 2013

A typical problem

Something that happens to me time and time again is the situation where I set out to work on some clay and I feel very inspired, but then I get there and it seems my brain is empty. I have pieces to decorate, but I don't know where to begin. I can't think of colors, and what color combinations to use, ands what shapes, and for what purpose....
I thought that my idea of making letter tiles would resolve many of those nagging questions, but no. Still there, to some extent. I think I need to strike a balance between just being open to playing with simple combinations and stretching myself to new and more complex patterning.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


whether some of these are technically mishima, I don't know. 
Mishima is usually used to describe laying slip into incised lines in the clay.  Often I press lines into clay with stamps, especially carved wooden or rubber stamps.  Other times I draw into the clay with a somewhat blunt pencil. 
 here, the gray lines were made with bisque roller stamps, and the circle and flower design on the lower part of the pot is made with a flexible rubber stamp.
 Here the mishima is the red flowers.
 I often use it on edges
 I usually remove the extra color on top with a flexible metal rib, and a damp sponge. 

I do like these,

These pots are made by Robert Cooper, and I really like them.
Many people are able to manipulate the clay and leave an amount of roughness to the surface. Seams and cracks are left to show the characteristics of the damp clay, and you can feel the tension and springiness where it curves around a corner. Alas, I can't seem to do this, as I am always smoothing and sponging the surface to make it clean and straight.
Another thing I like about these containers is the surface treatment. It looks like the slabs in the pots with the green bases were covered in the slip or underglaze before forming the shape and then accented later. I also like the grooved marks.
It is always a mystery to me about how people make the choices they do, out of all the possibilities that lay before them. Is it really spontaneous, or have hours of preparation laid the groundwork for being able to think up a perfect accent mark, or color to add, or some other detail that makes the piece come alive.

From his website:
"Robert Cooper is an established ceramicist who has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally. He is fascinated by the persistence of artefacts and ideas. He often uses found objects, such as pottery shards from the Thames foreshore, which are imbued with a previous life and function, as a starting point for his work.
He has, for many years, employed recycling as a mode of working. Different elements such as clays, oxides and glazes left over from teaching sessions, discontinued ceramic transfers, printed imagery from popular culture and even pieces of previous work are recombined to create new narratives with multiple meanings."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Directions

I haven't been selling the things I've been making, so even though I've been giving many items as gifts, I am starting to stockpile a lot (really a lot) of mugs, trays, vases and bowls.  At some point, this is sort of disturbing to me.  If I continue to make things, it feels odd to just make them to put in a growing pile of stuff.  Because of this, I decided to branch out into different types of ceramics beyond functional ware. 
One direction that I thought of going is to small sculptures.  This is intriguing to me, but somewhat daunting, for whatever reason. 
Another direction is in to making tiles.  I love tiles, and have loved them for years.  I don't feel bad at all about having big stacks of tiles around. 
So, when I went back to my studio this past week, I rolled out slabs and started cutting tile.  As one thing leads to another, I decided to bring my love of letters into the tile.  So, now I have embarked on  making letter tiles.
Just another surface to play on. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Porcelain Menagerie

One of the interesting exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston was of Meissen ceramics called "A Porcelain Menagerie"

 they were pretty big, the peacock here was probably about 5 feet tall, and the vultures about 3 feet tall.

 In the same area were some smaller scale pieces, also in the white glazed style:
 these candlesticks were about 10 inches tall
 A light-hearted little soldier.
I like sculptures that are all glazed in white.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Silk-screening on Tall surfaces

Yes, I mostly have done stencilled decoration on "tall" things, such as vases, the one below on left is about 9 inches tall.  
 but really, if you lay the piece on it's side, it's just another curved thing.
these are all just bisque,

layers of images,

some of my screens

Friday, January 18, 2013

Responding to Leigh

I want to respond to a question from Leigh that I just noticed in a comment from October, sorry about not answering earlier. About what clear glaze might work well on Little Loafers clay body...
I live in two different places-- savannah, Georgia and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and so I work with two different clay bodies, and in two different studios with different kilns....
I am most happy with the clear glaze that I have been using on the clay I use in Canada. It doesn't craze and is really glossy, plus it is pretty user friendly during application.
I am wondering what it would be like on little loafers, and so I brought back a piece of greenware from Savannah that I will try glazing with it. Haven't got a glaze fire load ready yet, so I will let you know how it goes.
The glaze I'm using is 1215U by digital fire, the glaze site from Plainsman Clays in Alberta

Starting up again

I didn't really intend to take such a lengthy break from working with clay, but things kept happening, and all of a sudden I realized that I hadn't gone into the studio since mid- October.
However, last weekend I picked up some clay, and my niece came for an overnight visit, and we had a nice time doing some hand-building.
That seemed to get the ball rolling again, and today I spent a few hours in my backyard studio here in Asquith.

I noticed that someone had been interested in how the silkscreening with underglaze is done, and a while back I had taken some photos to illustrate the process.
I won't go into how to make the silkscreens, since that is pretty technical, and you have to do some trial and error to get your setup right. It is also explained in various places if you google it.

This is what I do:
Sometimes I lay down a base layer of underglaze color by painting three coats onto a leather hard clay surface
In the photos, I am working on some tiles, although I am usually working on a rounded surface.
If I want to mask off a section or a shape, I use newsprint shapes that are dipped in water, then they stick to the leather hard clay surface.
Dip the silkscreen into a bucket of water and then blot off the extra water on a towel. If the screen is damp it sort of helps the underglaze to pass through the mesh better. Also it clings better to the surface
Hold the screen against the surface of the clay.
With a small piece of a dry sponge, dip into some thickened under glaze, I usually let some get thicker by letting some of the water evaporate out of it. If the underglaze is too runny, it makes a mess, and the image is blurred.
Dab the underglaze through the screen, or you can rub it in a circular motion.
You can add more than one color to get shaded effects. Take the screen away from the surface
You can screen other images to layer patterns.
If you used a newsprint resist, take it off when everything is still damp. I use a pin tool to lift a corner and then pull it off.

Often I then add slip trailing, or scratch some marks over the screened image for more interest.
I usually bisque, and then cover all with a clear glaze, but recently I fired some things up to cone six with no glaze over, and that was an interesting surface.