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Archive for the ‘Ceramic techniques’ Category

I finally got around to photographing the oil lamp I talked about making back in this post late last year. I didn’t want to post it before Christmas as it was a surprise gift for my partner but then I forgot about it until someone at my pottery class yesterday asked me if he had tested it out yet. Anyway, as you can see, it might be rather rustic but it does work!

Historically-inspired oil lamp

I made it totally by hand, putting a lid on a pinch pot, after an attempt at using a mould to make a round base failed because of the difficulty of then trying to put a spout on it. It’s decorated with coloured slip, which I carved a grecian pattern into, and then distressed by rubbing watered-down iron oxide onto it.

The Boy was pretty pleased with it, I think, and having met a bunch of viking reenactors, is now trying to rope me into making replica historical buttons and Thor’s hammers for them to sew onto their kit.

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Happy New Year! Hope 2011 is treating you all well so far. Pottery classes resumed at the college yesterday so I’m continuing with my latest obsession which is making things using pressed ivy leaves, which are handily still available despite there being snow on the ground around these parts.

I realized that leaves actually chart my pottery progress rather well. When I first started classes, I made a whole bunch of vases and a goblet decorated with free-hand leaves and vines.

Free-hand leaf decoration

Then last year I made a plaster mould featuring leaves based on a stone carving and produced the wall plaques featured in my header and raku page, culminating in this lantern which I’ve been meaning to post for ages (I was slightly disappointed with the colours, the green slip would have been better sponged on and I wish I’d put white slip on the background like I did with the one in my header, but hey ho, I’m a perfectionist!).

Lantern made from press moulded panels with bits cut out

And now I’m working on pieces using actual ivy leaves pressed into clay and then cut out. This mask is the first completed piece, testing out the random brown earthernware glazes I found in the back of the cupboard and was really pleased with. I also have a plate decorated with the same leaves ready to glaze and yesterday I made a ring-shaped wall hanging inpired by the Bitter Beck Pottery ones I featured in this post.

Mask made of pressed ivy leaves

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Coilware vase

So finally, here is my coilware vase, lately referred to as the termite mound vase, in all its matt blue-grey glazed glory. Coilware is hand built using sausages of clay layered up and ‘glued’ with slip and then smoothed together. It’s an easy construction method to learn but getting a finished object that doesn’t look like a primary school child made it is harder than you’d think! I’ve made plenty of coilpots before now but they are all relegated to being plant pots or pen holders, this is the first one that is decorative enough to not need a function. The key was using the clay drier than usual – I was scared it would have air bubbles in it and explode when it was fired but the firmer material meant it wasn’t prone to sagging during construction and kept its shape better. I’m really pleased with the subtle ribbing and the textured glaze, it feels lovely as well as looking it, and I always think the best pottery makes you want to touch it.

If my experience of visiting Pot Fest is anything to go by, coilware isn’t an awfully common construction method among professional potters, I guess because it is so much more time consuming than throwing and therefore tends to be very expensive, but I was inspired by David Wright.

Vase by David Wright

It was a year or two ago that he had a whole bunch of coilware bottles on his stand at Pot Fest Scotland and he seems to have moved on to more rounded or abstract shapes in his latest work, but here’s a picture of the most similar design I could find on his website. You can see how my glazing was influenced by his style if not the shape.

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I finally got around to photographing my favourite of the rest of the raku pieces I made before the summer.

Multi-glaze, raku fired thrown pot

This little thrown pot is probably my favourite piece overall. I dipped the base in the white crackle glaze, the top in green glaze, and then dribbled several different coloured glazes down both the outside and inside of the pot. It came out all irridescent, and green and red, and coppery, with bits of the charred clay visible for contrast. My other favourite piece is this mask:

Hand built raku mask

It’s glazed with a mixture of white and clear crackle glaze and the copper-based glazes, with a lot of bare clay for contrast. I was slightly disappointed that the coloured glazes all reduced to just being coppery, but on the other hand, the crackle glazes, particularly the clear, came out really well. I also made some more stars (probably destined to be wall hangings), which actually show the different colours quite well (I got one to reduce to an irridescent colour rather than just copper!), and raku fired some of my press mould panels (click on the pictures for a full size view).

Raku fired press moulded panels

A range of raku glazes

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Raku

You are honoured today, two posts in one day!

Now I’ve caught up on posting the rest of the stuff from my last module, I can tell you all about my new module – raku. Raku was originally a Japanese technique but it has been co-opted by Western potters these days. It involves bisque firing your piece as usual and then using special low-temperature raku glazes. The pieces are fired in a gas kiln to about 1000 degrees C until the glaze melts, lifted out of the kiln while glowing red-hot and transfered to a bin of sawdust, or other combustible material, and allowed to burn to reduce the glaze, before finally putting them in water to cool. With the right glaze and a good reduction (removal of all the oxygen), you can produce fantastic metallic lustres and vivid colours, and striking black and white pieces – just put raku pottery into a google image search and you’ll see what I mean!

Raku is very messy and smelly, and you need good protective gear, but it is also great fun because it is so much more immediate and experimental than normal ceramics, you never really know how something is going to come out until you try it. Last time I did raku, I only ended up with two pieces (the thermal shock means there is a high rate of failure – some pieces will just break no matter how careful you are) both glazed with a turquoise glaze that reduces to give a coppery lustre.

Turquoise glazed raku pottery

Test pieces for white crackle and strong green raku glazes

So far this year, I’ve made up two new glazes, a strong green one and a white crackle glaze that I am particularly pleased with, although it hasn’t photographed very well here; in person it has a lovely mottled effect and subtle colour variation from palest pink to a soft buff colour. I’m looking forward to using them on some proper pieces rather than just test tiles in the next few weeks.

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Not the best photo I’m afraid, but this illustrates various slip decorating techniques:

Inlaying – this involves carving a design into leather-hard clay, painting slip over it and then scraping the excess off the surface to leave sharp lines (top left tile). This tile also features sponge printing (in yellow) and you may just be able to see a small flower carved into the righthand corner, a technique called sgraffito, where you scrape away a coloured slip baselayer.

Monoprinting – coloured slip is painted onto paper and then placed face down on the tile and pressed down firmly before lifting off to leave a highly textured finish. Different colours can be layered up in this way (top right tile).

Marbling – coloured slip is watered down and poured onto the tile and then other colours are applied in drops and swirled around. You can also use a paint brush to give a feathered effect (bottom tile). This tile also illustrates a glazing technique – areas were masked off by painting on liquid latex before glazing with transparent. The latex is peeled off once the glaze is dry, leaving unglazed matt areas.

And here is an example of a finished piece – the spiral decoration is sgraffitto carved into blue/black slip.

Star Goddess wall plaque

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I’ve finally got around to photographing the wall plaques I made using a plaster press mould, featuring the design I took from the Irish cross back in September. The one on the left is decorated with velvet underglazes and then has a coat of transparent glaze over the top, while the lefthand one features the more subtle colours of coloured slip (applied before bisque firing), with iron oxide painted on to the background after the first firing to give the ochre highlights. Most of this second plaque is matt in finish but I applied a bit of transparent glaze to the leaves to make them glossy for contrast.

I’m really pleased with these and having spent 3 weeks making the mould, I’m planning on making more of them, and even trying to raku them (more on that later!).

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