The History: Here’s my part of the story. Tell me what you see and start the next chapter…
Music plays a pivotal role in my visual work and I don’t always see it at first. I found myself listening to classical music from the Baroque era and remembering the many Gothic Cathedrals I saw in Spain & Italy. I felt an urge to make these memories come to life.
This was an ambitious challenge to myself… using slab-building techniques… it showed up in a group show, before being sold to a loving buyer… I am very proud of this piece… each face is very unique and uniquely expressive.
The Technique: How I did this awesomeness!
Using a Cone 6 stoneware, I rolled out slabs first. When wet leather hard, I cut and formed the cones, eyebrows, and noses. The black vessel is large slabs of clay, with a slab base. Before the assembly, the pieces were placed all together under a sheet of dry-cleaners plastic to all dry very slowly and be at the same hardness for assembly. A few days later, I assembled the parts together, by scoring the clay and using a little slip to glue the parts together. I used a large piece of foam for the base to sit on so it wouldn’t slump under its own weight, and so the tube faces could dry solidly and not crack at the joints, because of the weight of the whole piece. I let it sit for about an hour, then using a humid sponge, started to smooth the surface imperfections and lift the grog to the surface to make it rough to the touch. I let it sit for another hour uncovered, before placing a sheet of plastic very loosely over them to allow them to dry slowly for about a week.
Once bone dry, they were bisque fired.
I started by pouring in the black glaze for the inside & outside, then pouring out the excess. I cleaned off any excess touching the faces with a sharp sponge. I then sponged on iron oxide stain on the faces.
When dry, it was fired at Cone 6.
The Influence: Confessions of a Plagiarist, sort of…
While the faces are my obsession with Easter Island & African Art, the composition is deeply influenced by Gothic design. I wanted a multitude of peaks and hollows, arranged in ascending-descending sequences, like an arpeggio in music. I wanted it to sing!
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Books that Inspired and Influenced my Experimentation:
These are perhaps the most obvious influences, but the truth is that my influences run deep through thousands of books and works I’ve seen & read. If you have the time, you are free to visit my GoodReads library to see a fraction of the books I’ve read. These are the ones I remember, that is. Or you can visit the ever growing collection on my Pinterest account.
Electric Kiln Ceramics: A Guide to Clays and Glazes by Richard Zakin
Working with Clay by Susan Peterson
The Craft and Art of Clay by Susan Peterson
Slab-built Ceramics by Coll Minogue
The Art of Handbuilt Ceramics by Susan Bruce
Mastering Raku: Making Ware * Glazes * Building Kilns * Firing by Steven Branfman
500 Raku: Bold Explorations of a Dynamic Ceramics Technique by Ray Hemachandra, Jim Romberg
500 Vases: Contemporary Explorations of a Timeless Form by Ray Hemachandra (Editor), Julia Galloway
Masters: Earthenware: Major Works by Leading Artists by Ray Hemachandra (Editor), Matthias Ostermann
500 Ceramic Sculptures: Contemporary Practice, Singular Works by Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott
The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight Into Beauty by Soetsu Yanagi, Bernard Leach (Adapted by), Shoji Hamada (Foreword)
Utopic Impulses: Contemporary Ceramics Practice by Amy Gogarty
Craft Perception and Practice, Volume 2: A Canadian Discourse by Paula Gustafson
Craft Perception and Practice: A Canadian Discourse, Volume 1 by Paula Gustafson
Decorating Techniques (Ceramics Class) by Joaquin Chavarria
20th Century Ceramics by Edmund de Waal
The Figure in Clay: Contemporary Sculpting Techniques by Master Artists by Lark Books, Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott
Japanese Wood-Fired Ceramics by Marc Lancet
500 Figures in Clay: Ceramic Artists Celebrate the Human Form by Veronika Alice Gunter
Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence by Andrew Juniper
500 Plates & Chargers: Innovative Expressions of Function & Style by Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott
500 Pitchers: Contemporary Expressions of a Classic Form by Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott
500 Tiles: An Inspiring Collection of International Work by Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott
500 Animals in Clay: Contemporary Expressions of the Animal Form by Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott
Masters: Porcelain: Major Works by Leading Ceramists by Lark Books
500 Cups: Ceramic Explorations of Utility and Grace by Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott
Llorens Artigas by Pierre Courthion
Alternative Kilns & Firing Techniques: Raku * Saggar * Pit * Barrel by James C. Watkins, Paul Andrew Wandless, Lark Books
The Teapot Book by Steve Woodhead
Studio Ceramics in Canada, 1920-2005 by Gail Crawford
Potter’s Guide to Ceramic Surfaces by Jo Connell
The Ceramic Glaze Handbook: Materials, Techniques, Formulas by Mark Burleson
Fired Up with Raku: Over 300 Raku Recipes by Irene Poulton
Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics: A Close Embrace of the Earth by Louise Allison Cort, Bert Winther-Tamaki
Modern Japanese Ceramics: Pathways of Innovation & Tradition by Anneliese Crueger, Wulf Crueger, Saeko Ito
Potters Manual: Complete, Practical Essential Reference for All Potters by Kenneth Clark
The Soul Of A Bowl: Don Reitz, Frank Boyden, Jenny Lind, Tom Coleman, Elaine Coleman by Contemporary Crafts Museum & Gallery
Salt-Glaze Ceramics by Rosemary Cochrane
Robin Hopper Ceramics: A Lifetime of Works, Ideas, and Teachings by Robin Hopper
Slab Techniques (Ceramics Handbook) by Jim Robison, Ian Marsh
Sculptural Ceramics by Ian Gregory
Ceramics for Beginners: Surfaces, Glazes & Firing by Angelica Pozo
Handbuilt Ceramics: Pinching * Coiling * Extruding * Molding * Slip Casting * Slab Work by Kathy Triplett, Lark Books
Painting on Ceramics by Kate Byrne
The Penland Book of Ceramics: Master Classes in Ceramic Techniques by Lark Books
Ceramics for Beginners: Animals & Figures by Susan Halls
Ceramics for Beginners: Hand Building by Shay Amber
Ceramics – Ways of Creation by Richard Zakin
Surface Design for Ceramics by Maureen Mills
The Materials: Quick! Order this stuff right now, AND You too can make masterpieces!
Clays: I’ve used mostly Cone 6 clays from Pottery Supply House:
The ones I’ve used the most are:
CONE 06 WHITE GROGGED CLAY: The Review: The grog allows you to work soft or rigid with ease. This is a beginners dream clay to use.
CONE 06 RED GROGGED CLAY: The Review: This is the least favorite to use. It fires off the red and needs specialized glazes.
WHITE GROGGED STONEWARE: The Review: Excellent clay for larger cultural pieces. It can dry to leather hard slowly enough to work over a few days and is rigid enough for the most architectural structure.
SHEBA RAKU CLAY: The Review: In its raw state, it is an ugly finish. It changes the chemical reaction and thus the colors of the glazes used on it. It has a finer grog in it and is a great clay for beginner hand-builders. Oddly, it loves Pete Pinel’s green glaze. Also works beautifully with matte glazes.
CONE 6 PORCELAIN: The Review: This was a challenge to use. One needed to work it faster because if it dried too fast, it would crack. It’s elasticity while in the wet-leather hard stage was fun to play with and allowed to melting appearances. It took stains very well and loved my pure pigment glazes.
BLACK CONE 6 CLAY: The Review: This worked like a tinted porcelain. It didn’t hold glazes or stains in the way I expected and seemed to give the best results when left un-modified by glaze or stain. It held up well to being mixed with gorged clays. The shrinkage was minimal, compared to white porcelain.
These were usually private mixes from the studios I worked in. I never asked for the recipes. When I graduated to the private studio, under the mentorship of porcelain master Marie Cote, I used her clear glaze as the base for all my experimentation and mixes. It was the most robust and versatile glaze available and allowed me to mix in pure pigments and metals without runoff or kiln incidents. Make sure to ask your local supplier for a stable clear glaze and play with it.
Stains, Engobes, & Underglazes:
These are the ones I’ve played with the most to make my own:
6005 – Pigment – Crimson – 125gr:
6025 – Pigment – Coral Red -125gr:
6305 – Pigment – Teal Blue – 125gr:
6300 – Pigment – Mazerine Blue – 125gr:
6385 – Pigment – Pansy Purple – 125gr:
6464 – Pigment – Zirconium Yellow – 125gr:
K648 – Pigment – Dark Green:
H378 – Pigment – Amber:
R140 – Pigment – Camel Brown:
431 – White – Opaque Stain:
454 – Rust – Opaque Stain:
476 – Black – Opaque Stain:
475 – Charcoal – Opaque Stain:
953 – Bronze:
954 – Copper:
956 – Silver:
958 – Blue:
You can play with Other Raw Pigments, but make sure you ask for what’s in them & if they can mix with your glazes. Certain minerals and metals will cause your glazes to crackle or drip off the surface during firing, and some may cause explosions.
You can get these awesome starter kits:
1- niceEshop 30pcs Clay Sculpting Tools Pottery Carving Tool Set Wooden Handle Modelling Clay Tools with Pouch Bag
2- Celendi Professional Sculpture Carving Tool Set: The review: Both of these sets give you a vast range of possibilities for turning, hand-building, carving, trimming, and marking.
Some of my tools come from Pottery Supply House or Sial. Some I made myself. Marking tools really come from your imagination and almost anything can be used. You can spend a small fortune for them or make them yourself. You can get loads of materials from the dollar store to make them.
Brushes & Applicators:
I found that Calligraphy Brushes & Bamboo Brushes worked the best and I indulged in a variety of big ones. They hold much more glaze and helped me achieve more uniform coatings when I wasn’t dipping the bisqued pieces. They also allowed me the finer tips for greater details when wanted.
You can easily get squeeze bottles from the dollar store, but the drip control is better with pro tools.
If you are uncertain of what to get, simply order a few or all of the following:
Note: Some of these brushes can be found at local art supply stores as well.
Miscellaneous: I also mixed into my glazes and onto the surface of my clays, asphalt, beach sand, glass beads & marbles, gold, silver, & copper wire, and a variety of metal dust. Some came from pottery supply houses, some from hardware stores, some simply found.
Warning: I don’t suggest you use any of these without supervision or the go-ahead from an experienced kiln technician or master potter. Some of these release gases in the kiln that causes other glazes to change color drip off the pieces, and they may even explode in the kiln. I used my knowledge of chemical reactions combined with the careful study of firing mistakes to create my results. And, I always had the benefit of masters advising me on the potential dangers.
Photoshop for Mac: The Review: You could use the free “ MAC Photos” program or Picassa and get similar results, but Photoshop offers you the flexibility of presenting yourself as a pro photographer, like no other program. There’s a reason it’s considered the best of the best, after all. So, this allows you the possibility of selling this service to others and funding more of your creativity
Apple MacBook Pro 15.4″ Laptop: The Review: You may choose to get an iMac for the bigger screen, and I couldn’t disagree with the beauty of working with the 24” screen. I picked the laptop, because of the need to be mobile and the flexibility of multi-purposing it to use for client demos. As an alternative to the weight of this model, I would suggest the MacBook Air 13”. Most of us have become accustomed to mobile device size screens and it is much easier to carry around.
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T6 DSLR: The Review: My first DSLR camera was the EOS Rebel T3. This one is vastly superior to the old model. Canon has a well-deserved reputation of having top rated cameras. It requires a little play time to master it, and that time will be lessened by defining a clear idea of what you want to do with it, then jumping on YouTube for the multitude of How To videos. If you want a smaller camera to carry around, try Canon EOS M10 Mirrorless Digital Camera OR go small & powerful with the Canon PowerShot Digital Camera with 3-Inch LCD & built in wifi.
Canon PIXMA MX492 Inkjet Printer: The Review: For me, this has been the easiest to us for cleaning and cartridge replacement. It works reasonably well with recycled inks and the wireless is easy to set-up. The Canon has worked best for me on ink usage. When purchasing printers, always consider the cost of ink replacement… for the most part, this is the big difference right now in printers. For big reproduction lines, it is better to outsource. For scanning, they are as good as the camera in them… this is one reason I’m a fan of Canon products. It does do a nice job on printing photos on good photo paper, and the black print is crisp and clean, provided you do regular cleanings and keep it dust free.