The History: Tell me what you see and start the next chapter…
When I started studying about porcelain, I began with what the challenges were in using it. This sculpture and its brother, “Horn” were some of the many things my teachers said shouldn’t be possible. Porcelain is a beautiful material to use and one of the best clay bodies I’ve ever used. It required patience and a gentle touch. What it gives back, is full of life, light, and love.
The Technique: How I did this awesomeness!
I rolled out my porcelain slab, 1/3 inch thick. I cut the big circle of clay in two parts. I let them dry for about an hour to a soft-leather-hard state. I carefully folded each haft into a rough cone, smoothed the seams with my fingers and a damp sponge, then let sit under a damp newspaper sheet. I then rolled a 1/3 slab of white stoneware and cut brought blade shapes to be used as feet. I did a little estimating of angles and cut to adjust a few times. Then they were rolled gently with texture wheels and put under the newspaper. I used a small stick to hit the texture into the cone, making sure to be gentle enough not to break the cone, but hard enough to see the clay get longer and more dense with the repeated hits. I put all the pieces under damp newspaper and plastic for a few days so they would all be the same hardness for the next step.
I then used a damp sponge on the feet to smooth the edges and scarred the end that would be attached to the cone. I carved shallow grooves into the cones where the feet would be attached and gently scored the grooves. With the help of a little slip, I added the feet to the cones and with a fine tip wood tool, I secured the feet to the cone. I let it dry slowly for another week under plastic and paper. Then with a damp sponge, I smoothed the remaining imperfections.
When bone dry, and no cracks appeared at the seams, I sent it to be bisque fired. When bisque, I poured in a blue celadon glaze inside the cone, poured out the excess and wiped the rim clean. I painted on a clear glaze to the outside of the cones and rubbed on an iron oxide stain to the feet, then finally fired it.
The Influence: Confessions of a Plagiarist, sort of…
I was reading American Craft Magazine, Ceramics Monthly, and Pottery times every month and fell in love with a series of articles that ran through them simultaneously regarding kiln errors, glazing mistakes, and firing accidents… and how to avoid them. My friend told me of how his father, a master ceramist was able to account for shrinkage rates and combine different clays. I had to try. These were the start of my exploration into what the teachers suggested not to do.
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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, ANDYou 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 Modeling 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, good, 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 gazes 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.