The History & The Influence: Confessions of a Plagiarist, sort of…
There’s a conspiracy in the expressions in these two faces. The one on the right is whispering a tasty piece of gossip to the one on the left, who’s downturned mouth emotes both mock disapproval and barely concealed excitement. There are making sidelong glass at each other, but you know they are watching you and everything they see in the room. Ah, if only they could recount the scenes they’ve witnessed. Be they from my studio, where my pottery mentor tells me her students would discuss my work, to the walls of the homes this piece has moved to, the stories might be very amusing.
The Technique: How I did this awesomeness!
Roll your slab to about a quarter inch and cut the tile to the size desired. Cut the frame strips, about half an inch wide, and attach them to the tile by scoring and slip. This frame will solidify the tile and help prevent it from waring during drying and firing. Cut two strips about three-quarter inches wide by five inches long, curve them an inch from each end, to look like wide “U” shapes. Punch a small hole through the curved ends on one of the “U”s so you can use wire or leather rope to hand the tile when fired. Do not attach the “U”s yet.
Using a conically cut shape of the slab, form a cone for the face(s), cut small pieces to form the nose, eyebrows, and mouth. Do not assemble just yet.
Put all the pieces on a wood plank, cover in humid newsprint and a sheet of plastic, to dry slowly for a few days. They will all be at the same leather hard stage when you assemble and this will inhibit cracking at the seams during drying/firing. Assemble the tile first, by placing the “U”s with scoring and slip to the unframed side, then assemble the faces, before using scoring and slip to attach them to the framed side of the tile. I suggest letting it dry about 20 mins, if you are making several pieces at once, if not, then take a damp sponge and smooth the seams and any rough surfaces you desire to look more finely finished, then cover to dry slowly before bisquing.
There are many ways to finish your tiles, including engobes, stains, glazes, and combinations of all of them. The challenges of glazes and engages are that there is more possibility of warping the thin tile as they shrink during firing. Consult your technician, if you can about the materials available in the studio, assuming you are working in a shared space. If not, consult YouTube. I’ve worked mainly with texturing the clay and applying metal oxide stains, however, there are some, where I used a blue crackle glaze that filled in the Framed side beautifully, without warping the surface.
These are all fired to Cone 6 in an electric kiln and my goal, as often the case, is to emulate a natural Raku firing. I’ve edited down my suggested reading list to those I feel most will help with this technique.
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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
Slab-built Ceramics by Coll Minogue
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
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
500 Tiles: An Inspiring Collection of International Work by Suzanne J.E. Tourtillott
Alternative Kilns & Firing Techniques: Raku * Saggar * Pit * Barrel by James C. Watkins, Paul Andrew Wandless, Lark Books
The Ceramic Glaze Handbook: Materials, Techniques, Formulas by Mark Burleson
Fired Up with Raku: Over 300 Raku Recipes by Irene Poulton
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:
SHEBA RAKU CLAY: The Review: In it’s raw state, it is an ugly finish. It changes the chemical reaction and thus the colours 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.
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:
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 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 dusts. 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 a go ahead from an experienced kiln technician or master potter. Some of these release gazes in the kiln that cause other glazes to change colour, 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 possibly get the 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 use 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.