Cat-proof candlelight with ceramic luminaries

It was rainy, dark and rainy today. When I got home from walking at the community recreation centre, all I could think of was how comforting the gas fireplace seemed. It warmed me just looking at it and made me think of candlelight. Because we have a cat, we are very careful about using candles. Generally, we tend to use hurricane lanterns because they are enclosed and safe for the cat to be around. Tonight, I realized a good solution would be luminaria…ceramic ones. Maybe I thought of this because it’s New Year in India, Diwali, and millions of tiny clay lamps have been lit all over the globe to celebrate it. I first heard of the term luminaria through Sunset magazine many moons ago. It is a Hispanic tradition and a beautiful one: pathways and sidewalks are lined with paper  lanterns holding candles. Originally, luminaria had religious connotations associated with Catholicism, but now they are a secular decoration used on Christmas Eve. Candles in paper bags?! I know, it sounds dangerous, but if tea lights are used on an appropriate base, it is quite safe. The soft light that shows through Kraft paper is warm and enticing. Many potters make “luminaries” by throwing a vessel and carving holes in the walls after it has firmed up a bit. Designs or simple geometric shapes. They don’t have to be thrown, though, and many a fine luminary can be made by handbuilding.

Coil Technique: Either slabs or coils would work well and, if it were me, I would use coils, keeping them as is on the outside of the vessel, connecting and smoothing from the inside. Mark out the placement of windows, then cut away the coils in those areas after the vessel had dried a bit. Once I made a little toothpick holder for my Dad with this method and, tiny though it was, it turned out quite neat. Stains or glazes accentuating the spaces between coils look neat and accentuate color and form.

Slab Technique: Slab work very well, too, and you could make any shape you wanted. Simple is best, though, because it doesn’t detract from the candle. First, make a paper pattern, to make sure your measurements work, then cut a slab and base to measure. Let dry, covered, for a couple of days, then, once it is firm enough to work with, carefully cut out the openings before assembling. Porcelain would be especially nice if it was thin enough. Light would shine through the translucent walls, in addition to the cut outs. If you want to be more of a traditionalist, you could make sack shapes from porcelain. I’ve seen luminaries made this way and they’re really neat! Some have tiny serrations along the top like real paper bags.

If you would like to read more about making ceramic luminaries and see a few videos, click here.

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