Tag Archives: Arts and Crafts Movement

Open Studio Update

Birdhouse: I couldn’t be happier to show you my finished birdhouse! It  was made by draping white clay over two conical molds made of poster board stuffed with newspaper. Its pagoda-like feel called out for Japanese glazes: Green Oribe over Shino. My husband will thread narrow chains through the holes, then glue a metal flange over the hole to make it the exact size. First, however, I’ll have to review my notes because I cannot remember which feathered friend I made it for, believe it or not! I love the way it turned out and cannot wait to hang it in our shady big leaf maple tree, with the door hole facing East. 

Underglazes:  I asked Nan if she would mind if I experimented with a technique she has been mastering, layering underglazes, then wiping part of it off to achieve a specific effect. She gave me her blessings. I am tinkering with reliefs made by impressing my mother’s German cookie molds into clay. They are molds she bought in the early 1960s; they are hand carved and quite beautiful. I aim to experiment with them using underglazes and with tilemaking. From these first trials, I can tell I need to paint more layers of each individual color, otherwise, it is too easy to wipe through the layers and reach the base clay. You can see what I mean in this next photo by looking at the impressions on the left and top. I rather like the technique and will continue working with different color combinations till I find ones I really like.

Pendants: This coming February 25, I’ll be facilitating a workshop for my Creativity Group. We meet once a month and have been for over 3 years now. The group is made up of friends and neighbors who get together for art projects or to go to events. Of all of the projects we’ve done so far, none of them have centred on jewelry, so I have planned one that we will be able to do over two hours. I fashioned pendants of white clay, basing them on a necklace from Korea my friend Jennifer wears. It is simplicity itself and so attractive because of it. It measures about 1″ x 1 1/3″ and has been stamped. I have relied on stamps  created by others that are meant for anyone to use at the art centre. I do have a design in mind, but I have yet to make the stamp. The stamps I chose are of a dragonfly, a rose, and a geometric design. I intend to glaze the top, leaving the sides and base for workshop participants to finish with metallic solutions, copper and silver. They will also string them and use jewelry findings to finish them. As far as the rest of the pendants go, considering I made 206 of them, I will be experimenting with glaze treatments, underglazes, and stains. I adore Mary Harding’s work and would like to use stains in a similar fashion.

Tiles: I continued with my tilemaking adventures by using reverses of the individual cookie molds for relief. I am very drawn to the style and methods  Michael Cohen uses for his and I am emulating his style. He seems like such a genial man and his tiles are delightful. He is very practical, has a no bones philosophy, and is a founding member of the Asparagus Valley Ceramics movement. His method of tilemaking appeals to me, in part, because I had been looking for a way that took less time. I am constantly researching the ways people make tiles and his have made a great impression on me (no pun intended!). The photo at the right shows one of the sets of molds I am working with. They are hand carved, have fine detail, and are reminiscent of the skill with which German nativities and cuckoo clocks are made. To make reverses of these, I sprinkled them with cornstarch to prevent the clay from sticking, then cut them out and dried them between weighted down plasterboard. Since they’ve been bisqued, I’ve used some of them to create relief tiles in the vein of Cohen’s. Actually, I’d have to make reverses of the bisqued ones to truly emulate his method and I will do so. The ones I did make are going to be white white, out of B Mix and I’m using Dan’s faux celadon on them. Today, I talked with our studio tech, Dan, about glass because I intend to use broken up bits of glass on the relief area. He gave me some pointers and showed me the glass the studio has in stock, the rods Deb used to use. He also said he’d bring me some of the thicker rods used for beadmaking and I am so grateful! The photos below show closeups of the relief. The clay took to it well. Cohen’s low-tech method using string to mark out the tiles sounds like a good idea, too. I used a tile cutter that makes 4″ x 4″ tiles.  As you know, my favorite style is traditional Arts & Crafts, which started in England and moved to North America. The revival in A & E has grown steadily since the 1980s and I love seeing the furniture, lamps, and ceramics made in this style. Ceramics, pottery, both integral to the style because of its earthy and pristine qualities, depending upon what your making out of it. Eventually, I would like to pair up with my husband, with him making fumed oak frames and me tiles. It would be grand! In the meantime, I took a little side trip with these cookie molds. Maybe not so far astray, though, as the A & E motifs do focus on nature. Using the Cohen method, the next tiles will be ones I create from scratch. They will include timeless Arts & Crafts designs I’ve had on the back burner. Gingko leaf. Pine cone. Pine bough. Birds. Dragonflies. For these particular tiles, I’ll use porcelain with celadon, adding glass bits before firing. They will be larger than my 4x4s…somewhere in the neighborhood of 6×6. I can’t wait!

The Future: Over the last while, I have revisited the reasons I am involved with clay and what I am doing with it. There is an old saying about doing your duty and letting the sparrows twitter, meaning keep to your course and don’t let others’ comments get in the way of what you’re doing. It can be difficult to do at times but I believe in myself, my art and the course I’m charting. I will keep up my effort, be disciplined, associate with people who are positive influences, eschew negative ones. I must continue to culture my intuition. Case in point: I wondered aloud about Gloria in the studio today, about how she was, how her health was. Five minutes later, she walked through the door. I had not seen her since before Christmas. That is the type of intuition I’m culturing…that I will apply with clay. This year will bring great things. I can feel it.

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Korean celadon on porcelain from the Koryo Dynasty

George's saggar-fired piece, celadon on porcelain

My husband, Mark, and I were talking about celadon glaze last night. He made the point that it was the perfect ceramic glaze for Arts and Crafts-style decor. Fumed quarter-sawn oak and orange shellac contrast well with its cool tones. I have to agree and I’ll give you the closest visual demo I can come up with on short notice. My teacher’s assistant, George, made such lovely pieces. This saggar-fired vessel is a good example, as it shows how well the soft green goes with orange. The following video is on the youtube channel of Lee Hyun Jo, a South Korean poet who is interested in the Arts. His video shows an amazing collection of Korean porcelain glazed with celadon from the Koryo Dynasty (918-1392). Wikipedia’s Celadon site states that “Some of the world’s most coveted and admired masterpieces of ceramics art were produced in Korea during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties.”

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Display racks to enhance your artisan tiles

Tiles by William De Morgan, 1872-1882, manufactured by Josiah Wedgwood and Sons. Source: Wikimedia Commons

This summer, I learned that a tile I’d given for Christmas wasn’t being displayed. Well, I know that when it starts belonging to someone else, it is their business and what they do or do not do with it doesn’t pertain to me. Still, it did ‘ouch’ and brought up an issue: my lack of sources for displaying the things I make. The display hardware I’ve seen consists of wooden racks, Chinese style, and brass plate hangers that grip the piece from behind. Neither works well for my style of work. So, I decided to investigate, as I’ll soon be needing some. What I’m looking for are nice racks for my artisan tiles, something that would be sturdy, yet not detract, and nothing that feels modern. My tiles are Arts and Crafts style. This timeline spans the second half of the 19th Century in Great Britain and 1905-1925 in the U.S. In addition,  Orientalism was the rage for a decade, starting with the 1880s. Think Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Ostensibly, these modern Chinese stands could be used, but I think they would detract from my tiles because of the ornamentation. Originally, such tiles would have been inset into wooden furniture, wall panels, and around fireplaces. Plate rails would have been used, too. But not all tiles would have been displayed that way. Because I am unable to try any of these out on my tiles, I am going to do a bit of photoshopping…will ‘place’ my tiles one-by-one behind the racks to see what I think looks best. If you know of any sources I might like, in addition to the one listed below, please let me know. I’d appreciate it! — Jan

Part of a panel of tiles designed by William Morris for Membland Hall and executed by William De Morgan, 1876. Source Wikimedia Commons

Tile Racks: Fine Home Displays carries some nice items. It also has Better Business Bureau accreditation and takes orders from Canada. The following are called plate holders, but they could easily double for tile racks, ones that hang.

  • The Loop Design is black with a matte finish and retails for $12.89-$14.89; comes in two different sizes.
  • The Scroll Style holder goes for $15.89-$18.89; comes in these colors: gold, steel, dark steel and black. Two sizes.
  • The Iron Easel is black and quite plain and I like it. Sells for $15.89. It’s quite large and can double as a bowl rack.
  • Chair Motif Bowl Holder for $19.89. Lovely; must include it! Wrought iron, an antique gold finish, it is now out of stock, but you can be notified when it’s in.

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Finished and Almost Finished Handbuilt Pieces

Here are some photos of some of my own work, most of which are Arts and Crafts-style pieces.

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