Tag Archives: Ceramic glaze

Open Studio Report, 3/15

Oh, it was a gray and rainy old day today! It’s always a treat to arrive at the studio to spend time with my companions, though, no matter what it’s like outside. It was warm and bright indoors around the big table, although I felt less industrious today than last time. I continued to work on my conical bird house, trimming it a bit to make it perfectly upright. I also cut out a round of clay that I will insert next week after it dries a little. It will become a platform for nesting. Next week, after I place it, I will make horizontal scratches up to the hole I’ll cut and this will be the ‘ladder’ the fledglings will climb when they’re ready to leave the nest. Now, I have to research how big I want the hole to be, then factor in shrinkage rates and cut it. I also want to consider a squirrel-proofing addition. The photo above doesn’t show much yet, as the cone is covered with damp paper and plastic, but it is slowly taking shape. I also made a pattern and cut out the lid, but it will have to dry for a week before I create the low, squat conical shape and stuff it with newspapers to dry. A tile had come out of the kiln and while it has its charms, I am not perfectly satisfied with it. Because the white clay I use turns light gray when fired, I covered the whole thing with bright white underglaze, then Shino. I adore Shino and it was the perfect way to allow the glaze to show its stuff. The tile has a lot of texture, so there’s nice variation. I had some underglaze problems, so will be doing another. Pauline gave me some good ideas about how to prevent them the next time. Then, I checked on some things I have in the damp room. I mentioned I’ve made a mold of an escutcheon tile. Well, it’s drying nicely and soon I’m going to be able to start experimenting with small tiles made from it. You can see the vine and berries clearly through the cornstarch used to prevent the clay from sticking to the tile I molded it from. I want to hang things from the keyhole, as a decorative effect and have one skeleton key so far. Not much, as I don’t want to overdo it. The piece must stand on its own. Next, I checked on my little olive oil lamps, the design of which was inspired by Roman and Parthian lamps. I can’t wait to fire these little guys up to see how they work. I’ll probably make others that will be replicas of actual lamps, but I want to test them first. I already have my wicking at hand. The lamps are leather hard now, so I uncovered them in the damp room and will be able to fire them soon as they’re quite small. I will only glaze the bottom portion…clear glaze over the burgundy and turquoise glaze. These colors should look nice against the dark terra cotta. I made some house numbers with the turquoise and red clay and it’s quite nice together. And, lastly, my sheaf of wheat tile… It has been drying, uncovered, but I want to hurry the process a little because it’s starting to drive me a little nuts. (Patience!) After this tile is fired, I will mold it, too. I have some plans… One thing I’d like to do with one tile is to write around the edge, line-for-line, in cursive style with my new Kemper pen, which I have yet to use. Better start practicing… I won’t be able to do it till I’ve bisqued a tile from the mold I’m to make. So, to hasten things, I set it on a plaster mold and will let the remaining moisture wick from it till I can get to it again. Over the week, till I head back to the studio, I have some ideas I want to start working on at home with the red and white clay I have here. The tile looks a little ratty in this photo, what with mold and paper towelling stuck to it, but the mold is actually a sign that I’m using good clay and it and the paper will burn off just fine. I let it dry very slowly because I didn’t want the small bits to crack and it worked out well; everything’s intact. Phew. All’s well that end’s well.

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Open Studio Report

It felt like I got a lot done at the studio yesterday. I brought home three things:

Navajo Red bowl, bottom left unglazed, inside and rim glazed with Red Chrome. This glaze interacts with the iron in red clay, causing a lovely gray mixed with wine and hints of blue.

Reglaze job worked well on the low box. White clay, Red Chrome glaze. No gray but hints of blue.

Kitchen scrubber holder done. Red clay with Red Chrome…nice gray accents.

I didn’t use my cart yesterday because I didn’t want anything to break on the way home but, next Tuesday, I’ll roll my supplies on down the hill to the studio again. Let’s see…I continued working on my bird house. Forgot to take my camera, so didn’t get pics of it, but it’s coming along well. Next week, I’ll make the top. Because the bottom half was so big, I cut it down. Now it’s not nearly as tall or wide. As David Jason says in the The Darling Buds of May — “Per-fic.”

What else? Oh, yes, I glazed a white clay relief tile for my husband’s Auntie Marj. It was created from mold I made of the ‘Snowfall Tile.‘ Before bisquing, I painted the whole thing with white underglaze and textured it. It’s been bisqued, now, and looks startling white. In the background, leaves of gold, orange and red are falling. Yesterday, I glazed the top surface and sides with Shino…we’ll see how it turns out. I want some fall color action and am hoping the Shino creates a rich gold and dampens the brilliance of the leaves a bit.

Did I do anything else? Oh…I made a mold of the escutcheon tile I’d made, using corn starch to prevent sticking. Also, my Sheaf of Wheat tile has finally dried to the point where I can leave it completely uncovered now till it’s bone dry. Gads it’s taking a long time, but it is well over an inch thick and had very thin parts on top, so I was extra careful.

I had done some Qi Gong exercises before I left home and the clay work itself was very grounding, so I felt doubly good when I got back home! Next Wednesday, I’ll post another Open Studio Report….

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The Student and Teacher’s Thixotropic Clay

Goopy, gloopy. Oozing, dripping. These are attributes of thixotropic clay, the properties of which are caused by deflocculation. The usual ways we work with clay are out of the question. “The clay appears to be firm but becomes increasingly fluid when manipulated,” writes Glenn  Nelson. Thixotropic clay returns to its original state when it’s allowed to set. Graduate student Carol Jeanne Abraham developed a formula for porcelain with these properties. According to Nelson, it is made into a slip, then aged for a long time. Here is Abraham’s formula:

It is almost impossible to find information on thixotropic clay. Nelson’s A Potter’s Handbook devoted quite a bit of space to it, but I have seen nothing about this form since. This is one of  the reasons for my post today. The clay body has such unique properties, it needs to see the light of day once again. In addition, Nelson passed away last April, almost a year ago and, while I will write a tribute to him another time, I am thinking of him as I write. His instructions for making a pot from thixotropic clay begin with directing us to stretch and fold the clay to activate its special properties. “Then gradually work it into a shape that can be draped over a mold,” he says. Leave it until it starts to set, then you can work with it again. The vessel needs to be taken off the mold as soon as possible, but he said “the surface may appear deceptively dry when the form is still quite plastic.” Working with thixotropic clay will take practice. Sagging is one of the problems you’d come up against. Also, Nelson said that, given its 6% shrinkage rate, glazes typically used for porcelain won’t work. He suggests using a glaze for cone 5 or lower. When the vessel is fired at cone 9, though, this glaze will craze slightly, he said. “The effects of fluidity and apparent motion will appeal to many potters, especially those interested in decorative and sculptural forms,” he concludes. When I think of Glen Nelson, I am reminded of university days, when we experimented with forms, textures, glazes, and clays. To me, thixotropic clay reminds me of those days…undefined territory, effort, and the joy that comes from learning and playing. Hats off to you, Glenn Nelson….

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Art Gallery in your Kitchen: Refrigerator Magnets

Fridge magnets are an under-appreciated art form. Yet, one tiny morsel of clay can go a long way, artistically. A well-designed, well-executed ceramic fridge magnet has lasting power. You want to walk over to your fridge to appreciate it. I applaud the artist who takes the time to make them. It’s true, there’s a lot of schlock out there, things that are cute, ugly or poorly made. But, there are many pieces that are quite fine and have taken a bit of doing to create. I don’t mind sweet, if it’s done well.  I guess I just, generally, like fridge magnets. They’re fun to get and give. I like visiting someplace knew and finding fridge magnets I’ve never seen. From here, I can see some of mine on our fridge. There’s a finger puppet magnet of Monet, a lunar rover (that actually winds up and runs), and a bunch of other cool ones. I have some cherished ones that are beautifully designed and were found in art galleries. Every once in a while I have to scoop everything off all three sides of my fridge (!) and be a little more selective. Many are stored and on a rotation. A small one only needs a ceramic magnet. If your mini-artwork has a rare earth magnet, be careful, it’s very strong and you have to attach it to the fridge carefully. I made some last year and had that experience. But, I wouldn’t mind at all if any of these tiny morsels graced my fridge. Most of the magnets shown in this slide show are from etsy.com and links can be found below.

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Sources: Heart, Lozenges, 3-in-one, Irish, Moth, Acorns, Armenian Family, Star Charm, Abstract Purple, Stuck On You, Oak Leaf, Owls, Star Charm (repeated), Guitar, Squirrel, Hand, Rose, Red Heart, Trees and Fog, Bud and Leaf, Butterflies,
love, Porcelain (4), Failte (Welcome)

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