Tag Archives: Crafts

Cold Porcelain and Pasta Francesa made from ingredients in your home

Yes, it is smooth. Yes, it is white. Yes, you can fashion things from it. But that is where the similarity ends, because cold porcelain isn’t mineral clay and cannot be fired. It is a modelling compound that you can buy or make yourself, the basis of which is corn starch. After you create something with it, the piece is air-dried, then sealed. If it is unsealed, it can ‘melt’ if it comes in contact with water. Heat is to be avoided, too. There are a number of names for the compound: corn starch clay, cold porcelain and pasta francesa. Victorian salt clay is similar in that it is air-dried. The Artful Crafter says,  “I like the porcelain designation because cornstarch based modeling clays are pure white and if sealed after drying, they actually resemble fine porcelain.” I have searched the web to see what people were doing with it, but have found very little that could be considered finer art. Cold porcelain use is mainly on the craft end of the spectrum. I think that is unfortunate because it seems to be a medium a person can do a lot with. There are some serious cold porcelain sculptors out there and one of them is Pakistani artist, Hussain Awan. “I am a cold porcelain sculptor I strive to open new avenues of art in this medium,” he explains on his Flickr site. Please take a look at his pieces called LifeOld Traditional House, and  Orchids. The Puerto Rican site, A Wild Thing shows a number of small busts made of the material. The site states, “With this paste we carefully craft our unique designs which mostly depict the  heritage of the island.” People in traditional dress are shown on the site. Mexican artist Miguel Armancci has really explored the medium. I like his piece called Triton Rojo. His work has an ethereal feel and the portraits are quite enchanting. I especially like Angel de otoño. However, much of his other work feels too much like manga or is too sexist. Yet, these artisans are among the few who are doing anything serious with cold porcelain. There is an abundance of trite, cute, saccharine work out there but, no matter how well-executed, it is still trite, cute, and saccharine. Clearly, this form needs a wider audience and artist base.  I also believe that it is a very accessible art form.  Not everyone has access to a kiln. In addition, cold porcelain work is a hobby that is not expensive. This is important because the art of making art is for everyone. I appreciate knowing about a modeling compound that can be made from materials in one’s home: cornstarch, oil and glue. A recipe can be found at Noadi’s Art. Sheryl also directs us to her other site for more recipes: Creating with Cold Porcelain. In addition, The Artful Crafter has a list of dos and don’ts and here is an FAQ.


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DIY projects using terra cotta clay pots

Terra cotta pots are saucers are inexpensive, come in a huge range of sizes and have many zippy uses. The humble clay pot can be used to make music, with birdwatching, as a cake plate and a homemade gift kit. What follows are hand-picked sites that show how to make cool things that won’t break your budget or tax your time schedule. Have fun!

“Garden Implements Music” — Seeing these musical pots near the fountain in the forest setting instantly relaxed me and I can only imagine how neat they’d be in real life!

Clay Pot Birdfeeder — Simple feeder, elegant feeder, easy project.

Mosaic Clay Pot Birdbath — A lovely creation from Michaels Craft Store. Could change and adapt many ways…

Clay Pot Cupcake Stand — Beautiful in its simplicity and highly original.

Mini Plant Kit — There’s no reason we can’t make this up ourselves for gifts… It would require pot and saucer, bag of dirt inside in ziplock bag, ribbon and embellishment, and seed packet.

Gone to Pot — A multitude of ideas from about.com, one of my favorite sites.

Moss Pots — One of my all-time favorites that I’ve used many a time…creates a lovely aged look, an instant Tuscany garden!

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Ceramics Books Published Winter/Spring 2011

Surface Design for Ceramics (A Lark Ceramics Book), by Maureen Mills. Paperback. $13.89 US (amazon.com), $16.89 CDN (amazon.ca). New edition of book originally published in 2008. Pre-order: April 5th release date.

Amazon blurb: “Ceramists of any level will benefit from this comprehensive studio reference about surface design and the many techniques for embellishing clay. Detailed images inform every phase of the process-from the wet and leather-hard stages through bisque ware, to firing and post-firing. Recipes are supplemented by design theory and historical examples.”

Pottery & Ceramics, Glass, Metal: A Walk into Islamic History, by Abdul Latif Jassim Kanoo, Samar Al Gailani, Tarek Waly. Hardback. $50.40 US (amazon.com), $58.59 CDN (amazon.ca).  Pre-order for May 17th release date.

Said to be lavishly illustrated, the Amazon blurb says that “there are a number of pronounced characteristics which distinguish this art from other forms and underscore its unity. Among these are the use of calligraphy as a central design theme in the decoration of objects; the free use of decorative motifs, particularly recognised repetitive geometric and foliate forms; the bold use of colours without gradation.”

The Art of Toshiko Takaezu: In the Language of Silence, edited by Peter Held. Hardback. $25.33 US (amazon.com), $24.53 CDN (amazon.ca). Pre-order for March 31st release date.

Amazon blurb says the book “traces the artistic development of renowned potter Toshiko Takaezu, this masterful study celebrates and analyzes an artist who holds a significant place in the post-World War II craft movement in America.”

Fukami: Purity of Form, edited by Andreas Marks. Hardback. $31.50 US (amazon.com), $46.02 CDN (amazon.ca). Pre-order for May 1st release date.

Amazon blurb: “Born in Kyoto in 1947, Fukami Sueharu belongs to a generation of ceramic artists in postwar Japan who devoted themselves to the creation of sculptural ceramics, free from traditional forms. He is internationally known for his polished, razor-sharp, minimalist porcelain sculptures with elegant pale bluish glaze inspired by Chinese porcelains of the 10th to 14th centuries. He can be considered the most successful living Japanese artist working in any medium.”

Surfaces and Textures: A Visual Sourcebook, by Polly O’Neil. Paperback. $17.63 US (amazon.com), $11.19 CDN (amazon.ca). Pre-order in the US for a March 15 release date; already available in Canada.

Amazon blurb: “The author has captured fascinating aspects of both natural and man-made things otherwise overlooked, showing the reader their hidden qualities. Elements of skips, old paint, driftwood and stone walls from around the world all contribute to a range of beautiful patterns and samples which make up this selection of photographs. Every surface tells a story and these beautiful images provide a visual sourcebook for artists from all areas of the Visual Arts.”

This Blessed Plot, This Earth: English Pottery Studies in Honour of Jonathan Horne, edited by Amanda Dunsmore. Hardback. $56.19 US (amazon.com), $65.00 CDN (amazon.ca). Pre-order for a May 1st release date.

Amazon blurb: “Encompassing a broad range of new research, over 30 specialists from around the world consider topics including the first pottery in James Fort, North America; shipping containers for Atlantic ceramic cargoes; Delftware exports to the West Indies; recent archaoeological discoveries in London; an 18th-century duke’s bill for ceramicware; and the 16th-century Rheinland stoneware industry in England.”

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Stuff & Junk: Ceramic tool storage/transport

CARRY-ALL: I had been driving to the Open Studio because my supplies were too heavy to tote, especially if I was carrying clay. I wanted to walk and it always made me feel silly driving, since the art centre is only three or four blocks away. So, I decided to get some kind of a rolling cart with telescoping handle. I did a lot of comparison shopping and found what I wanted. It cost $43.40 Cdn and the shipping was only $10. It’s called a ‘Stow-away Folding Caddy.’ Basically, it’s a folding crate on wheels with a telescoping handle. As the photo shows, it’s quite slim when folded and it will carry 50 lbs. I bought it through Canadian Office Supplies and am very happy with it. I store it in the car, at the base of the hill and, when I go to the studio, I carry my supplies down the stairs to the car, open the crate, plop everything inside, then roll on down the hill. I might have found one in the U.S. that was less expensive, but then I’d have to deal with shipping hassles (see Postage Dilemmas below).

HOBBY STORE BLUES: I had been hauling my ceramic tools  in a plastic food container. It was big and everything fit; however, I noticed that the lid popped off when it was transported to the studio in my new rolling crate. Nothing fell out of the crate and it was dry and cold that day, but usually it’s rainy and I want something that will stay shut. So, today, when I was at Michaels Arts and Crafts looking for candle wicking, I looked around. I found the wicking for my clay olive oil lamps. I also wanted to see if I could buy a styrofoam cone I wanted to use for a form for a clay bird house I’m making. Well, I did find one, but it was $25. No kidding. So, I’m going back to the drawing board and will make a cone of cardboard, stuff it with tightly crumpled newspapers, then cover the whole thing with plastic, then duct tape it.

STORAGE CONTAINER: While at Michaels, I came across some storage containers for scrapbooking supplies that were 40% off. My kind of deal! So, I bought one very similar to this Iris Storage Container. Mine is 8.5″x14″, has adjustable dividers, is made by Everything Mary and was on sale for $8. It’s a single-layer storage case. I had thought about buying a fishing tackle box, but didn’t think I needed anything that big. So, now my new storage case is full of my tools and the lid has clasps and will stay shut. There are other ways to look at storage for clay tools and I really like these cotton roll pouches from Whole Lotta Whimsy. I imagine this style of pouch has been used for clay tool storage for centuries. The site caters to jewelry makers but we could use this pouch just as easily for our clay tools. Moving on, my friend Joan uses a plastic tote for her tools and, while I’m sure you can find this type of thing many places in your locale, I found this one to show you what I’m talking about. It’s called Tote Max and I found it on the Plumbers Surplus site. I like the choice of colors and it sells for $12.29 US. You could probably find something like this at a dollar store for less but you’d have to check to see if it would be durable enough. I like the idea of a tote because if your tools are wet, it will allow for air drying. For a little more heft, I found this Stanley toolbox. It is only $9 US through Amazon.com. You can’t go wrong with a Stanley. I like the lift out tray but the thing I like best is the metal clasp. I have had tool boxes that had plastic clasps that broke off, so I’d go with something like this next time if I were to get one. The thing about tools, any tools, is that they need to be cared for and, if they are, they will be there next time for you to use.

POSTAGE DILEMMAS: It’s always tricky because many of these places ship from the U.S. Beware, because if your your items are shipped UPS, when the UPS delivery guy arrives, they will exact a whopping C.O.D. called a ‘handling fee.’ The fee is a loophole in the border laws that basically allows UPS to hold your item hostage as you stand on your front doorstep. Unless you run to get your credit card and pay up, you won’t get your package. It works the same way with items shipped to the U.S. by UPS. So, Canadians and Americans, beware. Some of the fee is Customs duty, but the main part is the ‘ransom.’ So, read the fine print and try to have your goods shipped by a different method. I feel quite lucky that my heavy crate on wheels was freighted all the way from Ontario for only ten dollars!

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