Tag Archives: do-it-yourself

DIY Kiln Bead Rack

DIY Bead Rack

Bead rack made of insulated kiln brick

Thanks to some good advice, I made a sturdy bead rack for glaze firing. Sadly, the Amaco Bead Tree I bought was problematic at best, so I desperately needed another solution. An alternative was suggested by Dan Severance, pottery guru and ceramics tech at the Port Moody Arts Centre. I’ve taken his advice a step further, customizing it to my needs precisely.

How to make a Kiln Bead Rack

Materials: an N95 face mask, safety glasses, work gloves, one insulated kiln brick (the lightweight kind), a rip saw or hack saw, a ruler, a pencil, narrow chisel or flat blade screw driver, hammer, and short lengths of 11 gauge nichrome wire.

Your basically going to cut a valley in the brick lengthwise. Dan suggested I make a ‘V’ shaped cut, which I will do with another brick, but for my purposes today, I made a ‘U’ shaped cut.

Directions:

  1. Set up a work station outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Use a sturdy table or flat surface. Place brick on its side lengthwise.
  2. Determine the width of your ‘U’ shape. Allow for adequate clearance on either side for the bead or pendant you are making. I decided on 7/8″.
  3. Draw two lines the length of your brick, keeping the area you’re going to cut out centred. The two walls of my ‘U’ turned out about 6/8″ wide.
  4. Determine the depth of your cut. My ‘U’ is about 3 1/2″ deep, leaving about a 1″ base.
  5. Put on your safety gear: mask, glasses, gloves.
  6. Using a rip or hacksaw, start making an even cut down through one of the cut lines you made. A rip saw cuts one way: pull it through the brick as you saw, move it back and start again. A hack saw works both ways: use even pressure and saw back and forth.
  7. Saw evenly through the length of both cut lines.
  8. Set aside your saw, then turn the brick over and shake the dust out of the cuts.
  9. Using either a chisel or flat blade screwdriver, carefully chisel out the middle part of the ‘U’, starting from the ends and working inward.
  10. After chiseling and removing debris from the ‘U’, stand it on end and do some ‘clean up’ of the bottom of the ‘U’ with the screw driver or chisel, making a flat surface on the bottom.
  11. Put your tools away and turn the brick over and shake out the dust.
  12. Measure out the lines indicating where the wire will sit on the top of your rack. I measured even lines about 3/4″ apart the length of the brick.
  13. Take your saw and cut crosswise over your ‘U’ to make indentations on either side of the ‘U’. I made mine about 1/8″ deep.
  14. Put your saw away.
  15. Gently widen the grooves with a nail by carefully raking it through the groove.
  16. Take nichrome wire and cut lengths to fit in the grooves. I cut my wire in lengths of about 2″. If you want, bend the wire into a very slight ‘V’. This will ensure your bead or pendant remains in place while firing.
  17. Test the wires out…place across the ‘U’ to see if they fit snugly. Adjust groove to fit your needs.
  18. Voila! Be careful with the insulated brick; it’s slightly fragile but makes a great bead rack that doesn’t take up too much kiln space.
DIY Bead Rack, end shot

DIY Bead Rack, end shot

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Raku workshop this weekend

Horsehair Vase Judge's Special Award Mashiko 2006 Swanica Ligtenberg

Horsehair Vase Judge’s Special Award Mashiko 2006 Swanica Ligtenberg.
“Horsehair Raku Technique: taking out of the kiln at 1350F and putting horsehair on the pot which burns into it. Putting the pot on a tissue will give smoke effects on the pot. The yellowish color is from spraying ferric chloride on the put while it is hot.”
By Swanica via Wikimedia Commons

You know how you feel when something exciting is about to happen? Well, I can barely contain myself! I am taking part in a raku workshop this weekend. It is being taught by Dan Severance, of the Port Moody Arts Centre. A pro with much experience, Dan is also fun to be around. He’s perfected his techniques over the years and I know this all-day workshop will be terrific. We’ll be learning special raku techniques using horse hair and feathers, along with ordinary methods. I’ve worked with raku since the early 1980s but have yet to learn these advanced techniques. It’s perfect timing, as I’m going to start concentrating on raku.

450px-Raku-pottery-kiln

Raku pottery coming out of the kiln. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Western-raku-vase

A vase glazed and fired using the Western Raku technique, showing the soot, crackle glazing, and random oxidation typical of this pottery form. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

 I like the primitive nature of a raku firing…red hot pieces lifted from a kiln and plunged into organic matter. Crackle glazes and smoky blacks. It makes me reflect on the history of raku, on the Japanese and Koreans artisans who have fired pottery this way for centuries. One reason I’m stoked is because, while I’ve used traditional raku glazes on sculptures and vessels, I’ve yet to use the metallic oxides which result in beautiful coloration and patterns. So think of us this weekend. We’ll be working inside a gorgeous two-storey Arts and Crafts-style building, then firing outside alongside it. We’re enjoying a gorgeous fall here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Perfect for a raku firing: sunny yet crisp.

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Good Impressions Part 4: Saggar firing with Terry Shepherd

Terry Shepherd is an expert in saggar firing and the videos we’re seeing today are from a workshop he taught. His site, Shepherd Clay Works, shows his range of work. Shepherd is the artist-in-residence and director of the ceramics program at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts. His site states that Shepherd “has become known for introducing students to low-fire saggar and thin shell saggar, with fuming techniques utilizing natural combustibles such as tamarisk , salt brined fescue grasses, salt, copper and cobalt sulphate to produce a unique surface embellishment.” Shepherd does beautiful work and I like how he uses material like tamarisk and seaweed. One of my most beloved pieces (photo on right) was made by my teacher Mr. Takehara’s assistant, George. It’s a small porcelain bowl. The interplay of celadon, orange, and impressions from organic matter make it a vessel that has the hallmarks of perfection. George’s technique differs from Shepherd’s but they both create masterpieces. This is a worthwhile series and a person can learn much by watching Shepherd speak and demonstrate his techniques in this workshop. Think about saggar firing some of your own work. You won’t be let down by the results. It’s summertime…perfect weather for such work!

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Good Impressions Part 3: Pottery tissue transfers

The tissue transfer method doesn’t make an actual impression. It transfers an image from paper to clay, but I’m including it here because it requires the act of placing something on clay that remains, leaving a visual element, like impressions. I came upon tissue transfer by chance and it sounds so very cool, I wanted to include it in this series.

Modern-day:  Commercial transfers are sold at supply houses and the following information was posted by Ruth Boaz. Australian Northcote Pottery Supplies carries beautiful Japanese transfers. For some reason, I cannot link directly to the tissue page, so just look it up under the toolbar: pottery supplies. Northcote also has an instruction sheet that you can download from this URL: scroll down to #39. Pottery Supplies’ line has more variety: click here to download their catalog. Finally, Japanese Pottery Equipment: click here to see its line. I must say, I do not know why the sources I found are only in Australia. If you know of a N. American source, can you let me know? Thank you!

Historical: Boaz also suggests you take a look at the Horatio Colony Museum site to see some historic examples. “The English invention of transfer design in the 18th century coincided with the development of pottery that could rival the coveted Oriental porcelain,” according to the site. It further explains that the design was transferred “from an etched copper plate” to transfer paper. “This was achieved by first printing the etched design onto a special tissue paper with ceramic ink.” As a result, for the first time ever, working class people “could afford beautiful dinnerware for their homes.” (There is even a Transferware Collector’s Club!)

DIY Transfers: According Morgan Britt, who commented on the pottery.org clayart forum, an artist named Rosette Gault gave a demonstration of her transfer technique in a workshop. “She used regular tissue paper and one of the super fine
tipped felt markers, then used a barely damp sponge to transfer the drawing to the clay,” said Britt. Dollie and Ernie Ceramics say they also use markers to transfer a design, but that the design burns out when fired, so they only use it as a guide for filling in with underglaze. So, I guess one must simply experiment, but I think it might take a bit of trial and error to find pen ink that wouldn’t burn out. I did a little investigation and it turns out a number of makeup eyeliners contain iron oxide and some of them are like magic markers. Here are Elaine Bradley’s musings about her experiences with transfers.

So, If a person can master the technique, they will be able to do quite a bit with transfers. There are a couple of other methods happening, too, but they’re a little more obscure. You can check them out, if you’re interested. With one, you’ll have to find a screen printer who will use vitrified ink, the other you’ll have to find a Canon computer printer that uses toner with iron oxide. There are some exciting things happening in studios around the globe, though. Take a look at Potterlalab’s Flickr Photostream by clicking here. Wow! Gorgeous work… I also found a post about transfers, lino prints and other intriguing forms of decoration at Print Pattern Project‘s site. Please take a boo and good luck with your transfer projects!

DIY Ink/Screen/Transfer: Chris Donnelly, originally from Canada, studied at the Alberta College of Art and Design, and is now living and working in Scotland. He has an amazing series of instructional videos on youtube and I highly recommend them (they run below this article). As he states in the first video, you’ll get more out of the series if you have more than cursory knowledge of ceramics. He also uses screen printing techniques and a similar degree of knowledge with this medium would be best. That said, I like the content because I enjoy working on something from start to finish. Also, because of my printing background, I am on familiar terrain with a number of things to which he refers, so the third video felt somewhat like old home week to me. The idea of creating your own designs, mixing your own ink and using the transfers on your own work is very appealing. The book he recommends looks like it’s worth looking into, too.

Tissue transfer is a popular technique, at the present, and an acquaintance suggested that it is too faddish. I think this may be true of commercial transfers and/or certain styles: overlapping birds or flowers with postage stamps or steamer trunk labels, for instance. But your own designs used on your own ceramic pieces would be in a class of their own.


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