Tag Archives: underglazes

Book Arts: Writing on Stone(ware)

Monument for the Neolithic Tartaria tables, Tartaria, Romania

Monument for the Neolithic Tărtăria tablets, dated to 5500-5300 BC and discovered in 1961 at Tărtăria, Alba County, Romania by the archaeologist Nicolae Vlassa. The clay tables are associated with the Turdaş-Vinča culture and the Vinča symbols on them predate the proto-Sumerian pictographic script. The monument has been created near the discovery location. By Țetcu Mircea Rareș via Wikimedia Commons

We know the act of writing on clay tablets is an ancient practice. To date, the oldest that have been found are the unearthed at neolithic sites in modern-day Romania and Hungary. The three Tărtăria Tablets have been radio-carbon dated to 5500 BC and are thought to be evidence of proto-writing. For me, today’s post, is exciting to work on…for several reasons. Having been involved with Book Arts since the mid-1980s, it is high time I combined this art form with my favorite medium, clay. (If writing on clay interests you, check out Tom Trusky’s Idaho iPods, about a project based upon Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets.) For today’s post, though, I’d like to first unveil Forrest Snyder’s Ceramic Books, a beautifully designed and enticing site. He creates loose-leaf books which are presented as stacks, hangings, and objects. Pages overlap or drape over shelving and chunky cubes are stacked. Snyder’s pages are adorned with letters, words and images, and the ‘ink’ is a warm brown, which works well with the cream-colored clay. The pages may be stamped or printed; I’m not quite sure how it is done. Print appears on different portions of the page. “My books contain poetry, prose, and related images spanning many pages,” he states on his website. “I try to enhance my thoughts by the choice of materials and methods, the firing resulting in permanent artifacts, and the conditions of their existence – pages change over time,” he continues. These images of his ceramic books are breathtaking and it is such a pleasure to view his slide show. Another approach is shown on Chris Skinner’s Lestaret’s Blog. Here, you’ll find slipcast and slab-built book covers with very fine finish work. Skinner makes rubber moulds of old, embossed books, then replicates them in clay, highlighting textures, print, and designs with stains. The work must be painstaking and the results are

Plantin letterpress

Plantin letterpress type. By France3470 via Wikimedia Commons

perfection. Actually, I have a project I hope to begin working on in the near future: a porcelain book. The idea has been in the back of my mind for about a year and I’ve thought of it while I’ve made other things. I want to roll out thin sheets of porcelain, cut to size (maybe), tear a ‘deckle edge’ (definitely), dry very, very slowly (weighted), write with an underglaze pen, fire, then bind. The idea of writing on clay tablets thrills. The Book Arts field covers much terrain and there are many ideas to explore and projects to create using different clays and techniques. When I gave a workshop on bookbinding several years ago, I made a tiny book and I think I will also want to experiment with tiny clay books. If you would like to begin such projects using clay, too, you have many means available for writing on your ceramic pages. Underglaze pencils, pens, crayons and trailers are among the tools you could use. If you subscribe to Ceramics Daily, read this article by Robin Hopper to learn how to make your own. If you want to write or do detail work with gold, Kemper Tools sells a Gold Pen. The possibilities are endless and timeless.

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Filed under Ancient History, Articles and Interviews, Featured Artists, How-to-do-it, Videos/Photos/Slides

Open Studio Update

Kneden van kleiWe were all quite busy during Open Studio today, all making headway on our various projects. The slide show below features the work of Nan, Joan, Taryn, Gary, Pauline and myself. I am happy to say that I have finally learned Flickr well enough to present photos with good resolution for this particular slide show. (Click any photo to be taken to the blog’s Flickr site, as the subtitles are visible there. These photos are larger size on that site, showing more detail. You can also work with the slide show’s toolbar here by hovering over the top or bottom with your cursor.)


Filed under Current Events, Featured Artists, Videos/Photos/Slides

Open Studio Update

Specimen of the typeface Georgia, Jim Hood, via Wikimedia Commons

BLOG: Good news! The Georgia font has been restored; the code is set on the main template! I am so happy about this I could jig! Next up is restoring slide shows. If you are looking at an article that has no graphics whatsoever, it is very likely it is missing the accompanying slide show. I will sort this problem out next. While I miss daily blogging very much (boo hoo), this break has given me the time I need to make crucial changes. Soon I will finish setting up adjunct sites that have yet to go viral, my Facebook page and Etsy site. My progress with my Etsy storefront continues. Right now, I’m at the postal package stage: figuring out rates for the different pieces I will be offering. Behind the scenes busy work, but important.

Northern Lights tile which came out of the kiln last week

STUDIO: Yesterday, I picked up finished tiles from the arts centre. Very pleased with the Northern Lights tiles. Each one is different and I no longer wonder how I am going to achieve the effect I want. Also, the black glaze is translucent enough to delineate trees and ground and the aurora looks real. Yippee! On another note, I wasn’t happy at all with the escutcheons. It would have been better had I not applied the results of my last glaze sample to the lot, as the glaze bled terribly. Back to the drawing board. Last night, I researched underglaze pencils, Choxils, and underglaze pens. I’ve used underglaze pencils before but it’s been years… That or underglaze watercolorsAmaco offers them, as does Duncan and Chrysanthos, Minnesota and Spectrum, a Canadian company. There are many other companies, too… I will also read Robin Hopper’s article entitled “Drawn to Surface: How to Make and Use Underglaze Pencils, Crayons, Pens, and Trailers.” I’ll talk with my Open Studio colleague, Nan, too, as she’s been using Amaco watercolor underglazes and is our Underglaze Queen. I believe the answer to my escutcheon tile ‘problem’ can be addressed with these specialty products and my goal is to find a ‘look’ I can replicate successfully. I originally wanted a watercolor brush stroke effect…. My budget is a factor, too, as I can’t order them all. Wouldn’t that be heavenly? Over the holidays the centre closes, so I want to lay the groundwork for projects before that time and have much to do this week. Does that sound familiar (smile)?


Filed under Articles and Interviews, Current Events, Featured Artists, Fun, My Work

Robin Hopper: Three decorative techniques for ceramics

Otto showed me a book he bought when he was at his annual ceramics retreat at Metchosin. Robin Hopper’s Making Marks: Discovering the Ceramic Surface is one of the most beautiful and exciting books I’ve seen in some time. Joan had told me about it when she was advising me about books to add to my Resources section, but I had yet to see it. Making Marks covers everything and anything you’d need to know about decorative techniques and pigmentation. The examples and art work he’s chosen to illustrate his book are incredible. That said, it made me think of Robin Hopper and today I’m posting his instructions for three techniques, two on video and one in print Slip Dotting, Mocha Diffusion and Painting on Porcelain Canvas. We are so lucky an artist of his caliber is only a ferry ride away, on Vancouver Island.

The video below is partly entitled Mocha Diffusion and Hopper refers to it briefly, but that technique is not demonstrated in the video. If you would like to know more about it, click here. MIY Ceramics and Glass has printed Hopper’s article about the technique from the Ceramic Arts Daily post.

I looked up the ‘porcelain substrate’ Robin Hopper uses for canvases in the video below and decided that if I were to pursue this form, I’d have to make my own. The material he uses is very expensive. If I was to go the DIY route, would first make porcelain paper clay by adding bits of toilet tissue to porcelain to strengthen it while working with it, as taught by Pauline. Once I finish my current projects , I’ll pursue this because I want to see how thin I could roll porcelain out on my own. How see-through I can get it. I’d start out with the slab roller, then finish with a rolling pin. It’ll the next step in my clay draping experiments. Back to the next video, though… Watching Hopper paint and draw on porcelain canvas is a real treat. I enjoyed watching this video because he’s very clear about what he’s doing: explains and demonstrates each step and discusses the materials.


Filed under Articles and Interviews, How-to-do-it, Resources, Videos/Photos/Slides