I went to an exhibition at Rowan University Art Gallery a couple of weeks ago to see an exhibition called Earth Offerings: Honoring the the Gardeners, that featured the ceramics and mixed media of Syd Carpenter
Majolica glaze is a white tin or zinc-based glaze that provides a smooth coating on terracotta clay and acts as a perfect foil for underglaze decorations which are painted on top of the Majolica glaze. The beauty of the Majolica is that it doesn’t move, so anything you paint on top of it stays put. For an explanation of the process, press here and here.
Here are some classic examples: tiles from Portugal.
So I probably should not have been delighted when I took this out of the kiln.
And yet, I was. To be fair, I didn’t start off conventionally. I took a terracotta bud vase, dipped it in a cone 04 dipping glaze called Ice Blue (you can get the recipe in a free booklet on the Ceramic Arts Network site here. )
The glaze has chunks in it and it’s supposed to run and collect in crevices. It can look interesting when you use it on white earthenware (see right) and beyond boring over terracotta (middle).
We have a bucket of Majolica glaze in the studio and I decided to experiment. I had to dip the vase three times to get a good coat, letting the glaze dry completely between coats. You can see the crackling and crazing from the Ice Blue glaze in the right hand picture below that might have looked interesting had it been on the right kind of clay.
I let the glaze dry overnight before adding the underglaze decoration.
And here’s what I got! This was fired at cone 06. I surmise that the Majolica and the underglaze shifted because the Ice Blue glaze beneath it moved. I am not sure what I expected. Not everyone will like this, but for me it was a pleasant surprise.
Another thing I did at Clay ConneCTion was to make myself a bunch of new stamps to use with my pottery. You can make pottery stamp from ceramic clay but polymer is so much easier! Since polymer does not shrink, you know how big to make the design. Plus you can cure the polymer much more quickly than you can fire ceramic stamps. And they don’t break when you drop them on the floor. And you can use scrap clay! All you need to do is roll sheets of clay on the thickest pasta machine setting and then cut and stack the sheets to make a rectangle about one-inch square and two inches long. You can make designs by carving the soft clay, adding coils and shapes, or impressing textures into the clay. If your clay is pretty firm, as mine was, you can put a design on each end and use the sides for more designs. After you bake the clay, you can make more stamps with the design in reverse. I recommend that you condition the clay well and bake the stamps for an hour.
Porcelain beads ready for the kiln. I can’t wait to see how they come out.
Isn’t that the old artistic dilemma? You have a vision and you can’t quite realize it. But for me, the fun is in the exploration. I experimented with handle shapes and tried mixing Mason Stains into Amaco Velvet Underglazes to enhance the colors of the surface decoration.
The mugs are glazed with a clear satin glaze on the outside and a white glaze on the inside. I like the way the colors turned out. The handles are another matter. Some of them look great but are not comfortable to use. Other handles look awkward but are extremely comfortable in the hand. Unless your handle is tried and true, there’s no way of knowing how the mug will feel until it’s fired and filled with its first serving of Java or tea. But experimenting is all part of the fun.
Woppy Jawed, Wapper Jawed, Whopperjawed, Whomperjawed. What do these words mean? Something that’s askew. Crooked. Not straight. Uneven, even. And they all apply to my work. I come from the measure three times and cut for the rest of the day school of crafting. I wonder how I ever managed to make two quilts. I used to fret about my crooked lines and uneven seams. But as I got older, I got smarter. Or maybe wiser (in the Equus africanus asinus sense, of course). I embraced my flaws, including my wopperjawdiddidity. (I made up that word in case you’re wondering.) Hence the Wopperjawed Pot. The Wopperjawed Pot is about 12 inches tall and is hand-built of white earthenware using the tarpaper technique. I used colored underglazes, stains, and chalks for the surface decoration. Everything is covered with a clear matte glaze. It took third place in ceramics in the Fleisher Art Memorial Student Show (the 120th annual!) and was the inspiration for the menorah. Which is also wopperjawed. Here are some pictures.
I made a menorah for my stepson and his family to welcome them into their new home. The shape of the menorah was inspired by a vase I was working on (still unfinished) and I used the tar paper technique of hand building ceramic shapes that I described earlier in the year.
Here are some construction pictures. The menorah is hollow.
And here is a picture of the final product after bisque firing and glazing.
Ever wonder what happens if you give a cat a dreidel? If he’s Boris he’ll play for treats and clean you out.
I am having a good time in the pottery studio experimenting with the tar paper technique. The items below are white earthenware in different stages of finishing. The tar paper supports the soft clay slabs and allows you to make all kinds of crazy shapes. Of course I have to see how far I can push it. Stay tuned.
Beware of sharks in the slip bucket!
And that is what they are: experiments. I spent the summer trying different hand building techniques and seeing what I could do with white porcelain. I threw a lot of what I made away mostly because of mishaps during the glaze firing. And I made a few pounds of unglazed beads, pendants and trinkets that are colored with Mason stains. Those will get a ride in the rock tumbler which should give them a smooth, shiny satin finish. I also made a few bead trees so I can make glazed beads. So, here is what I ended up with:
Some bangles (I wish I had made more of these) some nerikomi dishes, one mug, a platter with a feathered slip design, and two mid-century modern-looking vases that I will find good homes for.
Making veneers for vessels using white porcelain and Mason stains. I made this one into a vessel that should be coming out of the bisque fire soon.
Making porcelain pendants and beads. The pieces in the above photo will need a bisque firing after they dry completely, and then a cone 6 fire.
Here are some pieces that have already been fired at cone 6. They are not glazed; I finish them in a rock tumbler which gives them a smooth satin finish.
And here are some tiny glazed ring bowls with just a touch of gold. I plan to make some more of these.
Boris was not the inspiration for this figurine although I have been taking a figure drawing class and drawing Boris for practice. No, he does not pose for me. What cat would? But he is good for ten nanosecond poses and gesture drawing. Sculpting a cat figurine sounded like a a fun idea. I have sculpted two cats before, but both were in polymer. Now that I have access to a pottery studio, I decided to try my hand at making a terra cotta cat which is a horse of a totally different hue.
Here are the preliminary stages of the figurine. You have to be careful not to leave any air bubbles in the clay. Small ones will probably dry closed but big ones can explode in the kiln. And unless all the clay is thoroughly dry inside and out, there is a danger of explosion in the kiln.
Here is where I started adding character. You will note that the cat looks well fed. In fact, I had to make his tummy hollow to insure that the clay would dry and that the figurine would not weigh a ton. I made an air hole underneath the figurine, wrapped it in plastic, and when the clay was hard enough, I put the puss on two sticks so air would reach the hole and dry inside. I put the figurine aside and forgot about it for a few weeks as it dried out slowly-the best way to prevent cracking. I did some painting with underglaze before putting the cat in the kiln. When he came out in one piece, the hard part was over,
I glazed the cat with matte clear glaze for the final firing. the white, orange, blue and other colors you see are the underglaze.
And here is the finished cat! His I.D tag, which is hard to see, says “Tiny.”
The resident art critic seems to approve.