Make Stamps for Ceramic Clay with Polymer

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.

There’s another polymer stamp making tutorial on the Ceramics Network site. And there are plenty of design ideas around the Internet.   Check out Hair of the Rabbit  And don’t forget Pinterest.

 

Beads

Porcelain beads ready for the kiln.  I can’t wait to see how they come out.

There’s Many a Slip ‘Twixt the Mug and the Lip

 

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.

 

The Wopperjawed Pot

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.

 

 

 

 

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The Menorah . . . and Boris

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.

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Ever wonder what happens if you give a cat a dreidel?  If he’s Boris he’ll play for treats and clean you out.

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Happy Holidays!

Tarpaper Technique

 

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.

 

 

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Beware of sharks in the slip bucket!

 

Pottery Experiments

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.

What I am Doing This Summer

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sculpting a Cat Figurine

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.

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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.

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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,

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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.”

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The resident art critic seems to approve.

Trinkets and Some Bowls to Hold Them

It’s not like I don’t already have enough beads, but having access to a pottery studio, glazes and a bead tree has made new beads magically appear in my workshop.  The items you see below are pendants and a couple of bead comes.

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Here are some beads in their greenware state and decorated state  after bisque firing and prior to glaze firing.

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And if bead making was not enough, I been making  little trinket bowls to hold rings and other small treasures.

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I am having fun with different glazes and textures, and finishes.

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And I have also been having fun making components for the Into the Forest  collaborative polymer clay project.

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Whales on Broad Street

Artist Shay Church enlisted the help of students from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia to complete his life-sized whale sculptures.   Whale-shaped wooden forms were covered with wet clay for an installation that coincided with the opening of the 44th Annual  Conference  on the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. I’m not one of those people who think I’ve seen everything.  Still, I was surprised to find whales on South Broad Street in Philadelphia on a  March  afternoon.

Building Whales on Broad Street Street with Shay Church

Press here to see a short film of the construction of another one of Church’s whale installations. To see more of Shay Church’s work, press here.