Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Adventures in Clay

I've always wanted to try my hand at ceramics but just never got around to it...until now. My daughter took a ceramics class at the local college last semester and had a lot of fun. She decided to take it again and asked me to take it with her. How could I pass up the opportunity to spend time with my daughter, have fun, and try something I've thought about doing for decades?!

It's a lot of fun but I'm learning that ceramics isn't quite as easy as I had thought and that's causing me to appreciate even the simplest of items. I'm also learning that the outcome of ceramics projects aren't always predictable but it kind of adds to the fun. My first project is a perfect example of that. We were asked to make a fruit or vegetable. I chose a pear. It was made with two cup type halves that I put together in the center and then sculpted into a hollow pear shape. It has a hole at the top for a stem (which I still need to add) and a hole at the bottom to release steam and prevent it from exploding when it's fired. After I was done with the sculpting, it was left to dry and then bisque fired to finish drying it and make it hard. I then painted a raku glaze on it and it was fired at a higher temperature (high fire). Then, the fun began!

At the start of class some projects were set into a kiln and fired for about an hour...they became glowing orange hot. At that time, with gloves and long tongs, we each carefully lifted our project out and lowered it into a bucket of newspaper and closed the lid as it caught fire. The projects sat and smoldered for an hour or so and then we carefully took them out and cooled them with water (we had to hurry the process because of the short class time). Then, it was time for a good scrubbing to clean off the black soot.

There is some control at the raku stage in that if we use a metalic glaze and put it into the can as quick as possible and shut the lid to reduce the oxygen (reduction) we get more of a metalic look. If it's held it out for a few seconds before reducing the oxygen, you get less metalic and more color. I used a green/copper glaze and held my pear in the air for a few seconds to get some green color before placing it into the bucket for a little copper blush. However, when all was said and done, I realized that I must have used the wrong glaze because my pear is white! I like it though. I think it turned out pretty...

The copper blush is right where I had hoped it would be. How lucky is that?! I still need to add a stem. I think I'll make it black to go with the black on the pear.

I didn't expect all of the black splotches and cracks but I like it.

Here's a close up of the side with copper and the most color and pattern.

Our next assignment was to make three plates using rolled out slabs of clay. I made my first one with leaves and berries. For this project we used colored slip (watered down clay and minerals) to paint on color. There wasn't a red for the berries so I used the next best thing a dark pink/burgandy (or it was supposed to be after firing). Here it is before the first firing...

After firing, glazing and firing again, the berries ended up blue. Hmmmm? And, the many layers of white turned out splotchy. Like I said, this is very unpredictable!

I do like it though. I think the leaves and berries look pretty good.

My second plate had a few surprises too. First, I took the coil out from under the edge a little too soon and parts of the edge drooped. I like the design and the yellow color though.

After the first firing, it had a dark gray/green splotch on one side. I was told that it might go away after the glazing and the second firing. Instead, the whole thing turned gray and really splotchy!

I still like the pattern but I'm not sure I love this plate.

I have one more plate that's undergoing it's first firing this week. I'll post a picture when it's done. I'm also working on a birdhouse that I'm hoping to raku. I can't wait to see how it turns out! This is fun! :-D


Pickyknitter said...

Wow, beautiful!

Sel and Poivre said...

Oooo ceramics is such fun! I love seeing how the glaze changes with firing! That technique you are using for the pear sounds very intriguing!

Sandra said...

these are wonderful! ANd I actually really like the grey plate - I love that hand crafted look.
Funny, a friend of mine is after me to take a pottery course with her - now I think I just might!