Friday, 29 October 2010

firing results 3

Tile inspired large stencil beakers. Much more successful that my previous attempt;

A nice, simple, clean design. The surface is a sponged on not-quite-white slip which makes an interesting and subtle texture to contrast with the pure white and smooth inner. The pattern in slightly raised from layers of black slip so again adding a subtle texture.

Not sure what, if anything to do with these next. Think I will have to live with them for a bit, see what they are like to drink out of, put flowers in, store paperclips in etc.

firing results 2

The contour/wire mark/electrical tape inspired small beaker set;

These look good, although it does not show up that well in the photos, the inside is a beautiful pale duck egg blue

And I like the way they look and interact as a small group.

While the strong colour contrast of the sgrafito lines works here, I would like to make a very subtle white-on-white / cream-on-white version. And maybe expand this design to other vessels and shapes.

rust tile update

I was wrong about these, assuming they might come out too dark or ugly brown - they have come out too pale, almost invisible! I guess the iron oxide was not concentrated enough except in a few spots.

Not what I was hoping for at all. Back to the drawing board on this one. I need to do some pigment research to understand the sort of concentrations needed to stain successfully.

firing results 1

Euan Uglow inspired silhouette/paper-cut small tea set;

The collage tea set.

While I am very happy with this set, and it was fun to make, I do feel like I have done a bit of a disservice to the original models. Unintentionally, I seem to have turned serious artwork into a rather kitsch, 'Tales of the Unexpected'* looking tea-set... I will try and remember how taking something out of its original context can have vastly different implications than expected... 

* For those too young, 'Tales of the Unexpected' was a low budget tv drama from the 1980's, classic and terrible at the same time...

The opening sequence is all you need to see...

Thursday, 28 October 2010

another rust experiment

While doing a batch of glazing today I noticed some left over rusty water from an earlier rust print. I mixed this with some clear glaze sludge from the bottom of the glaze bin and then poured it over a test tile;

It looks interesting! Bet it will fire an ugly dull brown or too dark black but worth a quick experiment...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

tile beakers

Its pouring with rain today and even at mid day its so dark that we need the lights on. A good day to labour over some more intricate paper-cuts to make some revised Portuguese tile inspired beakers.

I was not keen on my previous results. The colour was bad and I did not like the design. This time I have sponged the background of the beakers with an off-white slip. This will hopefully make the end result look less stark. I felt the shapes were too big for the size of beaker and so have reduced these (thanks to photocopier reduce button..). And there was just too much pattern last time too. Less is always more... Oh and I have abandoned attempt to use colour and am sticking with my favourite shades of black, gray and white;

Fingers crossed these turn out better than the last ones...

Monday, 25 October 2010

contour beakers

Following on from earlier experiments trying to represent wire and contour lines on slip-cast beakers, I produced a small set carrying forward the more abstracted line idea. The outside is sponged with black slip with incised lines, the inside in sponged with pale turquoise slip. All will be covered in clear glaze.

Some of the random lines of each beaker line up nicely with their neighbours on this set so forming a continuous line across all four.

I love sponging on slip, especially on to slip-cast forms. It is a really old and rustic technique that adds texture while softens and de-industrializes the sometimes cold and uniform slip-casts.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

rust tiles

Its half term so I have a little more time to play with clay this week. First up is an attempt to see if rust prints can translate into glaze.

I glazed two ready made biscuit fired tiles with a clear glaze. Then I placed a rusty and damp wire sculpture on top of the still slightly damp glaze, added a weight and left it all for 30 minutes. The result was ok but the wire a bit too bendy and the tile has no give so the pattern did not transfer completely. It looked a bit stark so I flicked some rusty water over the image and tried re-pressing a few times. It now looks a bit scruffy but more interesting than the first incomplete press. I cant wait to see if the iron oxide stains the glaze successfully...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

kiln unloading; wire & paper

I did a biscuit and glaze firing over the last couple of days, firing the first few bits of my course related pieces. Being a bit experimental, some have come off well and others not worked. But I am excited by the process and it is throwing up new ideas.

1. wire

The basic wire sgrafito looks ok but a bit basic. The more abstract, contour based sgrafito however looks good and is an idea which could be taken further. I think a set with turquoise inner and this decoration outside would look great.

2. paper-cut

Less successful. The painted on cobolt solution looks scruffy and the sponged on slip is ok but too dark and the shapes too large for the pot. The dark colour against a white background is too stark for me too.

I do have ideas to take this forward though and am sketching more designs from a Portuguese tile source book. Rather than decorating the whole pot I am looking at doing a narrow vertical band, maybe two shapes wide, but with much smaller shapes than above. And maybe sponging a background colour to give texture and match the patterns tone more rather than stark white.


Life drawing in charcoal - starting with a medium ground (rubbing the entire page with charcoal to give a relatively constant medium gray), highlights are added by removing charcoal with a rubber and darker tones are added by layering on more charcoal. As a non-drawer I really enjoyed this technique and the way only really rough detail was needed and your eyes imagine the rest, making a realistic drawing from just a few shades.

I use a lot of black body and glaze stain in ceramics. It is also messy and if not 'fixed' (normally combined with clay or a glaze recipe) rubs off all over the place. Just like charcoal. I think there could be a project here...

When researching charcoal drawings and techniques, I came across the work of Antje Laidler. Her recent charcoal drawings, based on simple geometric patterns, are amazing. And would look fantastic in 3d. The arrangement of triptychs works particularly well.

Friday, 22 October 2010

paper sculpture

To create some 3d paper sculptures first we did some blind drawings of the classroom ceiling. The most interesting bits of these drawings were then used to create abstract aper forms. Some of these forms have potential in clay directly;

The idea was refined by working directly from a life model to create these little sculptures - kind of realistic, at least in theory;

Which all led on to me playing around with paper at home with the idea of creating some maquettes for future ceramic projects. I have been toying with the idea of simple boxes, cut at differing angles. It satisfies my geometric bent. Individually they are a bit dull but, as a group they do come to life and show some potential - something I was unsure about until I made these little models. Slabbed clay versions may be appearing here soon...

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

collage update

The slip-cast beakers are now decorated with some Euan Uglow silhouettes. The original idea was to do one beaker with legs, another with arms, another with heads etc in different shades of yellow ochre. When it came down to it this proved a bit tricky - I had lots of great legs to choose from but the other body parts were much less well defined. As an alternative I used a different entire figure for each beaker. I am looking forward to seeing the final colours when glazed.

wire sculpture update

Taking the wire sculpture inspired beakers from a few weeks ago, I have continued and abstracted the lines a bit, referencing the electrical tape drawings we did in the first week and merged the wire and contour styles; 

I like this look - its definitely working a lot better than the earlier ridged wire replicating lines.


This week we carried out an exercise in problem solving with spaghetti and elastic bands; making structures on which to balance stones - investigating balance, weight, tension.

The following day on a museum drawing visit I was sketching an egyptian grinding stone - like an early version of a pestle and mortar and was interested in the similarities. Further research showed a range of beautifully balanced stone objects, with photos mainly from native American and Australian Aboriginal cultures;

I have started sketching some pinch pot ideas based on these themes. I think a smooth burnished surface, decorated with smoke could be particularly appropriate.

Friday, 15 October 2010

rust prints

Leaving a wire sculpture in salty sea water for a few days brings on a great coat of rust. Rust, iron oxide, is a stable pigment which can be used to create prints. Here I have pressed heavy paper under my rusted horse jaw wire.

I think this should be able to be used on ceramics - maybe worth trying pressing the rusty and damp wire onto a freshly glazed tile OR rolling the rusty and damp wire into fresh clay to make a tile with an impression and a stain?

Sunday, 10 October 2010


A homework piece - create a collage of a Euan Uglow figure painting using a range of tones created from 3 colours (black, white, yellow ochre).

I made a plaster mould from a small plank of wood a few weeks back thinking it could be used to make a slip-cast tray one day. It came back into my head when doing the collage - the tray as the background and then a set of beakers for the foreground. It might work or it might look like a dogs breakfast...

Tray and first few beakers made. Its going to be entertaining to mix up a range of slip colours and decorate... next week.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

wire sculpture

Week two and we are drawing and sculpting in wire bringing to life our cross-contour drawings.

The flat wire drawings can be left in salt water and left to rust, the iron oxide then being used to make a rust print on heavy paper. Could a rust print be done onto a freshly glaze dipped tile? Iron oxide would be a good heat stable stain. An experiment for later perhaps.

I think that the wire sculptures and cross-contour drawings will lend themselves well to ceramic decoration.

A small slip-cast beaker and a small wire sculpture. The idea is to replicate the wire lines on the outside of the pot...

Using sgrafito - a white pot is covered in black slip and then the wire pattern is carved through

Using a paintbrush, black pigment is painted onto the white clay surface. Less successful as I have little skill with a paintbrush and the black pigment spreads over the surface whenever the pot is touched looking messy. Think I will be sticking to sgrafito.

Friday, 8 October 2010


First week of college, we are making paper-cuts. A great first project as it translates so easily into ceramics - Silhouettes, slip-resist, stencils etc

The paper cut we made was based on an electrical tape drawing we did as a group exercise;

This picture was taken 24 hours after the tape was put up - It obviously did not stick very well but I kind of like its draping, collapsing quality.


The paper-cut version of the same landscape. The black paper would make a good slip-resist barrier/stencil. Tying this in to my Portuguese obsession, I am making some geometric paper-cuts loosely based on azulejos, using the paper-cut as a stencil to apply coloured slip to white slip-cast beakers.

Problem - sticking the paper-cut to the pot sufficiently well so that when applying colour, it does not leak under the paper...

First attempt; I gave up (ha ha, staying power!) and drew with pencil through the paper-cut then hand painted colour (weak cobolt oxide solution) into the pencil areas after removing the paper-cut. Worked ok but very time consuming and the painted on look not usually my thing.

Second attempt; sticking the paper-cut to the pot with weak glue before sponging coloured slip on. This worked ok, some leaking under the paper but not too much (easy to clean off with a craft knife). Paper-cut still useable for another pot so will try more with this method..

I think that this is an idea that could run and run. I have made up a batch of beakers and now just need to cut some templates and study some portuguese tiles...

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