Saturday, January 24, 2009

Experiments in Pottery

I've been doing some experimenting in the studio lately, in forms, in glazes, and even in my use of clay.

This is something I have been wanting to do for a while, ever since I saw some examples that Peggy did
- mixing both white and brown clay. I have been waiting until my skills improved before attempting it.

It looks complicated, but it's not. All you do is form two balls of clay of different colors, then cut them into quarters. Remove two opposite wedges of white and replace with two wedges of brown. Pat together and make your piece as usual. When you are finished, you have to skim off the slip (liquid clay), which is a light tan color, to reveal the pattern underneath.

dipped in clear glaze so as not to hide the swirly effect
Every piece is unique.

I made pump dispensers, too. I accidentally smooshed one of them and liked the effect, so I smooshed it even further to give it a different shape.

When you look at the bottom of the pumps, you can easily see the quartering.

I had it in my head to made tumblers (drinking glasses) one day. Unfortunately, the shape and size didn't turn out right. I am learning that form and function must work together. No one will use your coffee mug, no matter how attractively you glaze it, if it doesn't feel right to the hand and mouth.

So, what to do with my non-drinking glasses? I decided to make lids for them.

left, light blue shino
right, light green shino

Now, they are lidded vessels for storing - something. Maybe cotton balls or rubber bands.

I didn't know what to do with the dab of clay I had left after turning the knobs for the lids shown above. I messed with it until it became this little shallow bowl - for cat food, perhaps?

goldenrod shino on white clay
The stencil was done with jet black underglaze,
yet it came out brown.
I like it.

I got a tip from the ceramics art web site that I subscribe to. It suggested ways to increase your glazing repertoire by making test tiles and overlapping your colors to see what effects you get. This is one, made of brown clay

and here is another, made of white clay.

You glaze the horizontal rows with one coat of each color, in order, top to bottom. Then, you glaze down each column vertically left to right, in the same order. After firing, you can see what each glaze will look like if you apply it either under (horizontal) or over (vertical) every other color.

The diagonal, starting with first square in the upper left hand corner and proceeding to the bottom right hand corner, is two coats of the pure color.

(Is anyone following my convoluted explanation?)

This might explain what I was trying to accomplish.

Another one of my failed tumblers became an exercise in glazing techniques. After making my test tile, I decided I liked the color which resulted from applying chun plum over sunrise shino. (Square # 15)

I glazed the top two thirds of the piece in sunrise shino, then glazed the bottom two thirds with chun plum. Where they overlap, a third color is created. My only issue with this piece is that I didn't get the bottom one third covered like I should, so I am missing the full effect of that lovely chun plum color. I am trying to decide if I should make a lid for this one.

Finally, what happens when you least expect it may be a disaster or a happy accident. My best friend in the whole world happens to have been born 5 days after me. I wanted to make her something extra special for her birthday this year. I tried for a casserole dish, and failed miserably, so I went to bowls, because I can do those.

I made two, so as to have a choice, but one developed a fatal crack in the bottom. I planned to glaze the remaining bowl in my old favorite, blue rutile, since I could count on how it would look.

Since the bowl was large, I decided to dip it rather than trying to paint on the glaze, hoping for uniform coverage. I knew blue rutile would run if I applied it too thickly, so I gave it one quick dip, first one half of the bowl then the other half, overlapping in the middle.

What did I get? Not blue, but this:

One of the qualities of blue rutile is how the blue breaks to brown over an irregular surface or when thinly applied. What I didn't know is that if it is applied very thinly, you get browns and greens, instead of blues and browns.

After the first shock wore off, I decided I liked this surprise color, and especially the variations it created. I actually think Joyce will like this better than blue. I always think of her in earthy tones. Truth be told, blue is my favorite color, not hers.

Oh, I hope she likes it!

She liked it, she really liked it!

Best of all, the accidental greeny-brown shade just matches the wheat pattern on her dishes, and she was actually glad the bowl wasn't blue.


andy kay said...

Wow, I've been reading books and looking at pic's on the net and I just learned more from your one posting than I have from 15 others. Your "marbled" pieces look great. I tend to overwork the clay and get very fine streaking. Your blue glaze goes brown when, as you say it is applied to thin. Either take some water out or stir really well, then dip and hold for a count of 5-8. If you pour the glaze, hold the bowl by the rim, piece up side down and start pouring from the bottom so that it runs down to the top of the bowl. You can get interesting result because the glaze settles thicker at the rim and is nice and thin at the bottom and therefore will not run off the bowl onto the kiln shelf.
Will keep watching to see what else I can learn.
Andrea Hoiseth

NCmountainwoman said...

I do enjoy reading about your pottery and seeing the results. They are lovely. I totally agree with you about the mug. No matter how beautiful it is, it has to "feel right" or it simply takes up space in the cabinet.

holly-the-person said...

Absolutely lovely and fun to read about. Lucy & Libby are now begging for their own Black Kat food bowls.

Mary Ann said...'re really getting skilled at this - I think they are all very attractive. Nice!

Mary C said...

Kathi - those swirled pieces turned out great. I like how you utitlize your "failed" pieces. Great idea making lids for the "failed" tumblers. I thought cotton balls, too, when I saw the picture and read your comment.

dguzman said...

Kat, these are all amazing! I'm so envious. I should look around for a pottery-making class. Very cool stuff.

I know nothing about glazing and colors and all, so I'm learning a ton from your posts. Keep 'em coming!