Friday, April 16, 2010

What I did today

This afternoon I decorated a platter. It is the first brown & black scraffito piece I have done in over a year. It was really fun to get back into it.

I started by cutting out stencils of a bird and 2 butterflies. When I've made stencils in the past I used clear plastic. Old clay bags work great for stencils because they are a heavy weight plastic. This time I tried tracing paper for the bird on a branch. Both materials worked fine. The benefit to the plastic stencils is they can be reused. I wet the stencils (this helps them stick and stay put) and placed them in position on the leather hard platter. Then I centered the platter on my potter's wheel.

Next as I slowly spun my wheel, I used a soft wide brush to apply the brown and black underglazes over the whole surface of the platter. I used Amaco LUG1 black underglaze and Mayco UG031 Chocolate underglaze. The stencils blocked out the areas I wanted to remain white. Clay slips work just as well with this process.

After the underglazes dried to the point of loosing their sheen, I peeled the stencils off.

I used my spinning wheel and a fine wire loop tool to cut some white lines into the black rim of the platter. My next step was to add more black plants on top of the brown background. I did this freehand with small brushes.

I let the piece dry for about 1 hour. Then I used my fine wire loop to carve through the layers of underglaze and reveal the white clay underneath. This technique is called scraffito. After this piece is bisque fired I will apply a clear glaze and fire it again to cone 6. When it is completed, the brown underglaze will turn a honey color and the black and white areas will be glossy. You can see examples of finished pieces using this technique in many of my earlier posts.

On Saturday I have two more platters to decorate. I haven't decided what I am going to do to them yet. Stay tuned...

Monday, April 12, 2010

New casserole

This post previews another new piece that I documented step by step as I worked on it.

Someone commented on my last post that they wanted to see my tools. This is a shot of the 5 tools I used to carve and stamp on this pot. From left to right: a metal stylus with small ball tips on each end; a Kemper wire loop cutting tool; a fine wire tool I use for drawing lines; a broken off TV antenna I use to "pebble" a surface; and an old burnisher from my "pre-computer" graphic design days.

Here is the piece pre carving.

This time I broke the bottom into 5 sections and carved or pressed a texture into each.

I worked on the piece upside down on the banding wheel and my lap. The lid is safe under plastic.

I decided to draw pods & plants around the entire upper half of the piece. I used the fine wire tool to draw the plants. It is the same tool I use when I do scrafitto decoration.

I made the handles by rolling small clay coils over a corrugated cardboard to pick up a lined pattern. Then I flattened the underside of the coils on the table.

After tracing the outline of the handle in position I scored each surface with a knife before attaching them.

I used my finger to mold the underside of the handles into a graceful curve. The lid is still not carved.

A top view of the lid with carving, sprigs and the knob in place.

I also added sprigs to the sides of the handles.

A detail shot.

The finished piece.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Evolution of a form

The pieces I am working on right now are very time consuming. At the rate I am working it is going to take me a long time to fill my kiln. So for now I am posting photos of pots in the leather hard and greenware stages. It has been really helpful for me to document the stages these pieces go through. I like looking at them without color.

Most of the time I don't know how I am going to alter a piece until I do it. I look at the form, turn on some loud music and just dig in. For me the process is very improvisational. I make it up as I go.

Here is a "blank" covered jar. It has been trimmed and is at a firm leather hard state.

I decided to start carving at the bottom of the piece. I work on pots upside down all the time.

I was able to carve the continuous spiral by using my banding wheel and a small wire loop tool. I used the corner of a square wooden drawer knob to pierce the bottom foot in 5 places.

Next I moved to the lid. I used two wire loop tools to carve the outer pattern. Then I used the round end of a broken off TV antenna to hammer the pebble pattern. It seemed like a good idea to pierce the rim of the lid in 5 places too.

I liked the 5 cuts in the rim and the foot. That lead me to divide the jar's middle section into 5 sections too. After that I decided to create vines. The cuts echo the pattern on the lid.

I used a fine wire loop tool to refine the edges of the leaves. Next I decided to pick up the pebble pattern over the surface. The vines popped out as a result.

These are small clay spirals. I made them by pushing clay balls into a little bisque mold of a button.

I scored the surface of the pot with a knife before I applied the clay spiral. The underside of the spiral is scored too. They are joined together with distilled white vinegar (which I prefer to slip).

I threw 5 different knobs so I would have lots of options. I will use the extra knobs for other pieces.

After looking at the jar with all 5 knobs I choose this one. Here is the completed jar with the knob in place.

A top view.

The textures look gorgeous at this stage while the clay is still leather hard.