The clay body was slightly darker after the higher firing but I think if I had taken it up to a high stoneware around 1280 degrees centigrade or even considered reduction the colour would have been much richer. I chose to use simple wax to seal the piece. I gave the piece a light sanding and then applied the wax with a cloth, a brush and used a heat gun to apply several layers. `the result was a slightly darker tone and `i was pleased with the overall look.
I feel like I have finally made a piece that has something new to say and has lots of potential for development, and `i actually like it! Am so pleased to have gotten to this point at the end of my first year, its exciting to look at what’s next now. I plan to look at colour, scale and a myriad of different shapes using this technique.
Below is the finished piece
I was happy with how the piece had fired and although the pieces were not exactly aligned due to drying/shrinkage issues they were stacking. I wasn’t sure on the exact finish l wanted but knew I didn’t want any colour so I opted for black but wanted to suggest an almost metallic image, with a heaviness to the look of it which would reflect how am feeling about my life right now. So I opted to combine Black Iron Oxide, Manganese Dioxide and some Black copper oxide together, I played about with getting a heavy coating and settled on using an underglaze medium to hold the metal powders in suspension, this made them so much easier to apply evenly.
I was concerned about the potential for them to stick to the kiln shelf and was advised by Cath and Rob that a good coating of alumina on the shelf should be fine. Frustratingly the alumina was forgotten and all three pieces stuck to the kiln shelves resulting in the work having to be chiselled off, each piece is now cracked and damaged.
I had chosen to seal the piece with wax so the whole piece needed a light sanding to remove any rough areas left by the oxide coating. This sanding (Under extraction) resulted in a really interesting hammered looking metallic surface which I really liked.
Below are images of the pieces before and after firing
Delighted it survived the first firing, I knew I needed to explore ideas about colour and finish and want to perhaps look at spraying underglaze. Toni Losey (came across her work at International Ceramics Festival) said that she sprays her pieces and creates an interesting depth of texture through layering underglazes over a number of firings, the coloured surfaces of her work almost look like another sculptural layer. See images below
Images of Toni Losey’s work taken by me at International Ceramics Festival 2023
I am still planning to explore using underglazes in this way but much experimentation and testing is needed which is what I will explore as my practice progresses.
Above are the images of the piece after bisque, I decided to pit the piece back in for a stoneware fiirng as I knew the clay body would darken and then make a decision on the finish.
I was excited by the idea of building directly on top of another form to create segments, there were so many potential narratives for this as I was already making anthropomorphic shapes that suggested a torso, I chose to continue this idea with both pieces. It wasn’t quite as straightforward I had first thought because the flat top section of the first section was slightly arced/contoured so it meant creating a base that sat on this and then coiling onto that. There was also the issue of managing the moisture/shrinkage of the clay so the pieces sat more cleanly together, I think in future that I would ensure the templates for the top and bottom joining faces were made quite early on so the size was accurate.
Below are some images of the pieces in progress and after the first bisque firing. I have again used B17C for these pieces but I would definitely opt for a much whiter clay body with more grog in it for future builds. Perhaps using either Ashraf Hanna, or Valentines ES20 which are both grogged but where a smooth surface finish can still be achieved.
I kept putting off what to do with the group of red forms I had made, I had them well wrapped and had gotten them out a few times, smoothed and refined them then put them away again, I just didn’t know what the next step was. I knew I needed to just try and stop over thinking the process, I began to mock up some possible shapes and realised I was going to need some way of smoothly connecting the spherical forms to one another, I remembered something from a course I had been on with ceramic artist James Oughtibridge so decided to throw some collars/connectors on the wheel which with a wide top and bottom but a narrower centre would serve as a nice connector between the spherical parts. I was pleased it had worked, I chamfered all the internal edges so the edges would sit neatly, I also cut out curved sections on the ellipses as they were being attached to a curved surface, the result evolved and I had some really helpful critical conversations with my fellow students about the piece which were really helpful. I propped areas with clay wads to enable drying and smoothing in between narrow gaps was tricky but the overall finish was really pleasing.
I love the fact that the piece could be a number of different things, cells under a microscope, macro view of a plant, a weird fungal like structure, I felt the piece had a surreal quality to it.
Below are the pics of the piece at the greenware stage, I dried it slowly as I was concerned about potential cracking due to various clay thicknesses involved in the piece. It looks shiny in some of the images as it had been sprayed with water before wrapping.
As part of my wish to explore creating forms from different types of clay I chose to use a red stoneware clay with a medium grog content from Valentine Clays. This is a strange clay to work with it feels lovely but doesn't have very much plasticity so I was worried about surface cracking during construction.
I knew I wanted to incorporate some rounded forms into the pieces I was developing and I was browsing the internet and came across the work of German ceramic artist Beate Kuhn (1927-2015) and knew immediately that this was something I wanted to explore further. Kuhn's work is all wheel thrown but has a cell like, plant like strange quality to it and the pieces are all connected in some way. Her work also made me think of the work of Toni Losey whom I had met at the International Ceramics Festival in Aberystwyth.
Please see research link for posts about Toni Losey
This idea of strange cell/plant/funghi/body like structures all connecting together seemed to align really well with my own interests so I began to explore ways of making my own pieces. I used several plaster formers to create slabs which I then allowed to firm up so they could be joined together, I also made coiled hemispheres so they could be joined together to create a whole. I ended up with a series of circular ellipse type structures and spheres of different sizes but then I got stuck.
Below are images of work by Beate Kuhn
Below are some images of my own piece in progress
After discovering the work of Beate Kuhn and throwing the collars for the red fungal sculpture I wanted to try and throw some closed forms to see if these could be incorporated into my sculptural pieces. I watched several YouTube videos for guidance but really struggled to achieve the closed form, I could get the profile but couldn't pull up enough neck to close up the sphere. If I chose to pursue throwing spheres and closed forms I would need lots more practice. Am not discarding the idea of throwing but it's more likely that I will need to use it for creating connecting pieces rather than the forms, hand building gives me more scope for larger shapes and oval forms.
I made the large coiled form from B17C stoneware, however when it’s fired it’s a very uninspiring off white colour so I decided to make a batch of porcelain slip and applied this to the piece to give an overall white surface. I had already decided that this form hadn’t turned out like I wanted it to, it was too bulky and wide and didn’t have the balance and form I was looking for so I treated the whole piece as an opportunity to have some fun experimenting with surface.
I made marks in the surface using different tools nad then added coloured slips using a variety of brush work and mono-printing. I was really pleased how well the porcelain slip had worked with the B17C but I need to look at what to add to the coloured slips when monoprinting wiht them as the some of the slip broke off.
After the bisque fire I decided to repeat some of the painterly techniques I used during the greenware stage and keeping to the same colour palette of blue, orange and black I mixed up underglazes and added stains to white glaze to apply to the bisqued surface.
Below is the piece at greenware stage with the marks and slip application.
Below is the piece after bisque with underglazes and glaze application.
Please head to research link for my write up and pics about my visit to this event
After discussion with Rob the piece was altered to take the points away so the ‘alien’ or ‘see anemone’ look to the piece changed. We also discussed where to take the single form with the rounded base, Rob suggested building on top of the form to create a segment that would stack on top or could lie separately, with a potential to appear fragmented sections sliced up. I was intrigued by this suggestion so decided to pursue it further, I wasn’t sure what it would look like but thought it was worth exploring. I also chose to look at using porcelain slip to cover the entire surface of the larger piece so I made a large quantity of porcelain slip from a dried out bag of porcelain clay.
Below are images of the rounded/rocking based piece and the start of the first segment being built on top. This took a lot of thinking about as the top of the rounded base segment isn’t flat it has a curve that bends in two directions. I used a paper template and built the piece on this, resting it on top of the base so it would adopt the shape of the top surface of the curved bottom section.