Oh, That Drip

Glazing … it tends to be the bane of most ceramic artist’s existence.

Why? Well, where to start?

I suppose I could begin with sharing that the glazing process is a chemical reaction activated by the heat of the kiln. Before firing glazes all tend to look kind of pinkish, brownish, white-ish, red-ish or sometimes grey-ish, but certainly never the color they will be after firing. Its enough to drive a person batty imagining the “correct” color.

Catch those quotes in my last statement? Chemical reactions also mean that glazes don’t necessarily combine based on the color wheel or logic. My favorite example of this is a beautiful turquoise matte glaze that turns maroon when a clear is applied over it instead of a shiny turquoise color.

I could go on about glaze application thickness and application methods, but I fear I’m digressing from that drip I mentioned. All of that activating heat also means that glaze doesn’t like to stay where you put it. Instead glaze tends to run and pool. This can be extremely helpful as well as frustrating.

You see, glaze that runs can run right off of the pot onto the kiln shelf fusing your pot to the shelf. So, that intriguing little drip when it happens is something that gets ceramic artists very excited. This is especially true when that lovely drip stops just before disaster and instead leaves behind a focal point on your piece.

You can find this bottle and more of my work at Artisans Etc. in Big Bear. See more of my glaze experiments – and seem to be always experiments! – online in my shop!

Unusual Tape

You may know that I recently have gotten really into using custom masking tape stickers to create texture on my mugs and planters. This mug is a little different. The tape I’m using to create the skinny lines of bare clay actually comes exactly this super thin width!

The moment I found this super thin tape at the store I knew I had to have it! I don’t think I even had any idea what I would do with it when I bought it at Daiso.

Weeks past and one day at the studio I was so over cutting out custom sized masking tape stickers. I wanted to stop for the day, but I still have a handful of mugs to sticker. That’s when I remembered this tape. It was so super easy to quickly add vertical lines of varying lengths around my remaining mugs.

I really love how this particular masking tape resist design turned out … which is nice since it’s so easy to do in comparison to other patterns!

Oh, and just what is this super skinny tape supposed to be used for when its not decorating mugs? It creates dividing lines on dry erase boards, pinstriping cars and other paint effects. Check out my other taped work available in my Etsy shop!

Toast

sam_1480

Some people aren’t sure what to make of my plates when they first see them. Are they food safe? Would you even want to put food on them? Can they be cleaned? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “yes!” My goal in creating my plates is to design and send out into the world functional art. Who says that plates have to be boring? \

All of that being said, I do tend to see my smaller plates as more dessert or appetizer plates and my larger ones as serving platters. One day I’ll get around to making an honest to goodness dinner plate sized ones … maybe a whole dinnerware set since that’s my long term goal, but I digress.

My view of my smaller plates changed forever this week when a friend of mine who recently acquired one of my smaller plates told me that it had become her “go-to” toast plate. Apparently, not only is it the perfect size for a small meal, the plate is rectangular so both pieces of toast fit fully on the plate without overlapping. As those of you who are toast lovers have probably experienced, once you put the toppings, be it avocado or jelly, on your toast you can’t overlap them without creating a bit of a mess. The rectangular shape solves that problem for you.

So there you have it – the perfect use for my plates: breakfast! It’s only fitting since that is my favorite meal of the day!

Check out the plate pictured and other perfect toast plates on my Etsy shop!

 

There Is No Cheating in Art

Merriam-Webster defines cheating as breaking a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something. I love this definition – free, as it is, from the negative connotation often associated with cheating. Is all rule breakage really wrong? Is gaining an advantage unfair, as the connotation implies?

Now, I’m not talking here about the rest of Merriam-Webster’s definition of cheating that involves taking something from someone by lying or preventing someone from having something they expected to get. Those definitions of cheating are where the negative connotation originates.

How often have you discovered a rule or step in a process that was unnecessary to complete it?

I remember a time when I was working in the studio, making mugs, and a field trip visiting the museum walked through. They were all students in a ceramics class and as they watched me attach a bottom to the mug I was working on, one of them spoke up.

“Don’t you have to cut the bottom bigger than the opening to ensure it stays attached?”

“Nope,” I replied.

I think I blew his mind. It can be unfathomable sometimes to even imagine questioning or changing a process once we’ve been taught it a certain way. Yet this mindset can be an enemy of art, or any creative endeavor.

So much of my work is this kind of “cheat.” Its not unusual for me to break the rules on the tried and true. No where is this more evident than in my approach to glazing.

It all started a couple of years ago when I was trying to re-create the look of stained glass on the surface of my work. It seemed only natural to use a process called cuerda seca that uses a colored wax (typically black) to separate the glaze colors. Since the drawn line is a wax, it is possible to use small squeeze bottles to apply the glaze as the wax resists the glaze from going where you don’t want it.

The wax, however, is a pain in the you-know-what to use and I hated having all of those little squeeze bottles to clean. So, I taught myself how to successfully brush on glaze that isn’t meant to be brushed and re-create the cuerda seca look without all of wax and multitudes of tiny bottles.

That learning process serves me well today. All of my trial and error allows me to apply glaze easily in the manner that best suits the work. My current highly textured work is only enhanced by the ability to brush on different glaze colors where I want them to be.

Many studio folks are amazed when they see my glazed work for the first time. They never quite believe me when I tell them I don’t mix up my own glazes and that all of the ones I use are available for general studio use.

It just goes to show that sometimes it pays to cheat.

 

The Good &%^*

Hello, my name is Jillian and I am a pack rat. This is especially true when it comes to clay tools and materials.

Do I need 30 wooden paddles?

Do I need the box full of found objects for texture?

Probably not, but I’m incapable of getting rid of them. It’s all too easy for me to think that someday I’ll need any one of the tools and materials that I’m saving for that special project.

Among my stash are two containers of dried up glaze I’ve had since about 2011, 2012. The first is a lovely yellow matte glaze manufactured by Laguna Clay Company that has since been discontinued. Since it was sold already mixed, I don’t know the glaze recipe to recreate it. The second is a truly amazing Amber Celadon glaze that flashes blue. Unfortunately it contains a material that is no longer mined.

072Once these two containers are used up – that’s it, they’re gone. No more lovely yellow matte, no more flashes of blue in amber depths. So, I’ve been sitting on them for years waiting for a special project. A body of work worthy of using up the last of these two glazes.

The Studio Director at AMOCA and I were reminiscing earlier this week about when the studio first opened. There were significantly fewer people using the studio and we had time to do all sorts of crazy projects … among them was trying to recreate that discontinued yellow matte glaze.

It was during this conversation that all of sudden it hit me … NOW was the time I had been waiting for to use these two glazes.

For those who haven’t heard, I’m currently working on a body of work for my first solo show that will open on August 8th. If my first solo show wasn’t a “special occasion,” then I don’t know what else could qualify.

I wrapped up the glazing of my work for my show this past weekend and loaded the first batch of pieces into the kiln with the hoarded glazes on them yesterday. I can’t wait for them to come out of the kiln!

Come see my hoarded glazes yourself on August 8th from 6-9 pm when my show, “GEARED,” opens at The Studio Artists’ Gallery at AMOCA.

Did You Wax Your Hair?

At the studio where I create my work and where I teach an adult handbuilding class, we have a closet door literally covered in small pieces of paper.  Each scrap features something that someone said that taken out of context is rather … well, strange and maybe, just maybe a little bit funny.

The other week in my class there were so many, “That’s one for the door” statements that I thought I’d share a few of them (recent and past) with you.  Don’t worry, I explain them too!

“Make Sure to Put a Hole in Your Head” – When creating hollow forms, e.g. heads, it is a good ceramics practice to have you pierce the form to allow the trapped air to escape.  Air expands when its heated, so if the air has nowhere to go when it expands (see science in action!) during firing the piece will explode.  Yep, that’s right explode.

“Wipe Your Bottom” – A classic usually heard when glazing a piece.  It refers to the need to have no glaze, at all, on the part of a piece that will touch the kiln shelf during firing.  Glaze is glass, so any remnants will fuse the piece to the shelf destroying the art work.

“Butt Hole” – Truly PG, well, mostly PG, it is a common practice to place the hole for a hollow form somewhere that makes sense in the form.  In the case of an animal sculpture this sometimes means that the animal gains a butt hole.  One never really outgrows potty humor.

“Did You Wax Your Hair?” – Melted wax is an extremely useful tool in ceramics.  It can help keep your bottom clean when glazing.  (See!  That’s exactly how it happens!)  Wax can also keep delicate portions of a piece, e.g. hair, from drying too quickly and cracking off.

“Just Write a Note That Says, ‘Please Fire on Chuck'” – I got no end of razzing the first time a student heard this one from me.  A “chuck” is not a person, but instead a somewhat cylindrical form used to trim the bottoms of narrow neck vases on the wheel.  Since they are made out of clay, chucks can also be used to fire work that needs a broader base to support the piece.

“You Need a Cookie” – Nope, it’s not a chocolate chip cookie.  This type of cookie is a flat piece of clay with a layer of kiln wash on one side.  Cookies are used to prevent rogue glaze drips from making it to the kiln shelf.  They also make it easier to fire super delicate work since the person loading the kiln can pick up the work by the cookie instead of a breaking off a delicate piece.  It throws new students all the time.  Fun fact – the penalty for failure to use a cookie under a glazed pot that sticks to the shelf is to bring the Studio Director a batch of homemade (real) cookies!

There you have it.  A little bit of ceramic humor to brighten your Monday!