Underglazes, Dipping Glazes, Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit

Morning all,

Apologies for things going quiet on the blog – 2018 has thus far been a challenging year. Which gives me all the more reason to enjoy and celebrate clay when I get the chance.

A few weeks back SB’s studio opened up again on Tuesday nights and I popped down. I made two little dishes for mothers day for my mum and mum-in-law and a couple of bowls. My intention was to start playing with underglazes and try to understand dipping/spraying glazes more rather than just brush on.

The underglazes were ok to use, but to be vibrant they were low fired and so not suitable for food SB said. But as the dishes were more like little trinket dishes this was fine. The underglazes were fine, one colour must have been a little thick or not happy as it bubbled and burst away, but I had more issues with the clear glaze I had to brush ontop that got a bit claggy (is that a word?). I think SB has a clear crackle I can use next time that was more light and less err.. claggy.

The green glaze I sprayed on gave a lovely coverage but a blue cobalt I used came out much more strongly that I had anticipated – a bit garish. And the tags yard I used under the spray on glaze burnt away mostly, so was barely visible at all. Overall I really didn’t like either of the green bowls I made at all. Last night I worked to re-glaze them and see if they could be salvaged. I don’t like discarding things – I don’t like to be wasteful. So I’m hoping they look a little better with a second firing..

I also poured on a blue dipping glaze. I think I need to get much better with my pouring or perhaps some glazes are more forgiving than others – because the coverage was really uneven, especially on the sides of the dishes. Likewise I used a blue cobalt and tags yard to try and bring out some detail in the bowl, but again the blue as garish and the tags yard virtually burnt away. Hopefully next in two weeks or so I’ll be able to get them back in a better condition. Regardless I will post the results as its useful to share failures as well as successes!!

And so apart from battling with glazes, I decided to make a rabbit last night! Well, a hare. I had seen an article in Clay Craft where they used two small pinch pots to make a basic rabbit shape. I have wanted to make Little One a rabbit for the garden since I began working with pottery again – but I was intimidated by sculpture. Handbuilding is such a different skill to throwing, and I have never had much luck with coiling and pinch pots. But my mind was restless with other things and I just started, regardless. I think seeing the Clay Craft article gave me confidence. I joined two large pinch pots and used a third smaller pinch pot for the head. And from there I pushed, added, scrapped, moulded and prodded the clay into a hare standing on its back legs. I worked a little from an image of a real hare on my phone, but as you can imagine the phone kept shutting down, so it was largely from eye and memory. I wasn’t going either for ‘animated’ nor ‘real life’ but something in between I guess. I battled with memory vs a picture, as a hare has quite long front legs, which looked strange to me when I made them in clay, but the proportions were roughly correct from the photo of the hare.

The plan is to use oxides and underglazes to glaze him but keep it quite low key. I’ll definitely be doing a few test tiles before jumping in and glazing him – that much those awful bowls have taught me!!

I’d like to have a go making more animals – mostly for the garden and for my Little One to enjoy. It was a really different building experience to throwing or slab, and I’m glad I finally made a rabbit (hare), just in time for spring! As ever, I’ll do my best to keep you posted

PS xx

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Cast Munchkin Pumpkins!

Yes, Halloween is long gone. But since writing a post about making plaster casts, I have been busy making as many munchkin pumpkins as I can! And I love the results! As you can see I’m channelling my inner Kate Malone.

Unless specified otherwise these pumpkins were glazed using Botz glazes. As you’ll see below some are wild pinks, blues and metallic! Whereas others are more natural looking with greens, browns and white.

Some of these pumpkins have already been picked up by family but I will make sure I get a few on etsy asap!

Happy Christmas everyone!

Love

PS xxIMG_20171219_231645_667.jpg

(Above: pink and blue pumpkin is glazed in Amaco Potters Choice)

(Below: metallic pumpkin is Amaco glaze Palldium)

 

(Brown and blue pumpkin below is Amaco Potters Choice glazes)

Christmas Goodies!

It’s Christmas! I think it’s finally safe to say… and as such, I have been making Christmas themed goodies! All hand made by yours truly. Check out my Etsy Shop!

Christmas Tree decorations! Two for £5. Two designs in four colours:

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Snowflake Vases (20cm tall) £20 each!

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And a load of other lovely things including bowls, vases and mugs!

PS xx

Mold Making!

Inspired by the recent factory tours in Stoke I have done this year and my love of Kate Malone’s work (her Instagram #Kate_Malone_Ceramics is great by the way! I bought one of her famous pumpkins that featured in her Waddesdon Manner exhibition this year during her open studio – photos on my Instgram #pstratfordceramics) I have long wanted to make my own mold. But it looks messy and a little complicated. And messy it is, but complicated less so, as I found out!

Until this weekend despite my desire to make a plaster mold, I hadn’t actually found something I wanted to create and repeat multiple times. More often than not the same thing can be hand built to the same dimensions using the same templates and tools. However this weekend I came across my first Munchkin pumpkin! Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t the first time I’d ever seen one, but they aren’t usually for sale in the local supermarket and if they are they’re priced at something ridiculous. However these ones were just £1! And were beautiful. Sumptuous, perfectly shaped and a gorgeous deep orange colour. I had to have one! (Two. I bought two).

Now that I had an object of desire I wanted to reproduce (channelling my inner Malone) I needed some plaster. As you may have read in earlier posts, I’m used to working with plaster to make wedging boards and my local art shop, which is usually quite pricey, sells 2.5kg buckets of plaster of paris for £7.95. Which isn’t too bad – online it can be a little cheaper but postage usually brings it to around £10 or so. Plus the wait. And impatient I certainly am! So I ran down to the art shop to purchase my plaster – but they were out of stock! They only had 1kg bag left. After a little friendly chat and explanation of what I was doing, they very kindly said they had a couple of kilos in the warehouse which they could bring in the next day and even more kindly said that because of the wait, I could have 3kg for the price of 2.5kg – woo hoo!

I headed back home one happy potter. The next stage was a little tricky however.

I knew I needed to cast the pumpkin in a container, as I don’t have the wooden molds that you see in the videos online or blogs. Hmm. I also knew I needed to re-use the mold in order to get the same shape for both sides, or have two disposable molds. HMMMM. After a lot of thinking and trying out of cardboard, chopping boards, emptying food and trying to find matching shapes, I came across a bucket container I had from a previous batt wash purchase. The bucket was perfect in shape, not too big and not too small, and tall enough to fit the clay, the munchkin and the plaster. Sorted!

In order to make extraction possible, I lined the container with a plastic bag before putting in a clay base, then building up clay around my munchkin. It was tricker than I had thought to get a nice smooth, even surface. I had previously marked the halfway point of the pumpkin with black marker, so that I knew where to bring the clay up to. It also occurred to me it’d be incredibly difficult to remove once set due to the air vacuum, so I poked a hole down one side. This could also serve as a marker so I knew which way to line up the molds when casting. I read about needing to ‘soap’ the item as well, to make sure it released easily from the plaster. I wasn’t sure what ‘soaping’ was, I understood the concept and read about people using some specialist kind of soap or oil… I just went for the fairy liquid, diluted just a tiny bit, and tried to be careful to keep the bubbles to a minimum.

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Evertyhing was working out wonderfully! Until..

I mixed up half the plaster (500g) with approx half a pint of water. It immediately went into little rocks. CRAP. I hurredly tried to add more water… didn’t work… pass it through a sieve… didn’t work… perhaps it would be fine?! I poured it over the munchkin.

3 hours later it still had not set.

I scrapped the custard like mix out and started again. This time, I thought, I’ll sieve the plaster before it goes in the water and I’ll be really accurate with my measurements.

For a second time in just a few hours, the plaster was slopped off the top and thrown in the bin. I was annoyed. I’ve used plaster many times before. What was I doing wrong? It hadn’t behaved like nay plaster I’d used before.

The next morning I wandered down to the art shop to collect my two extra kilos. I wasn’t looking forward to this – what if the plaster behaved exactly like the last attempts? I spoke to the store manager and he said, helpfully, to follow the instructions. I couldn’t be mad I felt, because they’d given me 0.5kg plaster for free. But it didn’t matter how much I paid, if the product didn’t work. On the way home I did some googling and read that if the plaster was damp it can create these pebble like beads and is essentially unusable. I think this must be what had happened – it described the condition of the plaster accurately. Perhaps this last bag had been sat on the shelf for a long time in damp conditions. Who knows.

Nonetheless I persevered on, determined to cast my Munchkin.

This time I went for the full kilo and one pint of water.. straight away, the plaster felt different in my hand as I mixed it, and I knew I was on to a winner! I poured the plaster over my munchkin and it set beautifully in less than 10mins. WHOOOPPEEEEEEEEEE!!

The plastic bag trick worked well and I was able to remove my clay and plaster easily. I turned it upside down and pulled the clay off – and out came the munchkin! OH NO. OUT CAME THE MUNCHKIN. I knew if I wanted make the second cast, I’d need to try and line up the pumpkin. Arse.

I used the shape of the stalk of the munchkin to line up the second clay setting as best I could. The fairy liquid seemed to have worked well last time, so I repeated that process by painting on a few layers of soap and letting them dry. The final kilo of plaster worked perfectly as well, and before I knew it – I had made my first casts!

The edges were a little untidy and the two surfaces a little uneven, so I used the grater tool (that’s definitely not its proper name) to neaten up the edges and smooth out the top surfaces.

 

 

I let the plaster molds dry a little more and in the afternoon I had a go at making my first munchkin!

I made two discs of clay and pressed them into the mold. I added a little extra for the stalk side, evened out the edges, scored, slipped, stuck the two together and smoothed out the join. As you can see the clay munchkin is a little smaller than the real one, but I was really happy with how it turned out! I think it might be smaller because I trimmed down the edges before putting the two halves together. It seemed to have lost some of the volume of the original munchkin.

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This morning I had another go at making a munchkin. I did the same work with two even discs of clay but this time, I worked up the edges a little – in the photo below, the first munchkin is on the left and the second is on the right. I’m really happy with both to be honest!

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The biggest problems I experienced were with the plaster (but I think I know why now) and finding a suitable reusable mold shape.

Of course before they’re fired they’ll need a hole poked in the bottom of them, and they’re a little late to be ready in time for halloween, but overall I’m really happy with how they went and I’ll happily make as many munchkins as I can over the next few weeks! I’m thinking I can cut out some faces or use underglaze to paint them different colours and spooky designs. Of course I’ll post the results when they’re finished!

Now I just need to find something else worth casting..

Happy Halloween!

PS xx

Two Glazes:One pot!

Earlier this year I wanted to make some high contrast pots. I invested in some Amaco Potters Choice glazes. However my lighter colour choice, toasted sage, came out more grey than white.

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I decided that the Amaco Celadons, which can be used with the Potters Choice looked a lot like the Mayco Foundations glazes I have and thought I might try out a combination piece! I did two layers of Mayco and two of Amaco and fired at the higher Amaco glaze temperature and I’m really happy with the results!

One little bowl and two espresso cups

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The glazes are Mayco Milk Bottle White, Amaco Seaweed (green) and Indigo Float (blue).

This was the contrast effect I was looking for with the bowl and mugs I made for my work colleagues – but at least now I know for the future how to get the glaze effect I want!

PS xx

Second glazing

Following on from my single firing post – where the glazed greenware came out in one piece, but the glaze hadn’t been quite as dynamic as I had hoped… I re-glazed everything and fired again!

In order for the glaze to take well I heated the mugs/bowls etc using a hair dryer and added thin layers of extra glaze, two extra coats in total. I also added an extra stripe of green or blue as the best interaction was between the indigo float and seaweed.

I don’t think the toasted sage Amaco Potters Choice glaze is a great one for encouraging movement and interaction between the two glazes, in the same way the tenmoku glaze is, but nonetheless I am much happier with the results so I thought I’d share a couple of before and after photos!

Here is an example of the mug, with an added stripe of blue:

And this is the bowl!

I like the green seaweed and the indigo float, but I want to find a better base for the two of them. The range seems to focus on darker under coats, which wasn’t what I was after. The only other lighter colour seems to be oatmeal which is quite yellow-y from the picture.

Actually the toasted sage comes out quite grey as the photos show, which in of itself is a lovely tone but wasn’t as light as I’d hoped it to be. But at least now I know I have a nice grey glaze – so every cloud has a silver (toasted sage!) lining!

A couple more things using this glaze combination and tenmoku in my etsy shop – check it out!

PS xx

Single firing

First of all, to clear up an issue from the previous post. I soaked my flaky kiln shelf and used a steel wire scrubber to remove the flaky batt wash and it worked like a dream! I thinned my batt wash with water to the consistency of skimmed milk and reapplied a thin layer and left it to dry. My kiln shelves look as good as new!

And now to single firing. I had used this technique when I made a birdbath as I was tight on time. The Mayco glazes are pretty steady with no movement at all. They also give a pretty good colour and coverage with just two thin coats. I glazed greenware and single fired the birdbath and it came out great. However I didn’t know how this technique would work with Amaco glazes.

I did a lot of throwing last weekend knowing that I wanted to use my Amaco glazes. However when I looked at my pyrometric bars, I saw I only had one or two bisque temp bars left! My little Olympic Kiln is old skool with a manual ramp dial and kiln sitter. So with precious bisque bars in short supply I thought about single firing my thrown mugs and bowls.

Amaco Potter’s Choice glazes mix and move and create beautiful effects but in order to do so, you need to apply 2, 3 even 4 coats depending on the thickness. I let my pieces dry to leather-hard and applied two coats of Toasted Sage then two coats of Indigo Float and two of Seaweed on alternate pieces. With all the glaze on they took a long time to dry but I was patient. I didn’t want to add too much because I didn’t want them running and ruining my lovely new clean kiln shelves.

I managed to pack the kiln with 3 layers and get everything in! And as I was doing a single firing I did a really slow low heat before raising the temp after an hour or two.

I fired to cone 5 and it took longer than expected to get to temperature, but it did get there in the end! I left the kiln to cool and opened up the lid holding my breath..

..Everything was in one piece! fantastic. But the glaze? ..it looked dull and thin. Not like Amaco at all and obviously not the effect I was hoping for!

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The only ones that looked decent were the two pots I used the tenmoku on first. I was hoping the Toasted Sage would be a little lighter than the grey but then again I hadn’t done a test tile and trying to guess colours from the Internet isn’t a good idea.

I admit I was a little disappointed but it’s all part of the learning process! I think overall I was happy that my single firing worked, it was just a lack of experience with Amaco glazes that meant I didn’t add enough layers.

I am confident that should I want to single fire again I could achieve results close to what I wanted.

I spent this morning re-glazing my mugs and bowls for a second firing! At least it won’t need such a long slow ramp as the mugs ceramic now but I still don’t want to rush and risk an exploding kiln! I added more layers of each glaze but also more stripes of Indigo Float and Seaweed. The colours look great when they interact so hopefully this will achieve that effect.

20170805_145347 Once they’re dry I will fire them again, sometime early this week if not tomorrow and post the final results!

I guess I’m must also admit that I’m keen to get single firing experience as it saves a lot on the electricity bill!! And if it produces the effect you want, then why not single fire? My only advice is to make sure your pieces are dry as a bone before firing and then allowing a long slow ramp. I was advised to leave extra clay clean from glaze to allow gas to escape from ghee clay body, but I just left the bottoms clean as usual and this was fine.

Happy potting!

PS xx