Monday, 7 February 2011

Flops, props and bricks

Right, time to get back on topic!

I've spent an interesting day in the ceramics studio at College.  I arrived early, keen to see what had become of my low-fired glaze tests for the piece of work with clay circles (see: http://ambientceramics.blogspot.com/2011/01/going-round-in-circles-as-usual.html.  Glazing for me has always been a bit of a black art;  I've never really got to grips with it, and so I'm always prepared for the worst!  I wasn't disappointed :-)  I've found, over the past couple of years, that it's always best to laugh when glaze tests go wrong rather that get depressed about it.  Why?  Well, it's not as if you can do anything about it once things go wrong, other than learn from the errors and get cracked on and do some more testing - and hope it works out better next time. This is done so much more easily in a cheerful mood than a black one!

I have to admit that I laughed out loud when I saw this:-


Oh dear!  Those rings were stood upright when it went into the kiln. Bit of a technical challenge ahead, I fear. 

The glazes were actually okay (ish), but obviously the slumping and warping of the circular sections was not really the effect I'd hope for!  As Andrew (our 'Master-Technician-and-all-round-Star-of-the-ceramics-studio' (more about him later!)) said, "that was a very useful test" :-)  So, how can I learn from what happened and resolve the issues for my final piece?  I received a lot of good suggestions from my tutor Jess, and from Andrew:
  • Lower firing to 1100°C or less.
  • Make the circular sections separately so that they can be fired flat or supported and then be fixed to a base after firing.
  • Fire upside down, with the base suspended and let gravity do its work on the suspended rings.
  • Leave at bisc firing and don't fire further.... 
I've decided to try firing to a lower temperature first of all, simply to find out what will happen, and to see how far we can push the limitations of the clay body.  If that works out okay, then great;  if not, my next test will be to try firing the piece upside down. In case neither of these work, I've also made a pile of clay rings in stoneware buff, porcelain and red earthernware clays to try out different ways of firing, mounting and glazing the rings.

This is (what will be) my final piece, currently sitting in Andrew's cupboard
patiently awaiting further glaze and firing  test results.

Front view.

Looking into the vortex...

(I took all of these pictures in the Ceramics Studio photography area.
This has appropriate lighting and backdrops, etc.  Quite a nice little resource)


A smaller test piece.


The above pictured test piece now in the spray booth, having been sprayed with black iron oxide mixed with water.  This should give the unglazed clay a little 'warmth' and a more toasty, finished colour.


I was really pleased with the way the oxide landed on the piece in bands of different thicknesses.


Somehow this distribution of the oxide spray emphasises the shadowy nature of the piece.


Close up of oxide-sprayed work.

The test piece is now in the kiln beginning its firing to 1100°C, propped against all manner of kiln furniture in an attempt to prevent slumping...  So it's a case of wait and see what happens now. 

Jess seems quite keen on my idea to make this work on a bigger scale and we were discussing how this might be done.  Bricks were mentioned - and to be honest I've always had a bit of a fascination with bricks so my ears pricked up at the idea. Don't ask me why I'm fascinated by bricks;  I guess they're just, literally, basic building blocks and as such are quite appealing.  I've never really considered making my own before though!  So far, I haven't been able to find any circular brick sculptures (I wonder why!) - this is the nearest I can find: http://sykesgallery.tripod.com/bt_big.html.  Anyway, I feel that the germ of an idea has now been planted....

Hope to return with more firing test results later in the week...


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