Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the more physical routine of tile pressing and work at a slower pace on something. These sgraffito bowls take a fair amount of time to carve but it’s a relaxing, almost meditative, process that yields a very useful item.
About two months ago I recycled a couple of big buckets of porcelain clay scraps.
I’ve learned over the years the best way to recycle clay is to let the scraps dry completely and then add distilled water to the scraps. The dry clay absorbs water much better and faster than damp clay. Once the water has been absorbed, I spread out the goopy clay onto a big sheet of cement board and then wedge it on a plaster bat a little at a time. It’s a slow, labor-intensive undertaking but it’s way better than throwing away good clay and the results are several bags of super plastic, awesome, easy-to-use clay.
I used the recycled porcelain to make this series of plates and some large sgraffito serving bowls (a future post will be dedicated to those). For this series, I wanted to see how many ways I could apply the tessellating orca design to a plate (or shallow bowl). They include:
- underglaze pencils/wax resist and sprayed underglaze
- underglaze transfers on greenware/glazes applied with needle applicators
- carving the surface of the clay
- brushing underglaze/sponging underglaze
- sgraffito (applying a layer of underglaze and carving through it to reveal clay beneath)
- drawing glaze with needle applicators
- slip trailing/glazes applied with needle applicators
- carving design into a plaster mold/glazes applied with needle applicators
- silver marker resist/glazes applied with needle applicators
I’m sure I missed some great techniques. Please let me know if you can think of anything I should try out.
Year of the Rabbit
This rabbit is the first new tile of the year. Designing tiles is the most fun stage of the the making process; I wish I had more time to do it. I usually try to add three or four new designs every year to my shop but, since there’s not much room in the studio for more molds, it may be time to retire some of the older designs. Even though I feel like my work is evolving in some ways, there’s a lot of sentimental attachment to those tiles. It’s going to be a challenge.
As a tile maker, I make a lot of plaster molds.
This is especially true lately as I’ve been pouring, as opposed to pressing, tiles and palettes. Unlike regular clay, there are chemicals in the casting slip that break down the plaster. This means I need to make new molds fairly often.
The idea for this palette came from an artist named Mona who asked me to make her a white dragonfly tile because she thought it would work well as a small palette. She was right – it made a really good mini palette because of the negative space surrounding the insect.
I’ve been wanting to design another palette so I sketched some ideas incorporating a pattern of dragonflies. Since it is a relatively large piece, I’ve been experimenting with different types of clay in an effort to minimize the warping often associated with larger tiles. I love the white color of porcelain clay for making palettes because I think it provides a great surface for mixing colors, but I decided to try a couple of stoneware clay bodies too. I was taught that stoneware, especially with sand and grog, is less inclined to warp than porcelain. Surprisingly, I did encounter some warping with one of the stoneware clays as it dried. Fortunately, the palette flattened out during the glaze firing.
I glazed the porcelain palettes with clear glaze and the stoneware palettes with white glaze. The white stoneware palettes provide a white surface for mixing colors but they have a more rustic appearance. The darker clay peaks through the white glaze and accentuates the carved details.
Gearing Up for the Holidays
I don’t want October to slip away without posting anything for this month. The Honey Bee palette has been a big seller these past few months so I’ve been in production mode. I’ve made a lot of them to fill orders, as well as, making extras in case the holiday season gets busy. In addition to the palettes, I’ve designed a simple water cup and brush rest to go along with them. Hopefully, I’ll get a few of these poured and glazed in time to list the sets in my Etsy shop by mid November.
In the Pink
I think when most people walk into a mid century bathroom and see the ubiquitous square pink tiles, they cringe. There was probably I time when I did as well. These days, I’m really drawn to the color pink. It just makes me happy. I’ve been meaning to paint the small bathroom off my bedroom for a long time. Since I’m the only one who uses this bathroom, I didn’t hesitate to pick this color. When I saw an adorable sink backsplash featuring tiles designed by Emu Tiles on Instagram, I thought it would be fun to make a cool little backsplash for my sink too. Plus, I’m always looking for ways to use these mini tiles.
As it turns out, Etsy is a great place to sell palettes. The Honey Bee Palette has been a pretty popular item in my shop so I decided to make a small palette based on my turtle tile. The nice feature of this palette is the removable shell that works as a water cup. Soon after making the palette, I began to think of possible video ideas for promoting it on Instagram. I made a quick little stop-motion animation that hasn’t really received much attention in the IG world but I think it’s one of my better posts:
This weekend everyone here was either working or doing the Seattle to Portland Bike Ride so I was on my own. I took this quiet time to finally finish my tiled patio table or, as Romy affectionately calls it, “the hippie dippy table project”.
It all started a couple of months ago when James and I were on a Saturday morning drive. I looked out the car window and saw a topless steel patio table on the side of the road. I immediately thought, hmmm, that looks like it’s in pretty good shape; it would make a nice tile project. So I said, “Stop, let’s get it!” He said it wouldn’t fit in the back of the Prius and kept driving. Later that day I recruited Ollie to come with me in the Volvo wagon to see if it was still there. It was and he helped me lift it into the car.
When I got home, I tipped the table over onto a thick piece of spare plywood that I had in the basement and traced the top. It took a little work to reacquaint myself with my old jigsaw but I figured it out eventually. The rest was pretty easy. I made a lot of tiles from slabs of clay using cookie cutters. I then glazed them with a variety of cone 5 glazes I have in the studio. The last steps were laying them out, setting them with thinset, and grouting. I did apply a sheet of waterproofing barrier on top of the plywood. I’ll probably be leaving the table out in the rain and I’m hoping the barrier will protect the plywood from water damage.
I finally finished this series of panels a couple of weeks ago. Each panel took quite a bit of time as I worked on them slowly, completing various stages while working on other pieces. One of my goals this year is to limit firings by only firing fully loaded kilns. It saves a lot of time and energy (both my physical energy and electricity) but requires a lot of patience. These panels will be part of a series that counts from 1 to 12. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with this series yet but they will be part of a tessellating animal calendar at the very least. More about this in a future post…