February 17th, 2010


voices, cone 04 electric fired local clay 2-3"

Hello. It’s the middle of February, I am now involved in my semesters work at Goddard College and so I’ve been doing some reading, testing some surfaces for clay, making little sculptures, and trying to figure out how to put this kiln together.
Notice I said “surfaces” for clay. I’ve been working primarily with cone 5 commercial glazes with a commercial clay body, but now that I’ve decided to trash my old existence and leap into the world of earthenware I am at a loss as to which way to proceed. Then of course there is the age old debate about functional work or sculptural work, why not both? Exactly…both! and of course I have to add that art DOES have a function! That might be to make you laugh, cry, react and/or think. So…I have been thinking alot about surfaces. Yesterday I mixed up a new batch of terra sigilatta (sealed earth) this time the deflocculant I used was darvan 7. I can’t really tell you what darvan 7 is other than I used it to keep my liquid in suspension, or rather, “homogenized”. The liquid will eventually settle out and I’ll siphon off the middle layer for a nice shiny colored clay slip called terra sig. (sidge). My last tests were rather dry upon firing and do not burnish well. I want a very shimmery surface. I have to wait a few days yet for things to settle, then test with some colored stains, then fire.
The other thing I have been playing with is encaustics(painting with wax). I’ve been doing alot of research about egyptian tombs and the decorative surfaces of the sarcophogus’ (ii?). The egyptians were brilliant and the everlasting beauty of their work is well documented. They used beeswax to coat the outside of the “coffins” and preserve the detailed portraits of those within. I was at my residency and was able to catch one of those extremely rare “how to” sessions on encaustic painting. It was just what I needed to get me started. I now own a warming plate and some muffin tins to melt the beeswax and mix in my colorants. I am using straight beeswax with no hardeners because I am striving for authenticity. ha! No actually, it’s because I want to see if I can be as natural as possible and ordering more “stuff” online is bothersome to me.
So I created these little faces out of my local clay. I was thinking of the voices I have in my head…you know those little nagging voices that tell you things like “you don’t know what you are doing…” etc. I decided to make up little faces to go with them. Yes, they are vaguely familiar faces from my childhood, and yes, this is a little bit like therapy, and trust me there are thousands more where these came from! I fired the voices to cone 04. On some of them I brushed on a black copper oxide wash, some I left plain, and some I brush on a colored slip and some wash. I melted my beeswax and brushed a clumpy layer onto each voice. Then I took out my hair dryer and melted the wax while I brushed it around to thin out the clumps. Painting with wax is clumpy and I don’t like it all that much, but I love what it does to the surface, especially if I can get it fairly even. I’ll keep testing this. I am hoping to create wall pieces with this approach. Obviously this won’t work with usable wares such as mugs, plates etc. I’m hoping to figure out a nice simple beautiful low fire glaze that I can salt-fire in the next few months. That kiln is still in a pile in my backyard.  

Voices with various stains and encaustic surfaces

In case you are wondering what I’m reading. MC Richard’s Centering, Miles Horton and Paulo Friere’s, We Make the Road by Walking, and Frederick Olsen’s The Kiln Book. Also Richard Zakin’s, Ways of Creation. Ok, that’s enough for today. Maybe I’ll tell you more about these great books next time.

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