Thursday, April 28, 2011

Deluxe Sunflower - Bubbles

One of the bugs that bit me late last year was returning to some fancier sunflower designs I had tried some years ago with some success.  I initially called them my "Extra Fancy" Sunflowers but that got rather cumbersome, so now I call them my "Deluxe" Sunflowers, reserving "Fancy" for the sunflowers I do with brightly-glazed petals.

My goal with the Deluxe Sunflowers was to come up with interesting applied textures.  The three original styles I had developed included "Pasta", using a mini extruder to apply an infinitesimal series of tiny tubes of clay to look like an entire carpet of stamens.  (I once did an entire series of five of these of various sizes for friends for Christmas; I swore off them for a while after that!)  I also used a star-shaped cake tip and slip to cover the flower's center, a much less exhausting process which worked quite successfully and I call "Cake".  Finally, I cut out 300-400 pieces of clay and rolled them into seed-like shapes and applied those for "Seed" in a process about a laborious as making "Pasta".  Yes, I do have a strong masochistic streak.

I was inspired by Amaco's Potter's Choice glaze series to explore this series further.  I really liked the rich tones of some of the earthier glazes, especially the Temmoku, which makes for a great sunflower center color, varying subtly on diverse textures.  In the last couple years, they've come out with some terrific colors, both brighter and more subtle; the former I'm been employing for my "Fancy" Sunflowers, the latter for the "Deluxe" series.

I featured my Deluxe Teddy Bear Sunflower earlier and there are now seven other designs in addition to Cake, Pasta and Seed.  This one, "Bubbles", uses the same technique as I used with "Cake" but with a large, round tip on the pastry bag with the slip.  I got these nice, big, round blots of slip, usually with a little peak in the center, which worked well with the Temmoku.  When I try these ideas out, I usually don't know for sure how it will evolve - this was a pleasing outcome for me.

In terms of the glazes I select, the piece seems to dictate that for me.  For some reason, this design wanted a brighter, lighter tone, so I selected Frosted Melon.  On a white clay body, as I think I've said before, this glaze is positively anemic.  On the peach stoneware I use, it really comes to life, going orangier where it's thinner and pooling to almost a pale yellow-green.

I hand-paint the center with at least two and sometimes three coats of Temmoku.  I then use wax resist over this, blotting - not brushing - it on so I don't pull away the glaze; I have a special jar reserved for these projects because it's difficult not to pick up a bit of the glaze in the process.  I let the piece sit for a couple hours (or put it under the furnace vent in the basement!) before I apply the glaze for the petals.  For smaller pieces - tiny, small and medium - I can usually dip the pieces in the glaze bucket.  For the larger pieces - large, extra-large and ginormous - I use a two-ounce ladle I found at Goldstar Products.  I typically do the back of the petals first and then the front, checking as I go to make sure I've gotten complete coverage,  I keep a number 3 or 4 brush handy to blot glaze into hard-to-reach areas between petals and a container of water and a small sponge to clean up drops of glaze off the center.

The pieces are fired on stilts, the number increasing with the size of the piece.  This can get tricky as some of these (especially Seed, Pasta and Teddy Bear) are pretty heavy - the more stilts you can fit around, the less likely you'll overwhelm a given stilt and have less salubrious results.

I was happy with this result.

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