Monday, August 1, 2011

Deluxe Sunflower - String Theory

As a potter and gardener, I'm a pretty tactile person - my eyes and my hands are the most important sensory receptors I've got going.  And, I get a bit... obsessive (hey, at least I'm honest about it!) about discovering or creating new textures, whether for my original sunflowers or for my newer creations.

As I've said before, I developed my Deluxe Sunflowers as an exercise in applying clay in its various forms to the flowers' centers to create new textures.  In this case, I used my little mini-extruder/Klay Gun (a Kemper tool) to create this texture.  For this design, I laid the slab of clay over the mold, scored and slipped the entire surface and just started feeding pieces of clay into the extruder and pushing it out through the selected die, one which had a whole bunch of holes in it, and applying to the top of the humped slab (leaving the lower inch or so clear for the petals).  My goal was to create a highly irregular, stringy texture.  Once I covered the entire desired surface with a fairly consistent layer of extruded clay, I then continued on with typical sunflower fabrication, applying the individual petals in sequence.

Glazing these big pieces is quite a challenge, both because of their linear dimensions and their sheer weight.  I obviously cannot dip them in a five-gallon glaze bucket (even the "medium" sunflowers are a tight fit, let alone Large, Extra-Large or Ginormous).  I've been pouring glaze, using a 2oz. restaurant ladle, over the petals after I've glazed and wax-resisted the centers.  I had been glazing the underside (even though it's not usually visible, if I'm thorough I don't miss areas that can be distracting to me or the final purchaser) first, pouring with the ladle, and then flipping the piece over and pouring onto the top, following up with a glaze-loaded brush to touch up.  With this process, I'd end up with a lot of glaze on the piece, which could run and make a bit of a mess in the kiln.

While recently glazing a number of similarly-sized pieces, I changed my glazing tactics, pouring the glaze on the top side of the petals, then using a broad brush to touch up the back to get minimal coverage.  I'm using less glaze plus having less of a mess in the kiln.  Also, I had previously been using tripod stilts, which were actually difficult to space successfully and, if not done properly, could buckle under the weight of these bigger pieces; in this most recent load, I used bar stilts, which were much more effective in terms of placement and load bearing with no failures.

Just goes to show that I never stop learning!

No comments: