Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lace Bowls 4: Hearts

Deep Firebrick (Large and Tiny) and Chun Plum (Small)
As anyone who knows me at all will attest, "hearts" are not a motif most folks would associate with me. They tend to be a bit... precious for my taste in most cases. But there is the point that a lot of folks do like them and will buy things that feature hearts and, at the end of the day, the whole point of this enterprise is to make a living (and have as much fun doing that as possible). Hence, heart-shaped lace bowls.

Actually, the large heart-shaped lace doily was the first doily I ever purchased, many years ago, to use for texture on my Original Sunflowers. I didn't find any round doilies and I liked the texture of this heart-shaped piece, although it was challenging to get it to work on the larger sunflowers - I'd have to "fill in the gaps" by rolling the doily four times total. When I started experimenting with the lace bowls, the hearts seemed an interesting idea, especially once I found two smaller-sized heart-shaped doilies.

As with the other lace pieces, I roll out a slab of clay, roll the doily into the surface - be careful to roll it evenly so as not to distort the shape - and cut it out with a sharp cutting tool. Carefully lifting off the canvas, I transfer it into the mold (again, using the Sasaki Colorstone stoneware dishes I've accumulated for this purpose). In the case of the large heart, the two top lobes and the bottom point extend beyond the mold, so I pink the bottom to give it some dimension and shape the two lobes to be interestingly symmetrical. The tiny and small hearts don't extend much beyond their molds so I just make sure they're centered. Once the piece is centered in the mold, I carefully press it in and then use a smooth river stone to completely shape the clay to the form. Unlike the flush-cut pieces, I can usually dry these in front of a fan with little risk of distortion.
Chun Plum (Large and Tiny) and Deep Firebrick (Small)

When working with these scalloped forms, it's important that all the edges are completely smooth. Once the pieces are more than leather hard (almost bone dry, really), I use synthetic steel wool in a multiple-step process to remove any burs or rough edges so they're pleasant to handle. (Any sharp edges will actually be enhanced by the glaze used; I have even cut myself on glazed unrefined edges, an experience I certainly don't want to repeat, let alone inflict on one of my clients!) First, I use the steel wool to soften the top edge, then smooth the overall lace texture, then the outer edge; turning the piece over, I use a clean-up tool to smooth any inconsistencies caused by the edges of the mold, then use the steel wool to smooth the bottom edge and the overall underside of the piece. Then I sign it.

After bisque firing to Cone 06, I rinse the pieces thoroughly to remove any residual clay dust from the clean-up process. I've been glazing them with  Amaco's Potter's Choice Deep Firebrick and Chun Plum and firing to Cone 6 on stilts. Once cooled and out of the kiln, I use a Dremel to remove the stilt marks.

I've also made some of these pieces using a white stoneware with the Pearl White glaze recipe I received from my first pottery teacher, Gene Pluhar. Like many white glazes, Pearl White is actually translucent, so it looked rather gray over my usual peach stoneware body. I've also received requests from one of the galleries representing my work to use some of the other glazes for these pieces, especially during "wedding season". I'm also thinking of doing a Goth/Steampunk version of this design - I think it would convey a certain... ironic insouciance.

No comments: