Saturday, February 1, 2014

Goth/Steampunk Pillow Vases

In developing a possible product line for the upcoming DetCon1, I thought it might be worthwhile to take some of my existing designs and revisit them with more of a Goth/Steampunk sensibility. For those of you who are unfamiliar with either of these aesthetics, "Goth" relates to a post-punk era subculture which draws upon influences from 19th-century Gothic literature (think Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, for example) and horror films, often characterized in popular culture through fashions reflecting Victorian styles, most often with dark clothing, make-up and hair styles. "Steampunk" is a sub-genre of science fiction typified by steam-powered machinery, particularly in a context inspired by early industrialized Western culture - especially the 19th century. Like the Goth aesthetic, Steampunk is inspired by the works of Mary Shelley, as well as those of Jules Vern and H.G. Wells.
Back in September, when my friend Sharon (who frequents these events and puts a great deal of effort into creating unique costumes for them) first suggested that this might be a new market for my work, I took some of the Pillow Vases I had already bisque-fired and tried the four metallic glazes in my repertoire. Metallic Black is a glaze recipe I was given by my first pottery teacher, Gene Pluhar. The other three glazes - Saturation Metallic, Saturation Gold and Palladium - are all from Amaco's Potter's Choice Series. With the exception of the Palladium glaze, all are food safe. For this reason, I never use the Palladium on any piece that might conceivably be used for food or beverage for any species - not just humans. I felt the Pillow Vases were a safe bet, though; I can't imagine someone deciding to use them for food service - in fact, I'm not sure they could!

I glazed up at least one of each style - Rosette, Lace, Frosted, Scrolls and Sea Urchin - in sizes ranging from Tiny to Medium. (I wasn't willing to take a risk with a Large Pillow Vase, as those are sufficiently demanding of materials and my effort that I didn't feel it necessary.) I got together with my best friend, Catherine, to celebrate her birthday with a nice meal out and brought the pieces with me for Show & Tell afterwards; I needed some feedback and Catherine has always been willing and able to provide me with useful insights regarding my work. Generally, she was favorable in her critique; she really liked how the Saturation Metallic and Saturation Gold glazes looked on the pieces, especially the Saturation Gold on the Sea Urchin Pillow Vase.

(The example I had for that was a Small Vase. She liked it so much, she showed me how she would display such a piece in her living room, making the observation that it would have to be much larger to work in that space; I later made her, especially, a Large Sea Urchin Pillow Vase in Saturation Gold and left it for her one time when I stopped by to surprise her.)

Catherine was less taken with the Metallic Black and Palladium glazes, although she did not reject them entirely, merely observing that they did not seem to work as well for the particular designs I was showing her as the Saturation Metallic and Saturation Gold examples. She also suggested that I might investigate doing some plain Pillow Vases - with no decoration at all; she felt those might show of the glazes to best advantage.

I decided to do a series of 24 Tiny Pillow Vases: four of each of the five existing designs plus four plain ones; I also varied the openings - the single small opening, or Ikebana vase; the larger single opening that could take a small pin frog; and the "built in" frog with an array of 17 openings for flower-arranging novices. (Being the obsessive-compulsive person that I am, I made sure that there would be an equal distribution of the three openings across the 24 vases and amongst the 6 designs and four glazes.)

I was very happy with the results, especially with the Saturation Metallic and Saturation Gold glazes. The pieces
glazed with Saturation Metallic looked particularly metallic, especially the plain Pillow Vase (see below, the vase farthest left). The experiment seems to confirm our initial determinations, that the Saturation Metallic and Saturation Gold glazes are both safe bets, with the other two glazes less successful but still acceptable. I'm looking for some additional glazes to try - I've been working with Coyote's Gun Metal Green and have some of their Bronze Temmoku to try. So, it will soon be time to glaze up some more pieces and see how they turn out.

As for the photo shoot, Don and I felt that we needed a different background for these pieces, rather than the wood slice we've used so successfully in the past. We concurred that something more "industrial" would be more appropriate. I found a piece of expanded metal in my store room, one side of which still had some black paint from a previous use. It turned out to be the perfect background for the Goth/Steampunk Pillow Vases and Lace Bowls, as well as for the masks I had done almost 20 years ago.

No comments: