Monday, March 25, 2013

Breaking the clay rules

I typically stretch or completely break all the "rules" when playing with clay.

I remember one of my instructors over and over correcting my tendency to paint rather than place glaze on pieces. "You PLACE the glaze, you do NOT paint the glaze" she would say in horror. I think if she could have slapped the brush out of my hand she might have done so.

I grew up painting with acrylics, oils, water color. The idea of NOT painting with glaze was completely alien to my nature.

It still is. I paint, I don't lay my glaze on pieces. So there.

Another one I was taught and ignore is the idea that you let your glazes dry between coats. Three even coats, blah blah blah. It makes sense when you're working on most pottery creations. You want even coats, you don't want thin areas, weak areas, blobs.

However, I blend and paint. I want my glazes to mix. I want uneven results. I often use 10 or 12 or 20 glaze colors to achieve the look I want. Of course, most of the time I make sure that there's plenty of coverage to protect the finished piece. Sometimes I want the clay to peek through so I deliberately expose or scrape off some of the glaze.

I don't dip my pieces. I paint and get into every little crevice with a brush or some other tool. It's painstaking sometimes but I don't want a solid color anywhere on any of my pieces. Sometimes I miss a spot because I use a lot of texture and layer my clay so there are often little areas that are hard to get into.

At times I look at a difficult piece before I attempt to glaze it I tell myself I have to think more about the glazing process when making a piece because getting into all those little creases and hidey-holes is going to be impossible. I don't listen to myself.

So now I'm working with Lizella, a Georgia clay, as I wrote about in my last blog. It is not a clay that lends itself to my penchant for glazing wet layer upon wet layer. The clay is more brittle than many (OK, all) I've worked with and it absorbs the glaze, weakening the clay. I've already chipped off some pieces while glazing because the edges were saturated with glaze and weak.

I'm learning. Luckily the pieces that have broken off weren't important to the piece and I was able to sand the edges and blend. And no, I'm not telling you which ones I chipped! You'll never know when looking at them.

I'm glad the breakage happened where it did as I can tell it would be fairly easy to have a piece break in half! Especially the way I man-handle everything when I'm glazing. I get so totally into what I'm doing that I don't think about things like fragility when I grab a piece and flip it over.

I've also had some of the additions, like the little balls I add or the flute, come off when glazing. I stick them on when making the piece with clay mixed with magic water. For all the times I've made pieces with other clay I've never had anything separate or not stick.

With the Lizella some of the pieces fall off and separate during the firing process. Some drop off when I'm glazing when they get too wet. Again, aside from one piece I'm puzzling over, all have been fixable, or leaving off whatever fell off doesn't affect the end result.

Today I'm heading back to the studio to finish up some glazing. I had to let some pieces dry overnight as they really were getting too wet to handle.

I'm not sure I'm going to survive my Lizella experiment! I love the idea of using Georgia clay, I love the way the clay is so versatile when it comes to range of firing temps. I think if the end result makes me happy I'll probably learn to adapt.

Keeping my fingers crossed that the pieces hold up when I glaze fire! I'm doing a low-fire load first, then moving onto all the pieces I made for mid-fire.

Photos: All the pieces pictures are glazed and await their final glaze firing. We'll see. The one that looks pink & gray is royal blue and black tulip --- there were a whole lot of tiny, tiny crevices and pockets so I'm kind of expecting to have to refire it.

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