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Blog

This page gives people a view into our daily lives living in the west of Ireland. It includes posts about our projects in the ceramic studio as well as projects in the garden, home and kitchen. 

 

Filtering by Category: Pottery

Press Mould Plates

Alexis Bowman

I never got any extensive training on the wheel; just a short introduction to it during a ceramics elective in art college. Back then it was immediately obvious to me that to get a handle of the skill I would need to be totally dedicated to it. I was already immersed in my painting so I put it aside for another day. I still haven't got the chance to learn how to throw a pot so I like to build things with my hands instead. This week Steve showed me how to make a plate using a press mould.

First we made a wooden stamp using plywood. We cut this one into a figure of eight shape. We pressed the wooden stamp into the clay while it rested on a large flat sponge to take some slack.  

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Stretching Slip

Alexis Bowman

Slip or 'engobe' is a form of liquid clay in which colours can be added. It is used to paint onto the surface of pots to give them colour and texture. When we want to create a smooth finish we have to ensure the consistency of slip is spot on (like cream). If it is applied too thick or applied to a body of clay that is already very dry, it can split and crack. These effects can be exaggerated to create textural surfaces. 

We've been experimenting with stretching a white slip over dark clay and throwing it across the table to make it crack. To create an extra thick slip we added dispex to porcelin. Dispex works to suspend particles in liquid. When it is added to slip it makes it extra thick and unctious.

Firstly we roll out thick slabs of dark clay

Firstly we roll out thick slabs of dark clay

We paint on thick porcelin & dispex slip. 

We paint on thick porcelin & dispex slip. 

We dry it a little with the heat gun

We dry it a little with the heat gun

Steve throws it across the table 

Steve throws it across the table 

And it begins to crack

And it begins to crack

The cracked porcelin slip sitting on top of the darker clay

The cracked porcelin slip sitting on top of the darker clay

Some examples of plates where slip has been stretched:

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Platters

Alexis Bowman

We have been developing a range of these simple and functional circular platters. They have a wateriness to them; the blue pools of pigment seem to float. Cobalt and copper is also used to create colour. 

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Ash Glazes

Alexis Bowman

We have been developing some new ash glaze recipes lately. Ash glazes are ceramic glazes made from the ash of various kinds of wood or straw. In a wood fired kiln, potters like to create random effects by setting up the kiln so that ash created during firing falls onto the pots; the results of this are seen in Phil Rogers book 'Ash Glazes'. 

We use an electric kiln where the conditions are highly controlled and predictable so in order to get some interesting effects with wood ash we mix it with water, and often clay, and apply is as a paste or we simply shake the dry ash onto the surface of the pot before it enters the kiln.

Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glaze pre-fire.

Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glaze pre-fire.

Finished wood ash dusted Tenmoku pot

Finished wood ash dusted Tenmoku pot

Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glazed pot .

Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glazed pot .

Wood ash is primarily made up of calcium carbonate, which is used in many glaze recipes. It also contains many other components which differ depending on the location, soil, and type of wood the ash came from. Each different ash glaze produces different results.  

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We collect wood ash from the pizza over at the Cill Rialaig Cafe. We wash it, sieve it and dry it to make a fine dust. 

The ceramic flux in wood ash is calcium oxide. When present in a glaze it promotes running & streaking. Wood ash glazes often run and slip so much during firing that they move down off the pot and onto the kiln shelf below, sticking the pot firmly to the shelf it sits on. In order to remove the pot we have to grind the pot off using an angle grinder; after this process the pot is usually lost.    

These mugs are held to shelf after this ash glaze ran to far in the firing process. 

These mugs are held to shelf after this ash glaze ran to far in the firing process. 

Some examples of pots where we have used wood Ash:

A simple wood ash glaze.

A simple wood ash glaze.

A simple wood ash glaze.

A simple wood ash glaze.

Wood ash dusted over a cristalline glaze.

Wood ash dusted over a cristalline glaze.

Wood ash dusted over crystalline glaze.

Wood ash dusted over crystalline glaze.

Wood ash dust over crystalline glaze.

Wood ash dust over crystalline glaze.

Wood ash dusted over a crystalline glaze

Wood ash dusted over a crystalline glaze

Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glaze.

Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glaze.

A dusting of wood ash helped to create this streaking effect .

A dusting of wood ash helped to create this streaking effect .

Wood ash was dusting around the rim of these bowls

Wood ash was dusting around the rim of these bowls

Studio Furniture

Alexis Bowman

Here are a few images of the things we have made to help us with our daily tasks in the studio:

A handy trolley for moving big heavy things about. 

A handy trolley for moving big heavy things about. 

A plywood surround for the wheel

A plywood surround for the wheel

A cement table for wedging clay

A cement table for wedging clay

A drying rack for pottery

A drying rack for pottery