Tuesday, November 16, 2010
While the glaze load is cooling I find myself reflecting on a few clay mishaps I've encounter recently. The only difference between my early years working with clay and now, is, in the early years I had no idea why something didn't work. Now sometimes I think I know why, but after the fact. I hope some day I'll be able to analyze the process and instinctively know in advance what I should do or shouldn't do, instead of looking at a piece and thinking shoulda shouldas. I wonder though if that's possible. It seems that clay is always a process, a constant process of learning.
Oh, the photo above are a couple of brush holders I quickly made with some scrap clay. I've always wanted a ceramic brush holder to use on my work table. I saw a Simon Leach video some time ago and I remember he demonstrated making a brush holder. Sometimes it's fun to fiddle around with small bits of clay thinking of useful things to make. There's always spare room in the kiln where a small piece can fit.
The first mishap is a spirit jar made from cassius basaltic clay. The piece has no opening but an offering bowl on the top. I put two holes for gases to escape on the side of one of the appendages, but the piece cracked just under the offering bowl and there is a small crack in the bottom too. Why? I suspect the reason is this black clay has a lot of impurities and I think the holes were too small for the gases to escape. One of the appendages fell off while it was drying and I slipped it back on and it held. This is the first piece I used local Florida clay slip on the outside. I will fire this for the final firing to see if the slip stays the orange color at a higher temperature because this orange will be a nice contrast against the ebony black the clay will be after the final firing.
It took me hours to hand slip this vase with all the little dots, which are now covered up with the clear glaze. As I was sanding the bottom before the bisque load, I rubbed too hard and a piece of the bottom sprig broke off. I patched it with slip and fired it and it held, but then broke again when I took it out of the kiln. The pieces which broke off are sitting there ready to be repaired by glazing on. I patched it again and it is firing in the glaze load now. It will never be acceptable because the break is right in the front and the cracks of the broken sprig will show. I fired it anyway because I want to see how it will turn out with the glaze over the slip. Why is it that the pieces that take the longest, break the easiest?
The next mishap is another slipped bowl with hundreds of dots. I noticed a crack in the rim while it was drying. I think I removed it from the slump mold too soon. I patched the crack but this won't be acceptable in the finished piece. I don't even know why I bothered with it. Trying to assuage the bad feeling I had for the loss of such a time consuming piece for a bit longer I guess.
The next mishap piece is a large square box, a very large one. This was going to be a mixed media piece which I made a special size just for that purpose. It cracked along one seam and up the side of one seam while it was drying. I was so proud of myself for making this piece with seams which were almost invisible. I think it cracked because I moved it a couple of times and I dried it on a ware board instead of drywall. I have since gotten some wall board. I'll be putting my greenware directly on wall board from now on and I won't be photographing my greenware right away, but will wait till the pieces are completely dry which should help with the stress cracking.
Do you have any tips to help with these problems? Do you have any shoulda shouldas you can share? If so please let me know. I think the more shoulda shouldas I know the better off I'll be in the long run. The glaze load is cooling down; I hope the kiln gods have determined these four shoulda shouldas are enough for now. Ha.