Work in progress – “Fu Man Chu” vessel

I posted the first step in this piece, so here is the before and after what that same threaded section looks like now, filled in.

I had planned on making the stitching really thick, so you couldn’t see any of the black underneath, but then I got to like the little bits of black peeking through. The tape is protecting the edges from getting scratched by the needle. And below, while there is still much work to do, you can see where I’m headed, with the hanging strings (each has a bead on the end).

It is a slow process tying each bead on, and everything likes to tangle! I’ve actually done more work since I took this picture, and the finished result will be posted within a week, I think.

Work in Progress – untitled vessel

To take a break from the bookmarks and to show you something I am actually working on, here is one of my wall hanging vessels from a few years back that I am redoing. This is the first stage: threading. We’ll see how much layering I’ll do. You can see I’m starting to build a decent thickness in the upper right of the detail shot. The string hanging down has the needle on it right now, but in the end there will be many strings hanging down like that with seed beads on the ends. So goes the idea at the moment. It’s a good piece to work on late at night when I’m too tired to really think and when I’m finished for the night, I just hang it back on the wall!

slow going - rayon thread on slip cast earthenwarebuilding up the layers
building up layers

Pit Firing Process

On May 29th I tried pit firing ceramics for the first time down at the family farm. It was during an annual family celebration, so we made a thing of it. A few of the cleaned-up, waxed pieces can be seen in the next blog below.

Casting "shells" for pit firing. After sitting for a while, the plaster absorbs water from the slip. The longer it sits, the thicker the piece. The excess slip is then poured into a bucket. After some handwork to clean and smooth the pieces, they are left to dry and then fired in an electric kiln. This will prevent breaking during the eventual pit firing.
Slip casting shells – slip is just a liquid clay body formulated for casting. After sitting for a while, the plaster absorbs water from the slip. The longer it sits, the thicker the piece. The excess slip is then poured into a bucket. After some handwork to clean and smooth the pieces, they are left to dry and then fired in an electric kiln. This will prevent breaking during the eventual pit firing.
After all the hard work of digging the pit (I had massive help there; no way I could have gotten through all that ridiculous bedrock), it’s time to load the pit with various materials while a nephew supervises.
The bed of the pit has been lined with sawdust, newspaper and straw. Some of the straw had been previously soaked in salt brine and then dried. You can see that a few of the pieces have been wrapped in burlap (also soaked in salt and dried) and copper wire. Different chemicals and techniques have different results in term of color, so I’m just experimenting with different things.
Before filling up the pit with the rest of the filler materials, I spread a few chemicals around. Here I’m sprinkling red iron oxide – for reds obviously, copper carbonate for green, cobalt oxide for blue, and manganese dioxide for purple. Rock salt was sprinkeld throughout as well as my nephew tracks my progress.
Finally time to get the party started.
Everyone loves fire.
You let the fire burn out, and hope things go well as you have to wait overnight or longer until the work is cool enough to pull out. I was initially disappointed as we had a ventilation problem, but some pieces still came out really well after being cleaned up and polished. The next round of pit firing was immediately scheduled for July 4th so we could try a change in the design.

See this post for the initial results polished up: https://rmgardner.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/work-in-progress-results-of-1st-pit-firing/

Work in Progress: Results of First Pit Firing

 

Pit-fired shell form
work in progress - pit-fired shell form - felting will be used to complete piece

Here are a few of my favorite results from my first attempt at pit firing ceramics. As experiments, they are all fairly small, the longest of these is about six inches. Not everything came out on the first try, but the best ones almost look like stones. I hope to have some images of the pit firing event itself soonish. For context, these “shells” (they are hollow or cup-like) are intended to be the bases of sorts for felting sculpture. Or so the idea currently stands…

Process: All pieces are slip-cast earthenware. Various surface techniques, such as burnishing, buffing, oiling, and terra siglatta were used in the greenware stage. They were then bisque fired in an electric kiln. Some pieces then received additional surface work. For the pit firing, various chemicals were added on and near the pieces for coloration, including rock salt, red iron oxide, copper carbonate, manganese dioxide, and cobalt oxide. The speckling in these pieces are a result of the various chemicals.

pit-fired shell form
work in progress - ceramic pit-fired shell form
Shellhorn
one of my favorites - slip cast pit-fired earthenware
the other side of image above - "shellhorn"

 

pit-fired "onion shell"
I call these Onion Shells