Experimental ceramic figures

I have been developing a way of creating sculptures with a clay and textile mix on a wire frame.

The figures (usually felted) are changing in response to the theme of ‘Fragility’ for the Prism Textiles Exhibition at Hoxton Arches gallery, London next month.

 

There is nothing the least fragile about my felt sculptures that go through a very vigorous, wet felt process. By creating a ceramic sculpture I have introduced an element of fragility to the form – or that is my intention!

 

 

The process thus far:

The figures have a twisted wire skeleton – 2mm and 2.5mm to reinforce the standing leg.

I made a paper clay slip with stoneware clay, paper and water and used this to soak ribbons of cut knitted woollen fabric to bind around the wires – then left to dry.

I repeated this process with the same material to shape the arms and the hips and legs. The torso was formed with solid clay to add a textural contrast.

Once dry I polished the torso clay to bring it up to a smooth shine – but only possible in places so not very sucessful!

Firing the figures

I have placed the figures in a foil ‘saggar’ with a range of colouring materials.

Materials:

  • Seaweed powder (spirulaena)
  • wire wool rusted
  • copper wire
  • banana skins
  • salt

I wrapped fine wire wool and banana skins around the figure securing them with copper wire. Spirulaena and salt was sprinkled on last and wrapped the whole in layers of foil.

Figure wrapped in foil

 

Then out to the yard and my steel bin!

I put a good 30cm of sawdust in the bottom of the bin and lined the sides with wood. I then placed two foil parcels of figures onto the sawdust base. Long ribbons of fabric soaked in white spirit were tucked into the this layer and then filled the rest of the bin with smallish pieces of wood. Finally I pushed more spirit-soaked fabric through the four vent holes, into the layer of sawdust, at the bottom of the bin.

I lit the kiln from the base of the bin – lighting the four fabric ribbons.

Once the fire was really going – about 8-10 minutes – I closed the vents with fire proof fabric kept in place with bricks.

Finally, once I was sure the fire was hot and fierce, I put the lid over the flames and there it stayed for 18 hours (over night).

Link to Raku firing

The materials have added plenty of colour to the figure and happily there are no cracks in the clay!

My final task is to find a suitable base in which to set the figures!

Question – do I add a wire head dress? Gold leaf to highlight? Lacquer? Hmmmm……

 

 

 

Firing Day

I’m going to drum fire two ceramic figures today – it will be a first!

I am going to sagger each figure in foil to protect them and to see how the organic materials I am adding might colour the figures.

Process

I wrapped two lengths of ceramic insulating fabric around the steel drum just above the second air vent, securing the fabric in place with galvanised wire. I plan to pull the fabric down to cover the air vents, and place the lid on the drum, once the fire is really going. Firing time is about 4 hours and will then leave it all to cool completely before removing the figures.

1. The ceramic figures

  • Wrapped fresh and dry banana peels around each figure securing with a bronze wire.
  • Base layer of foil and a layer of sawdust – this will create a black colour where the sawdust touches the ceramic.
  • Added pieces of rusted steel, table salt and copper sulphate.
  • Sealed the foil wrapping to make a parcel

2. Into the drum!

  • The steel drum is large – added sawdust to the level of the second air vent.
  • Put the two foil-wrapped figures into the sawdust.
  • Trailed three spirit-soaked lengths of fabric into the drum.
  • Placed layer of wood pieces in and around the bin about 30cm below the surface.
  • Lit the fire by lighting the fabric lengths.
  • As the fire grew I added more wood.
  • Once the fire was really going I pulled the ceramic insulating fabric down over the air vents and place the lid over  the top. Ideally I would have a chimney lid but I don’t!

I have left it over night (about 18 hours) and will see how things work out tomorrow!…..

Another interesting YouTube film about sawdust kiln firing

 

 

 

Ceramic & textile sculptures

Finally ready for the fire.

To create these figures I started with a twisted wire skeleton and covered it with ribbon cut from a medium weight wool/acrylic sweater. I then coated the wool fabric liberally with paper clay slip. Once this layer had dried I applied ribbons of wool fabrics soaked in the clay slip – wound onto the legs and arms, shaping as I went.

Paper Clay Slip – Add 5–15% paper pulp to the stoneware clay slip mixing it thoroughly with a drill mixer. I soaked shredded loo paper in water, with a capful of bleach, over night and then pour the lot through a colander, pressing out the excess water before adding to the clay slip.

Next, I used stoneware paper clay to form the torso – making a smooth surface to contrast with the wool texture on the legs and arms. Once I had the shape I wanted I left the figures to dry slowly to prevent the clay from cracking.

 

Firing plan

I have a large steel drum and also several metres of ceramic fabric to insulate from the outside. A local joinery has lots of sawdust and there is plenty of wood in the shed.

Plan to cover with figures in organic material such as banana skin and may wrap in aluminium foil before placing in the drum kiln.

Colours

  • Hardwoods- Black/dark grey
  • Drift wood – Blue/greys, aqua shades, grey/black
  • Seaweed roots – Brown, rust, beige
  • Kelp – Yellow, orange
  • Table salt – Orange, yellows
  • Sea salt – salmon pink, orange, yellow
  • Copper carbonate – green, black, maroon
  • Ferric chloride – iron reds, yellow, orange

The ceramic network

You can place colourants in the bedding, around each piece, on top of each piece, or even throw it at the pieces during the firing. Each can result in different effects in the coloration. When you bury the colourants, it will add color late in the firing. If you place in around or on the piece it will colour in the middle of the firing. When you throw it in you can get instant colouring much like a star burst pattern.

  • Copper Carbonate – greens, blues, maroons, reds
  • Copper Sulfate – greens, blues, maroons, reds
  • Cobalt Carbonate – blues
  • Ferric Chloride – reds, yellows, oranges
  • Steel wool- blues, greys, pinks
  • Banana peel- greens, grays
  • Copper wire – red, black, blue, green, whites depending on wire
  • Sawdust- black, grey, blue-grey,
  • Cow pies – blacks, yellows, greens, greys, browns
  • Bacon Grease – brown/greens
  • Sodium Chloride- Orange, yellows, salmon, peach, gold
  • Coffee Grounds – browns, greens, blues
  • Leaves – brown/greens
  • Grass – brown/greens
  • Miracle Grow fertiliser
  • Red Iron Oxide – browns, maroons, rust

Up in smoke pottery

 

Colourants I will use:

  • Copper sulphate
  • Copper wire
  • Ferris oxide – rusty tub
  • Banana skins
  • Table salt
  • Tumeric
  • Leaves from perennials -robinia, laurel
  • Hard woods

Before placing the figures in the drum I will put them in the kitchen oven and to heat to a good temperature – hoping to prevent stress fractures.

Firing day is Tuesday 26th February!

References:

Pit Firing

http://www.eduardolazo.com/pitinstruct.html

Pit Firing Using a Good Old-Fashioned Charcoal Grill

http://www.upinsmokepottery.com/pit-firing.html

video

 

 

 

Molly Williams – My new blog site

So here is my new blog site independent of my website www.mollywilliams.co.uk

Why a separate site to blog and chat? – well for exactly that reason! I wanted a place to put my work in progress, research notes, links and other things that I hope will be interesting to read!

This week I have finished a new design that as an A2 print will bring life, colour and energy to any space. The design is inspired by Turkish ceramic jugs and plates – so I though I would show you how I set about drawing and designing this piece.

I began with lines on paper – curves that intersect and create movement on the page. Plates in a variety of sizes make the perfect templates.

I use marker pens and especially love Promarkers. Choosing a colour palette is important – orange, blue, green (dark and mint) and cinnamon make great visual music!

With lines in place and overlaid with black marker and colours chosen I was ready to start doodling. I had a general plan in mind however usually the patterns tend to flow as the design grows

The finished design ready to be scanned and sent for Giclee printing!

This print is for sale at my Etsy shop – please click on the logo if you would like to be directed to the site: