It is week four here in the world of senior studio II. You may be wondering what I have been up to for the past four weeks? What have I been making? (if not, just humor me). Week four is the week before week 5 meaning I am making lots of messes and cramming in some firings before the big ol' 5 week reviews!
This semester I am going in a new direction, taking pieces of all my other directions and making a somewhat cohesive path. But before I get to the making, I have to do a bunch f tests. This is the part most people do not see or know about ceramics, it is completely behind the scenes and actually kind of systematic like an actual lab. I have tested three things: clay bodies, colored slips, and glazes.
Like any good nerd, I did my research on different types of porcelain clay bodies that are good for casting. There are thousands since artists have been making their own porcelain recipes since the BC Chinese dynasties. I picked four to mix up, cast and fire. In the firing I tested shrinkage, slump and transparency, all characteristics that will be important when actually making pieces.
After examining the tests and altering the recipes a touch more, I chose a Makins Porcelain with both Custer Feldspar and Nepheline Syenite. It was a balance between a pure white and little slump (the whiter clays , slump and sag more than the less pure ones).
For this series of work I am using colored slips for the stained glass like surface patterning. Slip can be colored by minerals or commercial mason stains, I am using mason stains because it is more consistent. I wanted to be very specific with my colors so I tested each possible mason stain at a gradient of percentages and then fired them. The porcelain test cookies were adorable and made for good instagram shots. Drumroll please, the chosen mason stains are: Bordeaux red at 13%, Vanadium yellow at 6%, Sky blue at 10% and taupe at 5%. Give a round of applause to exact measuring, a handful of dirt and a touch of time!
The last step to any ceramic piece is the glaze but to have enough information to pick the very best glaze, ceramic artists make glaze test tiles first. For this semesters project I wanted a glossy clear glaze that had a touch of gold where it pooled. I made a bunch of tests yesterday and pulled them out of the kiln today. I have picked a whiting base clear glaze with 1% iron (a yellow colorant).
Now that all the tests are complete, I am at a point where I can actually make work. Planning and prep is boring but so important to an artist, even though no one sees it when they walk through a gallery or drink coffee out of a well crafted mug.