Discovering the Ceramic Surface

Making Marks is about enriching the ceramic surface, the processes for doing it, and the concepts, idea development and personal research behind it. And while “making marks” is a generalized term used throughout the visual arts when altering any surface, in using this term for the title of this book, Hopper is referring to the huge variety of marks that may be achieved through ceramic decoration processes, at any or all stages of the ceramic process.

 

Softcover | 304 Pages | Order code CA81 | ISBN 978-1-57498-304-3

 

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Learn all the fundamentals

In Part I the fundamentals are covered. Before decoration is done, the stages at which the specific process might be done also have to be considered. Will it be done on wet, leather-hard, bone dry or bisque-fired clay, or as an underglaze or even in or after the glaze firing? There are decorative processes for any stage in the cycle. The surface of a ceramic object can be altered at any time, even hundreds or thousands of years after the object was originally made. While you can visually enhance or destroy a form by what you do to the surface, managing it and getting it to work with the form is an art. For those who have basic training in art and design, the first section may be redundant. For those who don’t, the first five chapters provide a short, basic, art school primer (or even a refresher).

 

Plastic and liquid clay techniques

Part 2 begins coverage of surface techniques working with plastic and liquid clay processes. The chapters here deal with the process of decoration using graphic tools such as knives, sticks, scalpels, fluting, modeling, sgraffito, expanded spring wires and twisted cutting wires. It then looks at additive and subtractive approaches to surface enrichment, including texture, sprigs, modeling, handbuilding, slip-soaked fibers and washed wax or shellac resist. Additional techniques concern themselves with stamps, terra sigs, texture impressions, Mishima, Hakeme and Onda styles, and colored claywork utilizing Egyptian paste, agateware, neriage, and nerikomi.

 

Pigment processes

In Part 3, Hopper delves into pigment processes. Pigments play a large part in surface decoration, and Hopper covers it thoroughly with chapters on the variables of ceramic colorants and basic suggestions for their use and development, mixing and applications. He then looks at brushes (and sponges) as expressive graphic tools, their various types, the marks they make and their use with pigments. As part of his discussion on pigment processes, he also covers various resists (wax, latex, rubber, petroleum jelly, crayons, candles, etc.) as well as using underglaze pencils pastels, pens and trailers of different types. The section is rounded out with an exploration of spraying, from the simplest spattering of the toothbrush to the complexity of the airbrush.

 

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Glaze processes

Getting to the bisque-fired stage without any surface enrichment limits the possibilities for a few decorative processes, but there are still masses of options available. Through millennia of trial and error and heating and melting minerals onto clay surfaces, a wide spectrum of glaze possibilities has emerged. A large part of the contemporary ceramic artist’s work lies in personal research of the inexhaustible range of the ceramic surface. Glaze and color development represent challenging areas of this medium that offer the greatest opportunities for personal growth.

 

 

 

 
Firing and post-firing processes

In the final part, Hopper discusses firing and post-firing processes that affect the surface. The effect that various types of firing have on both body and glaze are looked at from the inert atmosphere of the electric kiln through primitive firing, general reduction and post-firing reduction to the flame markings and fluid glaze of wood firing. A surface can be altered in a variety of ways, either as a special quality in itself, or in conjunction with other surface development methods. Other detailed information is also included on salt and soda firing; altering the fired surface in the bisque or glaze state with sandblasting, cutting and acid etching; and taking work through multiple firings to add decals, lusters, china paints and overglaze enamels.

 

Achieving excellence

The key to achieving excellence in ceramic artwork lies in the strength of vision of the maker and the technical ability to carry it through from concept to reality. Hopper draws on his connections with other artists to show how they used their special abilities in variations of process that convey the breadth of possibilities the ceramic medium offers. It takes a great deal of tenacity to work through the technical problems inherent in clay, however, when enough attention and understanding are given to their important aspects, the doors open to limitless potential and variation. Each variation of surface enrichment adds to your vocabulary and increases your ability to create poetry from mundane, earthy materials.

 

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“This is a book about options, ideas and the use of tools. It is largely the approach to the ceramic surface that determines the ultimate personality of the work that is done.” – Robin Hopper

 

Review from Ceramics Monthly, May 2005

“This book is about ceramic surface enrichment, the processes used for achieving it, and the thought concepts, idea development and personal research behind it,” explains Hopper. “Making marks is a generalized term used throughout the visual arts when referring to the alteration of any surface by any of the tools that artists employ. In using this term for the title of this book, I am referring to the huge variety of marks that may be achieved through ceramic decoration processes, at any or all of the varied and various stages that the clay object goes through in its transformation from soft, wet, malleable clay to heat-hardened, impermeable ceramic.

 

Divided into five parts, Hopper begins with the fundamentals of art and design, covering such topics as drawing in two and three dimensions, color theory, signs and symbols, and pattern and space. Subsequent sections cover processes related to clay specifically including making marks of addition and removal, marks of impression and marks of heat, flame and smoke. This beautifully illustrated book features more than 300 color images, including process shots and finished shots of both contemporary and historical work. 304 pages including acknowledgments, bibliography, list of resources for supplies, tools and equipment, and index.

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