CM: Is your process for developing your surfaces planned out methodically before you start, or is it more of an intuitive, make-it-up-as-you-go endeavor?
AT: I came to my process for surface decoration by accident. My love of color inspired playing with underglaze, creating patterns by layering bright colors that were perfectly cross hatched into diamond-shapes, carved into, woven together with circles, swirls, and topped with tiny dots. If you can imagine a pink and green argyle sock with meticulously drawn patterns, then you get the idea.
One day, after working for several hours on a platter, I was applying the finishing touches when a large plop of color fell on the center of the surface. I had no alternative but to rinse it off and start over. When I put the platter under running water, the outermost layers washed away first, leaving the pattern blurred and faint, as if it had been painted in watercolor. I stopped mid-wash and let the platter dry. The organic shapes that appeared out of such a precise pattern fascinated me.
Over the next few months, I developed this wash-and-see-what-happens approach into a more structured method, utilizing the multiple layers of underglaze, precise carving into the surface, and then rinsing to diffuse the precision. Each piece has a five-color palette: The bottom layer is applied as a solid color and allowed to dry. Then a second solid color is applied and, while it is still wet, I quickly make hatch marks, circles, and swirls. Then all circles are filled with one color, all large swirls are filled with another, and all hatch intersections are topped with tiny dots. Once everything dries, the glaze is rinsed off with water, allowing the design to partially disappear, which results in a soft, painterly pattern. The pressure of the sponge and the force of the water from the faucet contribute to the look of the surface: alike but not the same. After the pieces dry, I go back into the design with a black underglaze pencil and outline the more dominant shapes, adding depth and detail. The final steps are to apply a clear gloss glaze, fire, fill with food, and enjoy.
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