I’ve recently been experimenting with translating my drawings onto ceramic objects using the majolica technique. The direct nature of applying color through this brush technique has a nice appeal because the fired result looks pretty close to the way it was applied. In an effort to get some of my advanced students to expand their experience with different firing ranges, I’ve been introducing majolica as a way to explore what the character and the color palette this technique has to offer. For the type of imagery I’m trying to achieve, I’ve found that simple, refined forms with smooth surfaces are best, but thinking outside of the box might lead you beyond the conventional interpretation of this technique.
The way that clay stamps can activate and transform the clay surface has been a constant source of fascination to me, helping my work evolve and grow over the last 35 years. I’ve worked with traditional, impressed designs, and more recently with raised designs created via a two-step process. The platters with raised patterns are created using a hump mold and slab construction. First a pattern is stamped into a slab that’s been draped over a form, then this slab is dried and bisqued to create the mold. The surface designs on the mold create a convex, or raised pattern rather than the typical concave surface achieved with stamps. I came up with this idea a few years ago after becoming frustrated with the way traditional stamped patterns did not hold up when using drape molds. I wanted to make utilitarian forms that were elegant, had fine detail and could be reproduced. It was also essential to me that making these pieces kept my joy for working with clay alive!
We fill our days with rituals that enhance the richness of life, and as a potter, I find it satisfying to know that the vessels I create become part of someone’s daily routine. Teapots are certainly objects that become part of our small celebrations and rituals alike. While they can be used as an exuberant expression of art conveying a concept other than the ritual of drinking tea, I prefer to think of my teapots as functional vessels: strong, quiet, balanced, and elegant. Traditionally the most seductive and complex of pottery forms, the parts and pieces that make up a teapot must work in harmony with one another. While it’s difficult to master the unity in design and scale of all the parts as a beginning potter, it’s worth the effort to make teapots even if you’re a novice. Completing a complex form gives a sense of joy and accomplishment; and, with practice, the relationship of all of the parts and the overall form will improve.
In this ceramic art lesson plan, Arthur Halvorsen demonstrates how to build a flowerbrick that’s inspired by cake shapes and cake decoration using soft slab techniques combined with slip trailing.
For thousands of years, potters in many cultures have used slip or liquid clay to create decoration. The technique was elevated to a industrial level in seventeenth-century Staffordshire, England where potters produced a wide variety of dishes and hollow wares for the international market. American archaeologists unearth English slipware fragments in prodigious quantities from seventeenth and eighteenth century historical sites. Contemporary art potters have also found inspiration in these traditional English slipwares, popularized by the work of Bernard Leach and his students.
Before throwing porcelain, it’s important to adequately plan and design what you’ll be making. Porcelain contains more silica and feldspar (the glass-making components in clay bodies) and less clay (the plasticizers in clay bodies), so the body is very open and porous. This means that it is more difficult to work with than other clays since it becomes saturated with water so quickly and collapses much faster.
A teacher’s resource for teaching throwing; broken down into three steps, readings and visual diagrams, practical demonstration, and hands-on experience.
These units show students the strategies that contemporary artists use when approaching the conceptual process, studio practice and expressive content. Students can then take what they learn through these examples to make more creative connections to their own culture and selves as they solve visual art challenges in their work.
This lesson plan will help students to: research historical and contemporary ceramic works that incorporate sprigging as part of the surface decoration, learn to make both bisque and plaster sprig molds, create sprig molds from found objects and from shapes and designs created in clay or carved from plaster, and to apply press-molded sprigs to leather hard forms, and press sprig molds directly into forms to stamp the surface.
Years ago, in an attempt to incorporate digital photography into my clay work, I began experimenting with image transfer processes. I began working with Xerox transfers and decals with some degree of success. But one day I accidentally stumbled across a water-based process so simple and direct that it’s become the single-most-used method for most of my current transfer work. Unlike other processes involving a laser printer, Xerox machine, and/or chemical solvents, this water-based process can be done with an inkjet printer or any water-based media. Consequently it’s nose, skin, and, yes, even kid friendly.
The Mimbres people painted images in black on a white background, mostly on earthenware bowls. The bowl form and antelope decoration of the vessels in the photographic examples shown here was inspired directly from an authentic Mimbres piece in the Eiteljorg Museum collection (in Indianapolis, Indiana). I drew an interpretation of the original antelope design, photocopied it and enlarged it to a size that best fit the vessel being glazed, then cut it out with an X-Acto knife.
Making a set of ceramic plates can be fun for the beginner, but is also easily adapted for the more-experienced student. This project presents a direct and fresh slab-forming approach resulting in plates that become great canvases for surface decoration. Materials are simple, inexpensive and readily available.
Practical issues based around comfort, convenience and food are a rich source of inspiration for functional work. As a potter focusing on function and form, what could you create to ease the schlepping of chips and dip in separate bowls? Are there food combinations you like, but elements of the presentation that you’d change? For example, do you like warm apple pie with ice cream on the side, but hate how the ice cream starts to melt? How could you design a dish that solves this problem?
As clay artists and potters, we’re always striving to express ourselves in our own voice. It often takes us years to find that voice because it usually develops out of our experiences, our education, and our exposure to many different forming and decorating techniques. In addition, everything we read about ceramic art history and keeping up with current trends in the art world also helps to form what we do.
Learn to apply layered surface engobes and use the sqraffito surface decoration technique on functional work.
Chinese brush painting on rice paper uses specific brushes, brush strokes, and color loading methods. This technique can be translated to clay, once the basic strokes and mark-making techniques are learned.
This simple project generates a lot of interest and creativity for beginning students, while teaching the technical aspects of decorating clay in the plastic and leather-hard states. Working on the small medallions was considerably less intimidating than a large project, and students later incorporated various decoration methods into their pottery.
The teapot form easily lends itself to a wide range of creative expression, and handbuilding a round teapot frees you from the symmetrical mechanized look of the wheel.
Since this is a high school, the students and faculty need to be in classes six straight hours a day, everyday. To avoid conflicts, I decided to direct the project in the form of a summer workshop in June. With a healthy mix of eight adult potters from the community and ten students from the high school, we had plenty of able hands, as well as a safe and constant adult/student firing team. I planned a single-chamber kiln that would have great atmospheric potential, yet would fire over a weekend during the school year. Instructed as a three-week course, we spent the first week building the kiln, the second week making pots and sculptures, and the third week loading, firing and cooling the kiln.
Flutes, whistles and ocarinas are known as airduct flutes and they come in many shapes and sizes. Their common characteristic is an airduct assembly, which makes it easier for a novice to play, since it removes the requirement that a player carefully position their mouth and lips in the precise way necessary to get a proper tone.