Not long into his ceramics career, Jim Gottuso became enamored with the idea of using wax resist for surface decoration. The only problem was the wax resist didn't do well with delicate decoration or thin brushwork. On both greenware and bisqueware, the wax just became a goopy mess.
So Jim experimented and explored, all the while building his own aesthetic, and discovered the resist medium that could give him what he wanted: shellac. Today, Jim explains how he uses shellac resist and hydro-abrasion to create his intricately patterned surfaces. - Jennifer Harnetty, editor.
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At the same time I happened upon the work of Arne Ase whose work absolutely floored me, especially after unsuccessfully trying wax, paraffin, and acrylic medium on greenware in an attempt to etch the unprotected areas and create depth to the surface. His decorations were incredibly delicate and, of course, his use of soluble salts and translucent porcelain came together in pieces of sublime beauty. What wasn’t clear was what he used for a resist. It turns out that Arne had written Water Colour On Porcelain, which has been described as the definitive book on soluble salt use and the secret ingredient had to be in that book. Unfortunately it is out of print, but the library managed to find a copy, and the book revealed the ingredient as shellac.
I’ve since been told by fellow blogger, Michael Kline, that at Penland the process of using a resist and dissolving the exposed unfired clay was referred to as hydro-abrasion. This sounds a bit scientific to me but in the absence of a concise alternative it might very well be the best name for it.
After a couple of years of hydro-abrasion trial-and-error as well as nurturing the evolution of a personal visual vocabulary, it turns out that this process dovetails very nicely with what appeals to my sense of design, form, and aesthetics. For many years I’ve been attracted to certain drawing, painting, and calligraphic styles, and usually cite artists like Cy Twombly and Mark Tobey as influences, along with my perception of Jung’s automatic writing. But after many years of not really caring about the origins of influence, I’ve come to believe that I’ve always just been in love with what happens when a brush, pen or pencil makes contact with another surface. Using shellac as a resist on dried, unfired clay allows the surface to be etched without losing the immediacy and spontaneity of such brushwork.
Thinking in Reverse
Defining the Foreground
Abrading the Clay
Defining the Middle Ground
Adding Linear Elements
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