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Monday, 9 March 2009

To everything, turn, turn, turn....

There is a reason, turn, turn, turn....
Was that the Byrds who sang that tune? How appropriate! Saturday in the pottery was full of turning out both stoneware and semi-porcelain pots.

I found that all the semi-porc pots with the added molochite made for nice and easy turning, with an attractive tooth when scraped. The non-grog samples did well too, making a nice plain smooth finish which will be very useful for slip application. However, with that said, I am wondering if a little tooth wouldn't be better for the slip layer to adhere a bit better (I'm thinking about the DIY system of scratching gloss surfaces to allow better adhesion of paint, filler, etc...)

Will have to apply slip to both clay compositions and see!

Wow - this semi-porcelain can be tempermental in the turning stages as well! You really need to catch it at just the right leather-hard stage. A bit too soft and it really seems to "melt" and expand out of the solid mass it has become. A bit too hard and it chatters.

As I have read loads about the pitfalls of porcelain, one thing I am super worried about is application of handles, as these appendages seem to give loads of potters sticking issues when applied to porcelain bodies. Many potters recommend working with the clay as soft as possible. Others say SLOW DRY once handles are attached. Frankly speaking, I am not going to be working with pulling handles when the clay is leather soft - too difficult!!! I am just going to have to apply when firm, slowly dry and pray.

One interesting characteristic of this semi-porc clay that I have noticed is it's dislike of handcarving. Whenever I try to hand trim certain bits of the clay, it wants to crumble and break off into frayed segments, much akin to a fired pot shivering. How odd?! However, when I using turning tools with pressure on a fast turning wheel, no such problem occurs. Hmmn - anyone know why this happens? Anyone?

With all my mugs turned, I began to think about slip application and immediately stumbled upon a dilemma. Ultimately, I am going for a fluid, textured application of coloured slip all over the piece. Dipping of slip is not an option and I would imagine applying it after adhering a handle would only make for one messy outcome as the handle would only get in the way of the nice horizontal brush strokes I am trying to achieve over the entire piece.

The only solutions I can come up with are:
  1. apply slip prior to "handling", but only in between the two points where the handle would stick to the pot

  2. apply slip just below the top join of the handle (as lots of touching to get handle adhered here would mess the slip up completely). The bottom join is easy to attach to the pot without ruining the slip decor so that won't be an issue. This would result in all vessels having the upper 1/4 or 1/3 without slip. A design consideration not taken likely, because it would bear influence on all other forms in my repertiore when trying to keep the "look" cohesive.

  3. apply slip all over and get a plaster cast handle to attach cleanly and precisely to the body without messing the slip decor

I'm leaning toward the cast handle even if I am apprehensive to do so. Apprehension is born out of worry that all those who have taught me to pull a good handle (and other professionals) would view my use of moulded handles as a way to overcome a lack of basic skills in handle making. Should I care? Probably not, but it does come into it a bit.

I'll be attaching handles tonight to some without slip, as I am also developing coloured glazes which I want to test out. Others I will go for the 1/4 not slipped look with a pulled handle and a final selection will be put aside for use with a plaster moulded handle...I'm thinking you nor I will see that outcome for some time! I'll post photos of all as they progress!

Another interesting development on Saturday was just how exciting it felt to make items that would test the strength and adaptability of this new-fangled clay when cut and joined into new shapes and forms. I found it very nice to alter and add bits to each other. I guess the proof will be in the pudding - once fired, confirming that no unsightly tension cracks appear.

Here is my "bubble" wall-hanging in the making, step one:

I'll be sure to post photos once glazed and fired.

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