Making Marks. Discovering the ceramic surface. Robin Hopper

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1 Making Marks Discovering the ceramic surface Robin Hopper

2 Contents Introduction 10 PART 1: FUNDAMENTALS Chapter 1 Drawing in Two and Three Dimensions 16 Dry Media 17 Wet Media 17 Drawing, by Heather Spears 26 Chapter 2 Sign and Symbol 28 PART 2: PLASTIC AND LIQUID CLAY PROCESSES Chapter 6 Marks of Slash, Scratch, Carve, and Cut 66 Tools and Methods 66 Cutting 70 Carving, Surface Expansion 73 Tearing 73 Fluting 73 Faceting 76 Sgraffito 76 Saw Blades, Cut Kidneys, Texture Tools 79 Piercing 79 Cleaning 81 Chapter 3 Pattern and Space 35 Pattern 35 Space 39 Marking Divisions 45 Chapter 4 Color Theory 46 Color Physics 49 Color Schemes 52 Chapter 5 Color and the Ceramic Surface 54 Construction of a Ceramic Glaze 57 A State of Flux 62 Chapter 7 Marks of Addition and Removal 82 Modeling 82 Sprigging 84 Dipping and Draping 84 Washed Wax 86 Burn-Aways 88 Sandblasting 90 Chapter 8 Marks of Impression 94 Stamps, by Lana Wilson 95 Sticks, Wood and Bones 97 Fossils, Seashells, Nutshells, Etc. 97 Stone 99 Linocuts, Woodcuts, and Routered Boards 99 Circuitry Boards, Carved Textile Printing Blocks and Grocery Trays 99 Carved Bisque Molds 100 Roulette Wheels, Textured Rollers and Rolling Pins 102 Paddles, Strings, and Ropes 102 Plastic Mesh Screens 103 Silhouettes and Shoeprints 103 Etcetera 103 7

3 Chapter 9 Marks of Liquid Clays 107 Terra Sigillatas 107 Slips and Engobes 110 Mocha Diffusions 113 Engobes or Underglazes 120 Casting Slips on Greenware 121 Chapter 10 Marks of Colored Clays 122 Egyptian Paste 122 Neriage and Nerikomi 126 Color in Clays 128 Mixing Colored Clay 130 Finishing and Glazing Colored Clays 132 PART 3: PIGMENT PROCESSES Chapter 11 The Ceramic Spectrum and Electric Palette 134 Hot to Trot 137 Play It Cool 138 Mood Indigo 141 Fired Up, Wired Up 143 Patination 146 Patination by Colorant 146 Patination by Fluxes 146 Patination by Glaze 146 Chapter 12 The Mark of the Brush and Soft Stamp 147 Brushes 147 Making Dots 154 Brushes and Resists 155 Banding or Decorating Wheels 155 Preparing Pigment for Brushwork 156 Preparing the Surface for Brushwork 157 Soft Stamps 158 Chapter 13 Marks of Resistance 159 Petroleum-Based Resists 159 Hot Wax 159 Wax Crayons and Candles 162 Cold Liquid Floor Wax and Petroleum Jelly 162 Rubber-Based Resists 162 Acrylic Sheet and Screening 164 Fiber Products 164 Chapter 14 Marks of Pencils, Crayons, Pens, and Trailers 168 Ceramic Pencils 168 Making Ceramic Pencils, Pastels, Crayons, and Watercolors 173 Underglaze Pens 176 Watercolors 177 Trailers 178 Chapter 15 The Mark of the Spray 179 Compressed Air Spraying 180 Spray Booths 184 Spraying Casting Slips on Greenware 185 Spraying Glazes, by Steven Hill 185 In moments of crisis, only imagination is more important than knowledge. Albert Einstein 8

4 PART 4: GLAZE PROCESSES Chapter 16 Marks of the Glaze and Its Application 188 Brushing and Roller Coating 195 Dipping 197 Pouring 197 Spraying 199 Stippling 200 Spattering 200 Sponging 200 Trailing 200 Multiple Glaze Application 201 Glaze Removal Processes 201 Sgraffito 202 Resist Processes 202 Sponge Removal 204 Finger Wiping or Combing 204 Glaze Intaglio 204 PART 5: FIRING AND POST-FIRING PROCESSES Chapter 17 Marks of Heat, Flame, and Smoke 206 Object Placement 216 Chapter 18 Marks of Vapor and Fume 218 Salt/Soda Firing 218 Wood Firing 220 Flashing and Fuming 226 Chapter 19 Marks of Fired Surface Removal 228 Sandblasting, Grit-Blasting, and Air-Erasing 228 Acid Etching 230 Drill Engraving 231 Chapter 20 Marks of Multiple Firing 233 Post-Glaze Firing Decorating Techniques, by Rimas VisGirda 237 Enamels 237 Ceramic Decals 245 Lusters 251 Cold Finishes 259 Arabic, Islamic, or Reduction Lusters 264 Resinate Lusters 265 Gold Leafing Methods, by Steve Irvine 266 Chapter 21 Marks of the Maker 274 Landscape Series: Slab/Thrown Porcelain Bottle 275 Footed Vase: Mocha Diffusions on Porcelain 276 Wide Feather Basket Bowl: Faceted Three-Color Porcelain Agateware 277 Lidded Jar: Chado Series, Kama Form 278 Trifoot Plate: Southwest Series 279 Basket Form: Clematis Series 280 Chapter 22 Marks of Excellence 281 Bibliography 297 Resources 299 Index 301 9

5 Part 1 FUNDAMENTALS Photo: Alain Gauvin Mahmoud Baghaeian, Canada, Tile, porcelain, reduction fired in a gas kiln. 15

6 R Maya. Late Classic 600 to 950 C.E. Clay covered with stucco and incised. A ruler emulating the maize god contemplates his namesake s severed head, hanging in an abstract tree. Rollout photograph Justin Kerr. Chapter 1 Drawing in Two and Three Dimensions Some subjects learned in formal or foundation art training are invaluable to a lifetime of personal artistic growth, regardless of the medium in which we later work. Drawing and color theory are two such academic studies. Even if your ceramic work never directly utilizes them, it will improve because of your greater awareness and understanding of these two fundamentals. I always recommend the study of art fundamentals to the many people who come into ceramics without formal training and who often find themselves at a considerable disadvantage in the creation of their work. It is somewhat like learning a language you always learn more vocabulary, grammar, syntax and punctuation than strictly necessary to communicate. However, the more you know of any language, the better you can communicate, and the more subtle the meanings can be. Art is a universal form of language and sharing of ideas that transcends all other languages. It can be interpreted and appreciated worldwide regardless of verbal or written language. The small investment in time spent learning to draw will pay handsome dividends in being able to see, visualize, and communicate. At one time everybody drew. It was the foundation of written communication between people in the form of sand drawings, petroglyphs, and pictograms (see Chapter 2). Drawing is the basic tool of communication in any visual art form. Ceramic forms themselves can be thought of as three-dimensional drawings in space a line surrounding a volume of air. The marks that make up the ceramic surface are improved greatly by some Drawing tools. Photo: Judi Dyelle 16

7 Drawing in Two and Three Dimensions basic drawing and observational skills in order to explore ideas and facilitate surface and linear pattern making. This chapter looks at some basic approaches to creative drawing adaptable to the ceramic artist, be it representational, narrative, interpretive or abstract. The basic concepts of drawing and the use of drawing tools can be taught and learned in a short space of time. Thereafter, it is a matter of practice to expand on the basic skills and visual understanding. Drawing is comprised of two essential varieties: 1) Visual expressions of the human mind, ideas and inspirations; 2) Representations of life or objects directly in front of the viewer, searching for rhythms, movements and relationships. Drawing is invaluable for honing observation and visualization skills and also gives the artist a form of shorthand for developing ideas. Drawing on a circular or three-dimensional form is, in a sense, always abstract because of the role perspective plays in viewing. By using drawing tools, you easily can make comparisons to tools used in the marking or decoration of the ceramic surface, tools with which you might have a special individual affinity. Drawing tools can be referred to as either dry or wet media. Dry Media The tools used for drawing on paper and on clay range from sharp and scratchy to soft and smudgy. Each drawing tool leaves its own individual mark, and most graphic tools for work on paper have a similar equivalent in tools used on clay. Hard graphite pencils, ranging from 6H to HB, pens and scribers leave marks, lines and texture similar to pin tools, scalpels and knives used on clay. The pressure of the knife mark and the twisting of a blade cutting through the clay surface easily equates to the thin-to-expanding-width pen line that develops through increasing pressure on a pen nib. Whether on paper or clay, these tools usually leave a sharp clean line. Drawing tools of medium softness for working on paper include conté (usually with various earth tones), charcoal, crayon, pastel, soft 4B to 6B pencils and brushes of many types. For drawing on dry or bisquefired clay, there are ceramic pencils with leads made from compressed clays and colorants that usually have been fired to low heat to harden them. There also are pens with ceramic ink, ceramic pastels and brushes. See Chapter 14 for further information on drawing tools for ceramic surfaces. Conté also can be drawn on clay or bisque and fired, since it is made from compressed clay or clay shale and mostly leaves marks in a range of tan to dark brown, often similar to sepia inks used by the great masters of painting for their preparatory drawings. Soft drawing tools are very suitable for smudge drawings, where the thumb or a finger is used as the direct drawing implement on paper or clay. Familiarity with various types of drawing tools leads to freedom of expression in selecting the implement that does the best job. Some people prefer the tight, sharp quality of the scratchy tool, while others gravitate toward the lyrical responsiveness of a brush. With the exception of drawings made with wax or oil-based materials such as crayons or oil pastels, drawings made on paper with dry media usually need to be sprayed with a fixative to protect them from smudging. Wet Media Wet media are mainly inks, watercolor paints, gouache, poster paints and dyes that may or may not be permanent, depending on how they are manufactured. They may need fixing for permanency. Although wet media normally are applied with either a brush or pen, you also can experiment with all manner of unusual tools from fingers to sticks, split grasses, quills, sponges, toothbrushes or anything that seems to offer interesting marks. Although any paper is fine for exploring general mark making and trying out available tools, the type and quality of paper should be considered if you want to elevate the drawings beyond the disposable exercise stage. The surface used also is important, because it allows for the character of the drawing medium to have full play. Wet materials, such as watercolor, ink, or oil pastel, require paper with a rag content, which is made to be used for water media. Rag or linen fibers keep the paper from buckling, which can cause craters that distort the flow of paint and ink. For wet use, paper can be stretched by soaking it in water, attaching it to a drawing board with 2'' wide brown glue tape, and letting it dry before use. The paper will flatten out when more water is applied. Dry media require a surface with some tooth or hills and valleys that catch the dry materials and keep them from falling off as dust. For finished drawings in dry media, a fixative spray is a must. 17

8 Making Marks Discovering the Ceramic Surface A B C D Drawing tool marks A) 2B pencil; B) Oriental brush pen; C) Pen and ink: D) Conté. Although there may be artists who have a natural flair for drawing, it is a skill that can be taught to almost anyone. It is a combination of learning to work with the tools and training the observation, analytical and visualization skills at the same time. Like riding a bike, once learned it is unlikely to be forgotten and allows the artist a form of visual shorthand for depicting things seen by the eyes or developed in the realm of the mind. The first exercise in drawing is to play with all the available tools on the cheapest paper (newspaper or newsprint), then selecting one or two that you feel most comfortable with and that produce the sort of marks you enjoy. Then try every conceivable variant of mark making using the selected tools. Use the tip, edge and flat surface to explore the range of possibilities. Try all of the tools available to you and do exhaustive explorations of their potential. This will help you gain fluency with many tools and give a good understanding of their differences. For almost every drawing tool used for working on paper there is an equivalent for working on clay. Eventually you will develop an affinity for certain types of tools and marks based on your comfort level and the type of work you plan to do. Most people born and educated in Western countries are accustomed to scratchy tools, such as pens and pencils, whereas those from Eastern countries have early experiences in brush usage. Westerners often feel acutely uncomfortable using a brush, and Easterners often feel the same about pens. If you have a preference, explore its possibilities and limitations. Gaining familiarity and confidence with the tools encourages freedom of movement of your arm, wrist and finger grip. The larger the working surface, the more expansive the movement and physical gesture can be. Most drawing media produce lines that are relatively narrow and clearly defined, although brushes can be used with side or flat strokes, and conté, chalk, pastel and charcoal laid on their sides will produce broad marks. In the process of exploring the making of lines and other marks with various tools, you ve started the first 18

9 Drawing in Two and Three Dimensions Courtesy of Lorne Loomer Brush marks from a pounded cedar bark brush. exercises in drawing learning how the line moves and how to use pressure or movement to gain expression. Six main factors give the expressive power of drawing: line and dot; enclosure; tone and texture; volume; conceptual and visual space; and rhythm. Line has no limits in its potential for variation. All lines belong to one or more of four basic types: straight, equal curve (such as a part of a circle), angular and modulating curve (opens or closes in progress). Longer lines get their expressive qualities from variations in length, width and rhythms that are embodied in them. There is immense potential for exploring linear expression with lines that give direction, rise and fall, droop, energize or crawl. Lines can play with other lines crisscrossing, intertwining, colliding and mimicking movement. One of the principal functions of lines is that of enclosure. Enclosure can be fluid organic shapes; static geometric shapes such as circles, semicircles, squares, rectangles, and triangles; or their three-dimensional equivalents of sphere, hemisphere, cube, cylinder, parallelepiped (shoebox shaped), pyramid or cone. These two- and three-dimensional shapes are at the basis of visual analysis of underlying structures. We are all familiar with stick figure drawings where different-length articulated lines are topped with a circle and sometimes with larger body sections such as the chest and pelvis delineated as polygons. You can make complete figure compositions by assembling groups of simple enclosures. Learning simple perspective also can give drawings a three-dimensional aspect and help to develop a greater understanding of visual interpretation. Learning to simplify complex forms into groups of easy to grasp and draw shapes is one of the ways drawing has been taught for generations. There always is an underlying structure. Having established the basic structure, you can then work down from the structural mass to the finest detail. The drawing of a shoe (at right) by Bill Porteous shows this process in action. Tone and texture are normally flat layers done by crosshatching, flooding or brushing an area to rim, stripe or fill it. Tonal shapes can be overlaid with vivid 19

10 Making Marks Discovering the Ceramic Surface linear action through small, repeated, graphic marks, like raindrops or snowflakes against a gray sky. Tone can be used to emphasize volumes of three-dimensional depictions with darkened volumes and cast shadows. Volume and three-dimensionality in drawings tend to occur as you isolate parts of a drawing, dividing positive volume from negative space. A ball thrown in the air becomes positive volume, while the space around it becomes negative space. When the ball is placed on a table, the ball and table visually join to become a positive form surrounded by negative space. As you develop drawn symbols or two-dimensional images for solid bodies, you also imply the space in which they exist, and the drawing surface becomes either conceptual or visual space. Conceptual space shows the relationship and placement of objects on the drawing surface above, below, to one side, to the other side, outside, inside, smaller or larger. Not much actual depth or visual field is shown. Visual space is developed through three techniques: overlapping, shading and altering the volume of forms. As you place objects behind each other on a flat plane, their visual solidity is established by shading to give a sense of three-dimensionality. Rhythm is where linear markings establish the dynamism of a drawing, capturing the essence of the subject. The visual comprehension of the subject, combined with speed, movement and assurance of graphic markings, is what makes a few lines on a sheet of paper an invaluable reference for future exploitation. It becomes the source for ideas and continual growth and development. Courtesy of Lorne Loomer Washed Chinese ink drawing. 20

11 Drawing in Two and Three Dimensions Playing with lines brush and ink. Simple line marks pen, pencil, and brush. Organic enclosures. Geometric enclosures. Stick figures with geometrics. 21

12 Making Marks Discovering the Ceramic Surface Courtesy of Bill Porteous Simple perspective boxes. You might learn to draw by scrutinizing objects of a geometric nature and experiencing them through graphic marks with drawing tools and paper. Sometimes the simplest objects seem the hardest to depict graphically, but continual practice and analysis of what you are doing quickly leads to great improvement. It is mainly the process of learning the tools and rhythms that breaks down the mental barriers that so often cause people to say, I can t draw a straight line. A boring straight line is usually harder to make than an exciting rhythmic one! Perhaps the most exciting drawing tool to become available to artists since the brush and pen is the personal computer, particularly the Apple Macintosh group of computers. These tools, along with a bewildering and ever-changing range of software applications, allow and encourage a degree of manipulative graphic freedom never before available to the artist. Although it helps greatly to have basic drawing and design skills already developed through traditional hand methods, computer programs generally have the electronic equivalent of all artists materials and tools, and then some, to explore and manipulate the graphic image. Ideas rapidly developed via computer graphics can be used or reinterpreted using the traditional tools of the artist. The next page shows digital photographic images manipulated and translated into drawings that could easily be further developed on the clay form through traditional drawing methods. Such images easily could be made into silkscreen images for tile work or flat ware. There is no end to the potential for development. Learning to draw can be intense, often tiring, and it drains energy quickly because the process requires acute concentration, observation and critical visual 22

13 Drawing in Two and Three Dimensions Courtesy of Bill Porteous Study of a shoe. 23

14 Making Marks Discovering the Ceramic Surface Sphere and shadow. Three-dimensional rendering. analysis things that most of us don t usually do in our everyday lives. We tend to look rather than see. We don t normally scrutinize intensely and analytically. It s not a good idea to do observation drawing when you are tired. Pushing yourself generally will achieve little or no further development. Try to draw only when you are fresh and your eyes are rested. This will lead to greater improvement in your skill development and alleviate frustration. The great benefits of learning to draw lie in training yourself to see, encouraging visual awareness and giving yourself one of the major tools of visual thinking and interpretation of ideas. It is mainly a process of learning by doing, whether it is a sustained graphic study of something or merely scribbles or doodles while the creative mind searches for direction. Practicing drawing as much and as often as possible will increase your skills exponentially. A good drawing teacher who continually challenges your visual skills often is hard to find. If you take classes, make sure the instructor realizes that the skill you are working to achieve also is geared toward working with clay. The approach often is quite different. For a different view from someone who is continually drawing and teaching drawing, I asked a very experienced drawing teacher and colleague, Heather Spears of Canada and Denmark, to share her thoughts on drawing. Her essay is at the end of this chapter. Making marks on clay tablets was one of mankind s earliest forms of written or graphic communication. Using pointed and wedge-shaped impressions, it was developed from pictographs, signs, symbols or abstracted drawings by the Sumerians and Assyrians. It continued in use for more than 3,000 years. The next chapter identifies some of these and other signs, symbols and concepts that have been used, reused, stolen and expropriated by artists and craftsmen from time immemorial. 24