Tag Archives: Velvet underglaze

Recent Clay Work #2 From May 2018

More clay work from May 2018. Here are face tiles, people tiles, and clay “rocks”. Done in terracotta or white clay, colored with Velvet underglaze, and fired at cone 06.

Most likely these will be art giveaways (where I leave art out in the world for others to pick up). The tiles are rolled thinner than usual (they were scraps from other projects). And the clay rocks, well, they just beg to be scattered around.

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Recent Clay Work #1 From May 2018

I’m going to show the latest load of clay items I did in this month – I’ll start here with these clay tiles, white or terracotta clay, @ 2″ x 2″, colored in Velvet underglazes, fired at cone 06.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending May 4

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art! That says it all. Art!

Saturday, April 28 – Here’s a TV time artwork I completed last night – it’s the finishing of a page in my current Large Artist Sketchbook. Before and after: (I used the photo from an exhibit I visited at Arcadia University as my reference).

In the afternoon I worked on the various clay items again. I continue to add color using Velvet underglazes.

AD 4-28 #2006

Here’s the large squarish figure I worked on yesterday – I’ve straightened out his troubles as mentioned in the last post and he looks ok now.

I finished another little animal and another cylinder guy – the small square figure needs more work, but here he is so far.

And more tiles. Those rectangular ones are going to be people, once they get their eyes and some more work done on their faces.

AD 4-28 #7001

Sunday, April 29 – This morning my husband and I decided to take a walk. We started off at Norristown Farm Park and into the state hospital grounds, circled for a while, and came back – about five miles. I decided to leave a couple of stick ladies (like these) along the route. I remind you that I have decided to resume dropping off small art pieces here and there – something I used to do in the past. These small figures were made some years ago. It’s a new art goal to make items I can leave behind, but I’m starting with ones I have.

One was left in the wishing well near the parking lot:

and then we went through the park to the hospital grounds. I will not repeat information about Norristown State Hospital beyond saying the farm park and the hospital were once one institution; now the farm is a county park and the hospital is almost closed down, awaiting repurposing, and in the meantime hosting a number of operations besides the medical ones – community garden, social service agencies, etc. But most buildings are closed and many crumbling. For more info and photos, look here.

I set another lady here.

On the way home we passed a church near us with a new sign – Labyrinth. I love labyrinths and did not know this church had put one in. I left another lady in the center.

In the future I will write about my art drop-offs in my Confused blog, where I did so back in earlier days, but I thought I’d mention this new art resolution here in my art world. I have neglected this particular aspect of my creative life,  the writing about everyday things that are to me, not so ordinary, but spring is here. A new start for a lot of things.

At home, I worked on clay. I finished up the remaining square guy from yesterday:

AD 4-29 #14

some tiles, including these rectangular ones I’ve made into people:


and I put Jet Black Velvet underglaze on the remaining figurines so as to have them ready to color. Somehow the tall ones reminded me of nuns in old-fashioned black habits.

Monday, April 30 – More work on clay items. The pictures say it all.

Tuesday, May 1 – More clay work. I finished up a rectangle person and started on a cylinder person:

I also managed to knock over a jar of light green underglaze (no photos!) – just ugh. I then cleaned up my work area and reorganized my underglazes – a messy workspace has consequences. Once I got back into action, I colored these two tiny — whatever they are.

You may have noticed that I usually position my figures with uplifted faces. I think a slight uptilt makes the face a lot more visible than one looking straight ahead, especially since the items I make are pretty small and you’d likely be looking down at them wherever you put them.

I also finished up the “self-hugger” (thank you, Sharon Mann! for that great name). I had the idea to leave her (as I see it, she is a her) in a plain black outfit once I saw her in the initial black coat. She has plenty of visual interest with her crossed arms and I did not want to distract.

Wednesday, May 2 – at the risk of getting boring, more clay work. These two are done:

This large one is in process:

AD 5-2 #3

and here are small tiles.

AD 5-2 #4

The last couple of nights I’ve been drawing (TV time, again). This image is a page in my current Large Sketchbook. I combined two photo inspirations into one scene,  an image not necessarily making sense. The photo of Megabus came from Philadelphia last summer; I was fascinated by how the bus just pulled over on Market Street at about 10th, maybe, in the middle of the city, and then this roil of people getting on, off, suitcases, bags, went into action.

The man leaning on his office window was from Pittsburgh in 2015.

I might color it. Haven’t decided yet.

Friday, May 4 – This week has been a difficult one to get to concentrate on art. I have had some family issues to deal with and that have taken time all week,  and today, we had a new front door installed (the old one was losing pieces off the bottom, so…) I did a couple of small things today – first, I gessoed some 6″ x 6″ boards with black gesso.

AD 5-4 #4

Two things. First, I wanted to try working with black gesso; I’ve always used white. I have the vague idea of doing a series of small paintings, different images but with similar colors, and see if I can tell a difference.

Second, I am using these hardboard panels that I buy from Dick Blick; these are the very most inexpensive ones (this size, they cost less than a dollar each) and I can use them as if they were paper, not worrying about the investment in the surface.

AD 5-4 #1

Also (now I’m on to three things and more, I know) – they do not take up much room, if I kept them – they are saleable as they are, as paintings on paper would not be – and, they are easy to give away or mail, if I want to do that. Anyway, here is the first set of them gessoed:

AD 5-4 #3

The door guys were still working so I got out some more of those ATC-sized claybords and turned them into future trees. I will need to do more to these, but there is only so much time you can put into something this tiny before you turn it into muddy colors. I set them aside to dry to finish another day.

AD 5-4 #2

Well, then the door guys left, I let the cat out of the basement, and I went there myself to continue clay work. I have these three figures almost done:

AD 5-4 #5

and here are some small tiles and clay “rocks”:

AD 5-4 #6

All right. That’s it for this week!

See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending April 27

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art is in the details. Be ready, this week there is a lot of clay talk!

Saturday, April 21 – I decided to load the kiln and fire it. Now, you’ve seen a kiln loaded with tiles. That’s relatively simple – all the objects are similar and they are easy to fit in around each other. Here’s a photo of a layout of tiles only, from a past firing:

AD Kiln Level 1 2-10-18014

This load today is different – it combines tiles and objects. I had to consider how to place them in the kiln so as to fit them in and to fire them safely.

Remember, the kiln is just an empty interior on its own, and in each load, I take the shelves and stilts and build a custom arrangement depending on the items to be fired. I need to take into account the heights of objects, airflow, and expansion.

Also, I haven’t fired objects in a while and my guesstimating skills may be rusty. Well, nothing to do but get to it. I looked over my array of items to be fired and came up with a plan.

I decided to lay out tiles in the bottom layer. Remember, I can stack the tiles because there is no glaze on them to stick them together, but I don’t like to go too high, because the objects expand when hot and the more in a pile, the more chance for misshaping and explosions.

I placed my clay “rocks” in this layer (small blobs in groups at the edges). They are thick and may explode – I hoped to limit the damage they could cause if they do. The tiles will not be hurt but a sculpture might be.

I also fit some small objects in this level – they can go there as long as they are shorter than the stilts.

AD 4-21 #1010

So far so good. Next layer: more tiles.

AD 4-21 #2009

And here is a shot of the electrical elements that are what make the kiln…HOT.

AD 4-21 #3008

Next, for layer #3, I placed a whole shelf, believing that my sculptures were short enough to fit the space. They need to be at least 1″ below the closed lid. I should have taken the tallest one first and checked, but no. I put most of the others on the shelves before I got to the tallest one and… bad news. Too tall.

Now I needed to unload this shelf #3; remove the whole shelf from the kiln; unload half of shelf #2; replace the whole shelf with a half shelf.

I’ll interject here that the clay items are dry and extremely fragile. You need to hold each one firmly but gently. Nothing can be picked up by the edges (as you would a plate, say – no, don’t do that). Two hands are needed for handling any object.

You need to think before you even move to place any item (you’d be surprised how often you clunk things into another thing, which is fine if it is two plastic tubs but very bad for two greenware bowls.

And a few more things…No setting pieces down hard. No pushing them on the shelf to adjust them (pick it back up. With two hands). No hurrying. Repeat that – no hurrying.

And my cardinal rule – touch each object one time – bring it to the kiln and place it – do not move it again.

So you can see my kiln-loading skills were a little rusty! It irked me to have to re-load things. I kind of pride myself on loading an efficient kiln in one try.

But. I persevered. First, I re-loaded the sculptures in the open half of shelf two.

AD 4-21 #6005

Then I added the half shelf for level #3 and filled it. I used the tallest stilts I have so that when I put on the next level, there would be room for the sculptures that needed to fit under it.

AD 4-21 #7004

I added another half shelf to make level #4 and put the remaining tiles on it. There is plenty of room for them under the closed lid.

AD 4-21 #8003

Success! Fire us up, say these figurines.

AD 4-21 #9002

Well, despite the re-load, I count this session a success, as everything made it to the kiln and in place, no breakages. (I have knocked heads off figurines, cracked or crumbled tiles, and broken bowls by grabbing them on the rim, not to mention just flat out squeezing a piece too hard, in this stage, so I mean it when I say getting a kiln loaded and full calls for a sigh of relief). I set the kiln to fire to cone 06, about 1860 degrees. Since this is a bisque load, a first firing, it will take about 9 hours.

This process illustrates something my friend Anna told me when I began doing clay: Don’t fall in love with your pieces until they are finished. Very true. Otherwise there would be heartbreak in every kiln load…

The rest of Saturday art was spent cleaning the studio and reviewing the possibilities – what will I work on next? I put new paper on the work tables and laid out things I’ve got in process. I checked my paint inventory and mostly just puttered around.

AD 4-21 #10001

Sunday, April 22 – I am sure you are waiting with bated breath for the results of the kiln firing. I can tell you it took 9 hours 35 minutes and that we opned the kiln today about lunchtime – it finished up at about 7:30 last night – and the items were still too hot to handle, but viewable.

Everything in sight looked good and I saw no evidence of shards of clay (which would indicate something blew up). Success! Here are photos when I unloaded it later in the day.

Compare these photos in particular and note the change in the color of the clays.

I took everything back down to the basement and arranged it by category – it helps me to see what my work process should be when applying color.

I also noticed that I cannot put off cleaning the kiln and the shelves any longer. I’ve been allowing things to go along as they are since the weather has been cold and I need to do some of the work outside. First of all, I need to scrape the shelves and reapply kiln wash. You can see the cracks and bubbles in the current coat.

AD 4-22 #3006

What is kiln wash and why do the shelves need it? Kiln wash is a substance applied to the shelves so that if the glaze on an item runs on to the shelf (remember, I am talking about liquid glass, essentially), the fired item can be lifted off (taking the kiln wash with it) rather than becoming glued to the shelf, ruining both item and shelf. (Then you’ve got to get that ugly white remnant off your item, but that’s another story.  Find your dremel, for starters).

My work doesn’t stick to the shelves since I use usually apply underglazes only and don’t add glaze, but I still need the shelves to be ready for glaze in case I do. Some people have sets of shelves they use only for non-glazed items and kiln wash is not necessary, but I’m not that big-time enough to do this.

When the shelves start to flake, the flakes can fall on the work. Even if it is not glazed, flakes can sometimes stick. Ugh. So I need to get to work. I will take the shelves into the back yard and scrape the old layers off and apply new wash. I will show you this process when I do it.

Also – I really need to take out the bottom shelf and vacuum the kiln. You can see kiln wash flakes galore as well as glaze splatters built up on the kiln floor. The latter is not a problem but those flakes once again can fly around and aggravate.

AD 4-22 #5004

Monday, April 23 – Today was a day for moving some projects forward and for just having some fun.

I took the first steps in applying color to my clay figurines. I am focusing on their faces, which will be more plain as opposed to the wild colors I want to put on the rest of their bodies. I used a technique of washing underglaze that accents the details and leaves large plain surfaces alone. I’ve used it in the past for relief tiles and it has this kind of effect, seen in a tile I made in 2014:

three white tiles 1-14

First I painted black underglaze on the areas I wanted to color:

I let things dry for a short time. Not good to wait too long as it gets harder to wash off the underglaze.

Then, I set the faucet to a trickle of water, grabbed a rag, and wet the black area on each item, working one at a time. I scrubbed at the face; the color is removed from the raised surfaces and stays in the grooves. Note: you may be tempted to use your fingers rather than the rag. Don’t. Or your fingers will be angry at you, yes, they will. That rough clay abrades skin pretty fast…

You can see that this technique is perfect for textured surfaces. I used it exclusively for my relief tile and sculptural work for many years and I’ll do it again if I make that style of clay art. For now, though, these current pieces have a lot of smooth surfaces, and that is because I want to add interest through painted-on pattern and color.

I set these items aside. They are ready to be worked on in colors, now.

Otherwise, I painted the edges of the two larger paintings, done recently, in their traditional black:

AD 4-23 #10003

And, I did some more of those little ATC-sized paintings on claybord that I’ve mentioned earlier. I put random colors on – then I inked in outlines of the shapes that ocurred to me. People again, it looks like. I’m not sure what will be the next step. We’ll just have to let them tell me.

Tuesday, April 24 – I did not have much energy for art today, being busy with a lot of other things that have left me feeling more like sitting down with a book (which I did do). In this kind of mood, it is a mistake to take on anything of much importance. So I looked over the small portraits from yesterday. I decided to paint the backgrounds gray; I added a few more details in ink; and I painted over one of the images because I just did not like it.

That’s ok, it can join this group of panels I painted in plain colors, ready for more later on.

AD 4-24 #2004

I forgot to mention these items yesterday.

AD 4-24 #3003

If you follow my poetry blog, you may remember that I have cut out random phrases that appealed to me and glued them on to cards – they give me ideas for poems.

Montco 2-1-18 card001

I had accumulated a group. Now I have “enhanced” them – not really interested in the words as words but as print, and the little strips as texture. Don’t know what I’ll do with them – I put them aside for later.

Wednesday, April 25 – I’m on the tired side today – I’ve started back to running now that I can get outside and between that and my body combat classes at the Y – don’t laugh – I’m feeling it – plus I did a lot of poetry editing today. So I just zipped to the basement to get some clay items ready for a session, probably Friday.

I took one of each kind of object – cylinder person, rectangle person, and animal – plus some tiles. I painted Jet Black Velvet underglaze (Velvet is the brand name) in areas where I want to apply color. Like my tiles, I want to be able to scratch through for black lines. Plus, I like a black background for the bright colors and designs I have in mind.

I did leave showing some of the natural color of the clays on the objects.

We’ll see what develops with these figurines and tiles.

AD 4-25 #4004

After I finished with the clay, I buzzed through my studio to clean some brushes from yesterday (oops, forgot them). And looked over this “artwork”. Really, it’s a piece of Bristol board I used as a drop cloth, then I doodled on it with India ink, then more drop cloth. It’s shaping up nicely as a found art object, or…as a useful drop cloth! Anyway, I thought it might make you laugh at how things occur in my studio.

AD 4-25 #3001

Friday, April 27 – Before I start on what I did today, let me show you some TV-time work I did a couple of days ago. I had painted a whole sheet of Bristol board with India ink (because I had messed up something I was working on and had to black it out…) I cut it into ATC-sized cards and then I drew on them in a white gel pen. I will use these for something later on, I think. But it was fun to do.

OK, today’s work. I went down to the basement to work on clay. You saw the prepared pieces. Now, I am used to painting tiles, and they lie there nice and flat, no need to worry about colors running. Not so with these objects. I’m out of practice.

I decided to work on them by laying them flat.

That worked pretty well. The little animal was the least cooperative, but he ended up ok. I think he’s done.

Cylinder man is almost finished. I have made his front less busy on purpose, so as not to compete with his face:

AD 4-27 #18003

but his back is getting a lot of action.

AD 4-27 #19002

Back to the tall guy. Now, there is always a section of any large piece I do where I go off the rails, and I can always tell, because then I get anxious about it, and I start trying to fix it up, and it gets uglier. With this fellow I had done a section I KNEW was not ok, but – I plowed ahead. Ugh. Finally I resorted to washing it off. Which was tricky, because so much of the figure had been covered. Note to self: stop and repair as soon as you get that feeling things are not right…

I did a pretty good job of protecting the parts I liked. The front is fine:

AD 4-27 #13008

The area I washed off is on this side. I have re-covered the section with Jet Black.

AD 4-27 #14007

This side will need some touching and changing, but it’s pretty much ok. The black area on this side had not yet been colored, as a note.

AD 4-27 #15006

Tomorrow things will have dried and be ready for more color to get things back on track. While I was working on these objects, I was also doing some tiles:

AD 4-27 #20001

I feel happy about the way all of these items are shaping up, despite the detour.

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

Tile-o-Rama

Here are those small tiles you have been reading about in the Art Diary. The whole group presents itself for your inspection!

Assortment of low-fire white clay or terra cotta clay, fired at cone 06. Velvet underglazes for the colors. April 2018.

Look here for Art Diary references: April 6 and  March 30 and March 23

Faces in Clay – Two

More clay faces made in October, 2017. For information on the process, look here.

Faces in Clay – One

Here are clay tiles I made in October, 2017.

I made my own tiles from terracotta clay (I mention this because sometimes I use commercially-made tiles). I roll out the clay, cut it into approximately 6″ squares, and fire it once at cone 06.

Then I use Velvet underglazes to created the faces. First I apply a layer of black and let it dry. Then I add the colors. I scratch through them when they are still wet to reveal the black (the thin lines you see); I also leave space between colors (the larger black irregular areas). I don’t draw anything out beforehand – I just go right to it.

Another firing at cone 06 and we’re done. Faces looking at you!