Tag Archives: Velvet underglaze

Faces in Clay – Two

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

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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!

Artifact Tiles – Part 2

For Part 1, look here.

At the end of the first post, I had put the tiles into the kiln for their glaze firing. Opening the kiln is always exciting – a combination of apprehension and hope. I had fired these tiles at cone 05, appropriate for the glaze/clay combination I was using. The firing took about 6 hours and I then had to let the kiln cool over night.

When I took out the tiles, I was happy. There were no failures of the materials (meaning nothing exploded, ran, blistered, cracked, etc.)

I’ll show you the tiles and discuss my thoughts. But remember, I consider none of these tiles saleable or even much to look at. I did get a lot of good information from them, though, and that is what I wanted.

This first group is composed of yellow and light green underglazes, on terracotta clay, with the bluebell glaze. You can see the breaking effect.

I was also happy that many small details were preserved, such as the slots in the screwheads. I had thought they might be filled up with glaze and washed out. Even better, the tiny threads in the large screw showed up. That’s great news for designing later on.

These are all black underglaze, the left two with Transparent Pearl and the little one with Bluebell. Additionally, the left tile is white clay, the other two, terracotta. Different clays react with glazes and underglazes differently.


This purple group is a mix of clays, underglazes, and glazes. The two on the right are both white clay tiles, and the underglaze seems thin to me (could be my fault in not applying enough or it could be how it interacts with the glaze). But I like the color combos, thinking they have good potential.

This red group pleased me. Top left is terracotta/red underglaze/pearl glaze. Its neighbor is white clay/red underglaze/bluebell glaze. The bottom one is terracotta/red underglaze/bluebell. You can see that changing the clay makes a real difference. I like the white clay example very much for the clear red color, but the terracotta clay adds a certain depth to the color. Hmmm…

This green group is interesting to me. All are terracotta clay – The left two are the same green underglaze color called leaf green; Bluebell glaze on the left and Pearl on the right. But the far right one is a very much darker green underglaze, with Pearl glaze, and yet it looks much like the other two. Once again, you cannot predict what results you will have when you start combining things.

These tiles are both terracotta clay and an underglaze color called Electric Blue, with Pearl glaze on the left, Bluebell on the right. What I like about this duo is the rich blue color both of them have, one a little warmer than the other. And you know, as a straight underglaze, Electric Blue is a very harsh bold color, not my favorite. Here it really does a nice job.

These are both terracotta clay and a chocolate-brown underglaze. The different glazes are readily discernible. I really like both of these. A lot.

This is a terracotta tile, medium pink underglaze, Bluebell glaze. I am very happy with this tile; it is what I need I think I need to be shooting for in terms of raised and lowered areas. It is easy to see how the glaze is supposed to work and there is a great level of detail retained. Some of the other tiles had a lot of open areas – this one is more successful because of its busyness, I think. My challenge would be to include this amount of detail in coherent designs. Well, I think with practice it is possible.

Now I will show you my failures. Interestingly enough, most of them are on white clay. I do think the terracotta clay adds body to the underglaze color, no matter what color it is, and that is important in setting up contrast.

Plus, some of these color combinations are just – ugly.

There are other combinations I haven’t tried yet – I didn’t have enough tiles. Let’s say I didn’t like that white clay/avocado/Pearl tile, for instance, but I haven’t tried terracotta/avocado/Bluebell, have I? There is still more adventure waiting for me.


Now, the question is, do I want to go further with this avenue? I think so. On the plus side, it is a different creative process from my pictorial tiles. The tiles themselves are somewhat sculptural and the design process is very different from painting a scene. Choosing objects to impress would be challenging and fun, and there is the possibility of working in a series (the kitchen implement series, the basement toolbox series, I think you get it…!!!)

On the negative side, there are a lot of not-so-interesting parts to the production process. Painting on the underglaze and glaze has to be done in steps with drying time in between. It’s not quick. The thinking part of creating these tiles ends when the tiles are made and the colors chosen. But, I also find doing this kind of work soothing, if I am not in a hurry. Rote work is not always a bad thing.

My conclusion? I’m intrigued enough to explore further. I think there is plenty I could do with this idea and I like the change of pace it offers. So… I hope to show you more of these artifact tiles in the future. Thanks for reading and following me on this foray into something new.

Artifact Tiles – Part 1

A few weeks ago, I was buying some clay at the Ceramic Shop in Norristown, PA. My attention was attracted by a display of sample tiles for Amaco Lead-Free Low-Fire Opalescent Glazes.

I mention the whole name so that you can look it up if you want. I’ll do my best to describe it in concise terms – these glazes are designed to “break”, meaning they are used on tiles with relief, the glaze color collecting in the low spots and the underlying clay or underglaze color revealed in the higher areas.

I was intrigued. I thought I’d buy a couple of jars of it (I chose Bluebell, a turquoise color, and Transparent Pearl, a white) and see if I could make anything of it.

My first thought was to make relief tiles similar to ones from the past – here is an example:

But I didn’t want to go back to doing something I feel I’ve done enough of. My more recent tiles have resembled small paintings:

and I enjoy doing them. I don’t want to move away from this style of working. I like the process of making them and I like the results.

Still, I was curious and it doesn’t hurt to try out something new. If nothing else, I’d know to stay away from this line of inquiry in the future!

I needed to think about my work process. The product literature emphasized that these glazes were to be used on items with relief – there is no point in using this kind of glaze on a flat surface as the breaking effect will not occur.

It also recommended using terracotta clay or else doing an underpainting with an underglaze color. Well, I had plenty of Velvet underglaze on hand – that’s what I have used for years in all my tile work.

All right. Now what would my tile designs look like? I was not sure how much small detail would survive in this process. I have found that glaze tends to smooth out details. I decided to try impressing various objects in clay, making marks of various depths, patterns, and sizes to get some idea of how things might work.

I rolled out both terracotta and a white clay (both are low-fire, or earthenware, clays and are suitable for use with these glazes. As you may know, clay and glazes have to match as far as firing temperature). I pulled out a box of odds and ends and started pressing into the clays.

I did not worry about the shape distortions of the tiles or invest much design sense. My goal was to make sure I had enough variety to get an idea of what looked best.

I ended up with a good array of tiles. They dried for about a week and then I fired them at cone 06 for their initial trip to the kiln. Here are the terracotta tiles:

and the white tiles.

Next, I tried to figure out how I’d manage the color/glaze combinations. I had two types of clay, two glazes, and a lot of Velvet underglazes. I thought about things for a while and made some lists.

Then I started putting on the underglazes.

I had an elaborate scheme to get as many samples as I could, but I got a little mixed up. Still, it worked out in the end all right. As I went along, I photographed each tile and made a list of the underglaze/glaze combination, so that later on I could see which ones worked and which were less successful.

I then separated the tiles into two glaze groups and put them on the table in these groups (20 being Bluebell and 10 being Transparent Pearl).

I glazed them, putting on three coats as recommended, and loaded them in the kiln, planning to fire them at Cone 05.

What happened? I’ll tell you…soon…

Results Are In – Part 4

I have been working on a group of hand-built bowls and plates for some time. I’ve fired them with their colors and I’ve spent several posts going over the results. This is the last of the series.

Here are earlier posts in the series, if you want to take a look back. They are listed in reverse order; read from the bottom up if you want to go in order.

Results Are In – Part 3

Results Are In – Part 2

Results Are In – Part 1

Kiln Time for the Bowls and Plates

Update on the Hand-Built Bowl Project

Bowls and Plates – Update

The Future Holds a Secret

I’m taking you on a side trip into the world of the kiln. I thought I’d show you the inner workings of this process.

 

The kiln…

 

Every load of clay work to be fired is different – tiles, objects, vessels, sculptures – and the kiln needs to be flexible to handle it. This is accomplished by the design of the kiln and its “furniture”, or the items that hold the clay work in the kiln.

I’ve got a simple layout here – I just use shelves and stilts. Shelves come in whole or half sizes and the stilts are the supports. Every time I load the kiln, I need to figure out the way to arrange everything so as to get the most use out of the firing yet with every item having the space it needs.

I start at the bottom and work up, having looked over my assortment of work to go in. In a bisque, or first, firing, I can stack items; in glaze firings the items must not touch each other. The pieces all need room to expand a little during the firing and the lid should be at least an inch above everything inside.

It’s something you learn to do as you gain experience, how to make the most of your space. I enjoy the challenge of it.

All right. These are photos of the recent bowl and plate firing. I took the photos as I unloaded the kiln, so you are seeing fired work. But, voila! I reverse the order of the photos and you can follow along the process of how I got the kiln filled. I start at the bottom, level 4, and work my way up.

I was pretty happy with this load – I got all the work in by using two half shelves side by side, slightly offset. Usually these shelves stack above each other, so that taller items can go beside them and smaller ones filling the shelves (think Rapunzel tower vs plates).

Well, that is about it for the handbuilt bowls and plates story. I think I will turn my attention to other media for a while. I feel happy with the outcome of my clay work, but I also am ready to think in another language, so to speak, for a while. Thank you for following along with me.

Results Are In – Part 3

I have been working on a group of hand-built bowls and plates for some time. I’ve fired them with their colors and I’ll spend the next few posts going over the results. Here are earlier posts in the series, if you want to take a look back. They are listed in reverse order; read from the bottom up if you want to go in order.

Results Are In – Part 2

Results Are In – Part 1

Kiln Time for the Bowls and Plates

Update on the Hand-Built Bowl Project

Bowls and Plates – Update

The Future Holds a Secret

Today we move on to plates. All of them came out well, and I’m satisfied with the results. I’ve arranged them with their pre-firing selves, so that you can see the difference a couple of thousand degrees can make to a plate…

Results Are In – Part 2

I have been working on a group of hand-built bowls and plates for some time. I’ve fired them with their colors and I’ll spend the next few posts going over the results. Here are earlier posts in the series, if you want to take a look back. They are listed in reverse order; read from the bottom up if you want to go in order.

Results Are In – Part 1

Kiln Time for the Bowls and Plates

Update on the Hand-Built Bowl Project

Bowls and Plates – Update

The Future Holds a Secret

Now I’ll show you the small bowls I made. All of them involved the use of wax resist.

And then there was the one bowl that didn’t please me. I had the feeling even before the firing that I wasn’t going to be happy. And I haven’t changed my mind. Once again, I think the white spots look too unfinished. And I don’t like that messy jumble at the bottom. So, I’ll do a little fixing-up and then fire the bowl again later on.

Last, here is the tray. Simple and easy. You may remember I taped off sections and applied the underglaze, then removed the tape. This is just another resist method, with the tape keeping the color back. The tape did not adhere tightly to the clay and so that is why the edges are feathery and blobby. I liked the effect.

OK, that is enough for today.