April 22, 2014

The Mistress of Mishaps

The tall lidded vessel above and the smaller vase at right are both the results of intents gone awry. They are also the products of my penchant for rescue and adaptation of my accidents. Both were labor intensive to create so the inspiration was strong to press on and finish them despite some set backs that required alterations.

The design on these vessels was created by rolling an old railroad spike across a slab of clay then folding the slab around and sealing it into a slightly oblong tube. This was then attached to a pinched and coiled base.

After completing the large vessel I tooled and sanded it until the design was smooth and crisp. The lid was fashioned by hand using the pinch and attachment methods. I went to bed that night with dreams of applying a sumptuous color to this piece that would emphasize the spiral design. When I visited my vessel the following morning, however, I discovered to my dismay that the bottom had dried too fast and had separated from the rest of the piece. What to do? At least the bottom had split off in one evenly rounded piece so I could melt that down and sand smooth the bottom edge of the vessel. Standing on its edge it was not even noticeable that it had no bottom.

I made a flat round tile with a perimeter slightly larger than the vessel for it to rest on so it would have a more finished look. Then an idea occurred to me. I recalled Matrushka dolls that fit one inside the other. Could I make a Matrushka Vase - a smaller one resting on the base inside the larger one? It was a crazy idea - to spend time making a smaller vase that wouldn’t even be seen. But I could not resist trying. It took some time and many adjustments in order to make a vase that would just fit inside the larger one but I managed to do it.
The pieces were finished with terra sigillata, burnished, bisque fired, then smoke fired. Would one still fit inside the other? It did not. Perhaps some unforeseen warping or some unanticipated further shrinking after the bisque firing made the vessels not quite dovetail. And I chipped the smaller vase when I attempted to fit them again. What to do?

After carefully considering the design of the smaller vase I decided that the lip was large enough to sand down to a smaller diameter without affecting the overall shape. After that I carefully sanded down the indented wave designs as well. To both the rim and the indentations I applied composition copper and brass leaf along with touches of acrylic iridescent copper. I thought that this brought out the parts of the vase that had reddened bits of reduced copper carbonate that looked like slashes of bright copper pennies. Call me the Mistress of Mishaps but I think that these were good rescues.

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