February 18, 2015

An Experimental Udu Drum

The wild purple clay from Congaree, South Carolina yielded some unexpected results. I had expected the purple clay to fire dark - almost black. I suppose I expected a dark color because the purple clay in its raw state reminded me of the dark purple yixing teapots from China. But what emerged from the bisque firing was a light pink color. This can be seen at the base of the vessel above. The top part of this vessel was painted with pink and blue terra sigillata. I then brushed some iron oxide on it to see how what effect that would have. Ordinarily I would smoke fire the vessel in a pit fire but I decided to leave this unsmoked due to the fragility of the glaze, which was delaminating in parts. To save this work, I sanded down the parts where the glaze puckered and buffed the whole surface with a microcrystalline wax.

This was an experimental vessel in many ways. The clay was a new and unknown entitity. Harvested straight from the ground, its composition was a mystery. I used a painting terra sigillata with some old underglaze colors, not knowing what the effect would be. The shape of the vessel was a departure from my usual symmetry in making functional musical instruments from clay. This vessel was fashioned as an udu drum. I purposely made the form lopsided to see if that would affect the sound. It did not. It sounded the same as my symmetrical vessels. I was pleased with the off-center form though.

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