February 27, 2016

Would that Clay Could Look Like Wood

I sent a picture of my recently finished pit fired ceramic bowl to a friend.  “It looks like wood,” she commented.  Excellent, I thought.  I have always loved wood turned vessels but had not the resources to collect them personally.  In an effort to emulate the objects of desire I experimented with burnished vessels made from local clays that already had a cedar or oak like coloring.  The browns, pinks and whites were from the Santee area.  The orange and reds were from the Edisto.
The red clay from Edisto was slumped in a plaster bowl shape and then altered with carving in the leather hard stage.  The surface design was created by burnishing the clay surface, bisque firing, then smoke firing in the pit.  Instead of doing the usual metal box within the outdoor kiln to house this bowl, I placed the bowl directly into the ashes and let various and sundry burning organic matter fall onto it.  Since the fire was kept burning for several hours, an ash glaze began to form.  The finished product is pictured above.
For the smaller bowl, I took the brownish red clay from Santee and kneaded it together with the buff white in order to create a marbleized effect.  After smoothing out the surface of the bowl, the variegated clay was revealed by scraping the bowl down.  This bowl was placed in the tin container inside the pit kiln - I wanted to smoke it but not have it go so black that the design would be obscured.  The combination of small dots of black and the slight browning of the design imparted the overall effect of a bowl carved from a wood burl.  Success!
I once heard that many sculptors like to work in clay because ceramic is the great imitator of visual art.  Indeed, one can make it look like brick, stone, and sometimes even wood.

1 comment:

Lee Malerich said...

Very nice work.