Monday, December 28, 2009

Giddy with Glaze

Accidental "draft horse" version, in Laguna high fire Crackle Glaze "Ocean Teal." The rectangle indention you see in the belly area is my signature stamp to denote a "test." It's not present in the original design.

It worked - it worked - it worked - it worked! My first expedition into stoneware, stamped tiles, Cone 5 fire and use of high fire glazes was a huge success! Thank you Big Al! So I'm sorry to spoil any surprises, but I just couldn't sit on this one more minute...I'm just so excited!

Intended "light horse" design in Laguna high fire Crackle Glaze "Emerald Isle"

On slow-speed, the Cone 5 fire took thirteen hours -- Lucky 13? I was flabbergasted to wake up this morning to find that Big Al had cooled down to only 500˚ so quickly -- I thought for sure I wouldn't be able to open him for two days. Now granted, I probably should have done that, but I just couldn't wait. You know me and that baffling notion of "patience."

But any warping you see on those tiles was caused in greenware (warping on the flat-plane that is -- the bulging edges were caused by the stamping process). Since they were tests, I didn't handle them carefully. But I was tickled to see that no "introduced" warping occurred. I literally got a wysiwyg! Wow! They also shrunk down to be exactly 3 x 3 inch tiles, on the button. YES. And the hanging holes are perfect! No goofiness there, with either the size or glaze. Yippie!

(An interesting side note: I left one tile out to dry naturally, not sandwiched between the drywall boards. Interestingly enough, the potato-chip effect was far less than I expected -- minimal, actually. I suspect that rolling the clay through the slab roller may affect the platelets in a way that helps the tiles dry flatter. Dunno. But I'll be using the drywall boards regardless -- they really kept things flat very nicely.)

So not only did I learn what went right, I also learned what went wrong. For example, these are the two best tests in which you can see the design okay. The other tiles are so dense with pigment, you can barely make out the horse. Also, the "Desert Skye" crackle glaze really crackles. Holy cow! It may not be usable because the amount of crackling itself could obscure the design entirely no matter how thinly it's applied (then again -- I did open the kiln awfully fast). So I learned that I need to thin those crackle glazes down, and let them soak for only 5-7 seconds in the glaze -- not 20 seconds.

But Laguna does warn that its crackle glazes are very temperamental and can vary dramatically based on the clay body used
and the specifics of a fire (there were only eight test tiles in Big Al, not a packed load of 100+, which is the goal), so we'll see. "Desert Skye" may need another series of tests to be sure.

Anyhoo...I used Laguna high fire crackle glazes in
Tang Lime, Emerald Isle, Twilight Blue, Ocean Teal, Lacy Mauve and Desert Skye. I like how all the colors themselves turned out -- exactly like the examples provided by Laguna (at least on the web site). I bought them from Big Ceramic Store -- a great place to buy ceramic stuff. As for the clay, I used Laguna stoneware B-mix with grog (WC- 436), a very nice clay to work with, at least for these purposes. I bought it from my local Potter's Center, based on the advice they gave me (thank you Amanda!).

But you can see how the "draft horse" came to be from the reversed black/white original "light horse" design -- some interesting things to be learned there, not only for tiles, but for sculpture. Now while the "drafter" does lack the fun spirals (I have an obsession with spirals -- always have), those blank areas around him offer some provoking opportunities to fill them with a different color crackle glaze! Woot! That would kinda "make up" for the lost spirals in that design, I think.

You also can see that these tiles aren't "machined perfect," nor are they intended to be. They're supposed to reflect the process by which they are made -- hand made and stamped. I like all the quirkiness that gets introduced through a hand-made process -- it makes each piece truly special. I think it also speaks "clay" and "organic" much more than something absolutely precise, perfect and sterile. Any machine can crank out exact tiles all day long, but only a person can make each one unique. So I'm blissfully estatic at the creative prospects this process opens up for me and my customers. I already have several more stamp designs in the works to expand the options in this process, and I even have some dogs, cats, birds and other animals in store! Plus, I have a circle and a rectangle clay-cutter, and plan to get more sizes and shapes over time. I am just so thrilled -- I can barely keep from smiling like an idiot today.

And speaking of smiling like an idiot -- Wuzzle is miraculously doing far better today! Like nothing ever happened! It's amazing how something as basic as this can completely change the color of my mood from black to beaming. I suspect -- looking back and tracing the sequence of events -- that his condition may have been a reaction to the new fancy plug-in air freshener I got as a gift for Christmas. I plugged it in Christmas Eve, which is when Wuzzle's symptoms began to emerge. So while it smells wonderful and works great, I suspect those chemicals in the air affect the bronchs of my little fellas. So out it came yesterday, and I turned on fans to suck out the scent, and now Wuzzle is back to normal. So sorry gang -- you'll just have to deal with a "lived in" smelling house when you come over!

I also want to let you know that I'll be creating a Facebook page for the studio very soon, and I'll provide you with the link when I get it set up. I'll also be creating one on Twitter, too, a little bit later, along with an Etsy store if these tiles go over well enough. Now that I have these tiles potentially going (along with other ideas the process introduces), I have a means to keep a feasible inventory stocked, assuming that people like them.

And lastly, before I get back to the Haffie mare, I justed wanted to let you know that the Arabian ornament is now on eBay for a five-day auction. You can find it by clicking here, or the "ebay" link in the side panel on the right. So between that, and everything else, it's been a roller coaster of a weekend, lemme tell ya.

Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction." ~ Al Bernstein

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