France study trip

In the 3rd week of our Easter holidays we were offered a study trip to France where our tutor has a ceramics studio alongside some apartments where people can stay and then work in the studio. We stayed a week in this complex and did a mini ceramics project which was to design and make a tableware set in the style of an artist with your groups individual theme running throughout. We then used this tableware to eat off on the final night after cooking a big feast.

There was a bit of a difference in style my group, I liked simplicity and clean lines, whereas one of the others in our group preferred the exact opposite. This proposed problems right at the beginning but with a bit of help from Mick the master potter and our tutor we decided on using the artist Picasso and the designer/architect Zara Hadid. We wanted to create things which had contrast in them and also had quite organic form. We also decided that we wanted to explore contrast, going together with the contrast in styles in our group, so we decided that the canapé dishes were going to be a shard of a broken plate which one would eat off, as you progressed through the meal the dishes would become less broken finishing with a perfect desert bowl. So the pieces would be as follows-

  • A shard of plate to eat the canapé off
  • The starter would be a small plate broken into three pieces and glued back together, each shard would be glazed a different colour so you could clearly see where the break was, also tying in with our theme of contrast and Picasso’s uses of colour.
  • The mains plate would be a slab of clay roughly squashed out and the a plate carved out of it, off-centre, done on the wheel.
  • The desert bowl would be a brick-like shape with the desert bowl itself sunken into the centre, perfectly constructed. The bowl itself would be glazed, whereas the brick would not be, so the two colours would contrast.
  • The drinking vessels, one small one large, would each be spheres with the tops cut off, the insides glazed white. Due to the fact that the pieces would be spherical and wouldn’t stand up on their own, they would sit on a slab a bit that would look a bit like the plate, with the organic untouched edges.
  • A candle holder to go on the table with the pieces.

I was put in charge of throwing the drinking vessels, candle holder, carving the plates and throwing the bowls on the wheel to go inside the brick. I learned a very clever technique for creating a perfect sphere out of clay. You simply find a cylindrical object which a diameter to match the sphere you want to create, and rub it around the object. I would throw the vessel on the wheel to the shape that I desired and then would use this method to make the base the spherical. It was very satisfying!

Throwing the simple bowls was quite straightforward although the clay I was using (Original Raku Potclay) was quite tricky to deal with on the wheel. The plate were interesting to do. You would lay the slab of clay slightly off centre on the wheel and then simply get a kidney tool and press it quite hard into the clay at a very slight angle to the clay and drag it out until the plate was the desired size. It gave a really nice rough edge to the plate which I really liked. We also added a small indent to put some sort of dip in to go with your meal. The candle holder was large sphere-like shape with a small hole at the top to hold a candle. I thought it would be nice if I made a cylinder which fitted into this hold which you could fill with oil and put a wick in to make a nice oil lamp.

Once we had Bisque-fired everything we glazed the work which I actually enjoyed (after having done some tests, to see which glazes looked best on which clays.) We decided on the following glazes-

  • Canape dish- Each one (three in total) would have a different glaze on; copper, transparent (white) and unglazed (comes out a metallic black which very nice shades of blacks and greys and textures)
  • Starters- Each shard would be glazed a separate colour (three shards in total), like above, copper, transparent, and unglazed.
  • Mains- White Plate (transparent glaze) and dip bowl, and black slab to contrast.
  • Desert- Bowl coper glaze and unglazed box.
  • Drinking vessels- Inside of large drinking vessel transparent (white), small drinking vessel, copper inside spilling out around the edges.
  • Candle holder- Copper inside spilling out around the edges.

Below are some pictures of the experiments with the different glazes. I used a wax pot (in the pink pot) to stop the glaze from going onto the areas of the piece I didn’t want to glaze.

Below are some pictures of glazing the final pieces before the went into the kiln. You can also see what the look liked when the came straight out of the smoke bucket before I cleaned them up.

Below you can see the final outcomes which I am really pleased with, the copper glaze coming out really nice on some of the pieces, and just coming out green on some of the other pieces, which shows the amazing hit and miss nature of Raku Firing.

I really enjoyed the week in France, it was and amazing experience to work with somebody who is a master of his trade and has so much to teach. I really enjoyed taking the work out of the Raku kiln and see how the glazes had come out. I also enjoyed working together in a group to get a large amount of work done and woking in a new environment in someone else studio.

Alongside this work we also had to try our hand at sculpting out of clay, we chose a partner and each would do a portrait of the other. Below is my outcome. I found it really enjoyable to do and loved thinking in 3D rather than 2D if I was to do a drawing. It is still tricky to get the proportions right and my piece is far from perfect but it was a good experience.



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