In today’s video post, an excerpt from Making a Slipped & Stamped Teacup, Paul Linhares takes us through his process for making a teacup with a swirly slip coating and stamped decoration. You’ll pick up great tips like how to neatly apply slip to a freshly thrown cup on the wheel and how to apply stamped decoration in a modular way to create a variety of unique marks. Super inspiring! –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
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This clip was excerpted from Making a Slipped & Stamped Teacup with Paul Linhares, which is available in the Ceramic Arts Network Shop as a video download!
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Plus, Paul Linhares Shares How to Draw with Stamps!
Applying the Slip
Who doesn’t love thick, sloppy slip covering a pot? Slip consistency will determine the opacity and texture on the final piece. For brushing, thin the slip just to the point that it starts to drip off the brush. Use a soft, wide bamboo hake brush for scooping out the slip and smearing it on the pot (figure 1). Cover as much of the surface as possible before it starts to dry, rolling the brush to get the slip off quickly. Then spin the pot on the wheel while adding extra slip to even out the coating. Next, use a cheap, plastic-bristle brush to leave a pronounced brush stroke texture that occasionally scrapes down to the clay underneath (figure 2). Leave some of the pot unslipped to reveal part of the process and let the clay body show through for contrast.
Drawing with Stamps
Around 2004 I began working with wood blocks to press shapes into my pots. Shortly after, I came across a book with several pages of Persian clay stamps while researching Islamic patterns. I realized that I could draw designs with impressed pattern if I only had enough stamps.
I began carving leather-hard clay (think Parmesan cheese consistency) with an X-Acto knife and mini loop tools into a library of stamps (figure 3). To make a stamp set for my thistle pattern, (based on the Iznik poppy), I carved a flower head, a straight stem, a slightly curved stem, and a hard curved stem into different faces of a clay block, plus large and small leaves facing left and right. Once dry, these were bisque fired. I also use the sanded edge of a wooden rib for continuous straight lines and wheel-thrown clay rollers for continuous curves (figure 4).
When planning my surface designs, I play back and forth between the wide-open, all-over-the-pot style of the Bronze age Minoans and the carve-up-the-form-into-picture-planes tendencies of the Renaissance Italians, using a contemporary lens that is bent on disrupting that classical visual hierarchy. At least that’s the kind of thinking going on in the background when my intuition takes over and does the hard work of actually deciding where things go.
When the slip layer is dry enough not to stick to the stamps, start rolling on borders with a tool made from a notched piece of wood and a wheel-thrown clay disc held in place by a brad nail (figure 5). This homemade clay roller matches the impression and edge quality of the clay stamps. Be happy with where the rolled lines end up because there is no eraser. Next, start pressing in your design with your stamp set (figure 6). On a closed form the stamping can’t be supported by a hand on the inside, so take care to roll the stamps on from edge to edge or in a circular motion to get a good image without denting the pot too badly. Sometimes it doesn’t work and much of the detail of a larger stamp will be lost in the middle. Selecting smaller stamps for closed forms can resolve that problem. I add branches, leaves, and flowers with the goal of a balanced and dynamic composition (figure 7), then fill the little empty spaces with triangles made by pressing the corner of a wood block into the clay (figure 8). The triangles make a deep mark and turn out as dark points that act as a unifying element in the piece. Finally I press in a circular-shaped stamp in the areas surrounding the design—the geometric pattern balances out the organic images (figure 9).
After the pot is decorated, roll the bottom edge, then smooth it with your thumb. Allow the piece to dry, then bisque fire it.