Flower bricks have a long history in the ceramic world. Initially, they were the shape and size of bricks laying on their sides and had numerous small holes in the top for flowers. But ceramic artists have played with that shape, and now you can find them in a wide array of shapes and sizes made using all sorts of techniques.
Joan Bruneau creates her flower bricks from entirely wheel-thrown pieces, right down to the florets and rosettes that decorate the flower grid. In today’s post, an excerpt from the Ceramics Monthly archives, Joan shares her process.- Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
Preparing the Clay for Building the Flower Brick
I mix my earthenware clay body using 60% Lantz clay which is mined in Nova Scotia by the Shaw Brick plant. Lantz clay is a unique earthenware for a couple of reasons: it is very plastic and is very tight at cone 04, which means there are no added fluxes to the clay body. I amend my clay body by adding EPK kaolin, OM 4 ball clay, and Red Art clay to raise the maturation temperature and 9% kyanite to reduce the potential for dunting. Professors Homer Lord and Walter Ostrom introduced a Lantz clay body at NSCAD in the 1970s and a number of potters in the area now mix their own versions of the Lantz clay body.
It’s back! Completely revised and rewritten! Electric Kiln Ceramics
Loaded with new color images that highlight some of the most beautiful results possible with electric firing, the new edition features step-by-step instruction on forming and finishing pieces for electric firing, schedules for firing both manual and computerized kilns, and even glazing techniques and recipes to try out in your electric kiln.
Building the Flower Brick
My oval flower bricks are assembled from wheel-thrown parts. The lids are assembled from thrown rings, cut to form arches that function as a partition, housing flower stems in various positions. To create these forms, I stretch a bottomless cylinder and join it with a thrown and stretched slab disc to form the base. I throw a foot ring separately then attach it to the base. I start the lid by making the flange first, then building up from there. The lid flange is a double-walled thrown ring with a groove thrown in the center. The first course of arches sets into this groove. In the end, every part of the flower brick, even the florets and finials, are thrown and assembled. Clay pinecones, rotting pears, and rosettes are formed from small knobs that are thrown off the hump and are incised with concentric rings. These rings are manipulated using a rubber-tipped tool to create the various shapes (A). Pulled twigs and thrown arches are set aside until leather hard and then assembled on the lid flange (B–D).
Decorating the Flower Brick
I coat the surfaces with brushed white slip, incise sgraffito patterns, then apply underglazes and polychrome food-safe glazes. First, two coats of white slip are brushed on the leather-hard body. I design and cut my stencils out of regular printer paper. The stencils ensure symmetrical and uniform repeating patterns that enhance the forms.
The stencil is traced with a soft 6B pencil on stiff leather-hard slip (E) after the pattern is mapped out on the form first using a ruler and stencils. Then the pattern is incised using a Kemper sgraffito stylus (F–G). A copper carbonate wash (see recipe on page 66) is brushed over all of the sgraffito lines using a thin, fine brush. The copper carbonate will later fuse and move as the glazes melt for the desired juicy surface. The gallery and the bottom of the lid remain unglazed (H).
**First published in 2012