One of my favorite things in life is being outside in nature. I bring the outside into my work with my choice of clay, the designs I create, and the color of my glazes. Each of my pieces begins as a slab of high-fire stoneware clay, which I handbuild into its final shape. My choice of clay is influenced by my love of being outdoors. My brown clay is reminiscent of fertile brown earth. When fired, it mutes the glazes and creates an aged look in both its texture and color. My buff clay is reminiscent of the color and feel of white sandy beaches. In contrast to the brown clay, the buff, when fired, is more textured and also leaves the colors more crisp and vibrant like the contrast you would see on a white beach surrounded by color. I strive for my work to reflect both nature and the negative space within it.
Building the Shape
Use about a quarter of a 25-pound (11 kg) bag of clay into a slab that is about 1/4 inch (about 6 mm) thick. Place the clay on a piece of canvas and roll it out so that it is large enough to cover the size of your form. Using a rubber rib (I use the Mudtools blue one), smooth the top of the clay slab. Place your form on an object to elevate it in order to allow overhang of the slab. Carefully lift the canvas and slab and turn them upside down onto the form so that the smooth side is placed onto the form. Peel away the canvas and smooth the clay with a damp sponge and a flexible metal rib (2). Cut away any excess clay around the rim and smooth the cut edges with a damp sponge. If you want to add your maker’s stamp, now is the time to do that (3). Cover the form loosely with plastic to dry until the clay becomes leather hard.
Creating the Design
I free-draw my designs with a graphite pencil and often start on the inside of the form with one line in the center of the piece. From there I continue drawing, deciding as I go how many lines I will have based on the size and shape of the piece (4). Once I finish drawing the lines, I then add larger graphics to create flow and movement over the entire design (5). Once the interior drawing is complete, I continue the same flow and movement on the underside of the form (6).
Glazing in the Lines
Continue to paint each line until all the lines and each shade is complete (10). While you are painting each line, leave a small gap between the colors. I keep an X-Acto knife handy in case I get a wonky line or edge. The X-Acto knife helps because you can lightly scrape away glaze mistakes easily from the form. I call this step in my process “cleaning the piece.” I figured this out when I used to carve the lines in my pieces. I did not like the sloppy look of the glaze in the carved lines so I would use the tip of the X-Acto knife to scrape it out.
Cleaning the Lines
Once the platter is completely covered with underglaze or glaze, go over each line edge with the X-Acto knife. Use the tip to create a more uniform, tidy line (14). Do not rub the flakes away as it will remove the underglaze or glaze material and create patchiness. Caution: Always wear a dust mask during this step. After completing this process, touch up any areas that have lost their color, usually around the rim.
I fire my pieces in an electric kiln either to cone 8 or cone 10. I prefer the look of my finished pieces being fired at cone 10 because it creates a more muted look to the glaze. This piece was fired at cone 8.
When the final firing is complete, use 220-grit sandpaper over the entire platter to smooth any remaining rough spots, then rinse with water.