Thursday, October 30, 2008

decals are so irresistible

My pure white set was begging for some butterflies, so I gave in...




Monday, October 27, 2008

dawn to dusk

Today was one of my New York City Days. On these days I get up at 4:30am and don't get home till 10pm. I take the train, and the views are fantastic if you sit on the ocean side.

This you will see going there...

And this you will see coming back...
If you are heading to NYC, catch the early train, and remember to claim an ocean-view seat.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

transferware, the modern version

Many customers ask me how I get the images onto my pieces. It is a process I learned at RISD, thanks to Jacqueline Rice, one of my ceramics professors.

Here is my transfer process: There exists a laser printer cartridge containing a colorant that is commonly used in glaze recipes, and it fits into a regular laser printer. I feed special paper through the printer. Any image I want is printed on the surface.

When the paper gets wet, a film with the image floats off, similar to a fake tattoo. I apply this film to the surface of a glazed piece.

I then fire the piece one more time, a third firing (the previous two being a bisque and a glaze fire). During the firing the film burns off, the image melts into the glaze, and turns a sepia color, which works well with the glaze colors I use. Because the image has melted into the glaze, it is permanent and food safe. Voila!

It is not as easy as it sounds. It took me a while to find a glaze that would behave well in a third firing and not totally dissolve the transfer image. Still, I get glitches. Like mysterious bubbles on some items, while the rest in the same kiln are perfect. Still learning to let go...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

colors of the season

Autumn is my favorite, with its crisp air anticipating winter (I'm Russian, of course I like winter), the sound the leaves make when you shuffle through them, and the color...

photograph by Sang An for Martha Stewart Living magazine

Sunday, October 19, 2008

blue

My last postings have been about color. Which brings me to politics, specifically this election. I know this is supposed to be a blog about table-related things, but then politics comes up at table conversations frequently. It definitely comes up at my mama's table.

"The American Dream"
has been playing an important role in this election. Did I miss something and did the definition of the term change? As far as I am concerned, I am living the American Dream, an immigrant who went to a good university on scholarship, am now successful in my career, own my home, and have my own studio where I make my art. I would not have this kind of life in Russia, where I was born.

Voters keep asking Barack Obama if he believes in the American Dream. I am incredulous of this question. More so as it is posed to an African-American running for president of the US of A. Barack Obama is the living embodiment of the American Dream. Born of an American mother and an immigrant father, he is, partially, a first-generation American, schooled at the best universities this country has to offer, all with the aid of scholarships. It is through his own gargantuan efforts that Senator Obama is a presidential contender, and at such a young age.

As far as I understand it, living the American Dream is being able to achieve your goals through education and hard work. In no other country can one do that. Not in Russia (well, not legally). Barack Obama as the President of the United States would be the American Dream come true.

red

Red is notorious for being a hard color to get in a glaze. I have been trying for one I like for the past six years. I mix my own glazes, so I've been a bit of a mad scientist in my experimentations. I've created reds that were too pink, or too fire-engine red, or too lumpy.

Today, I opened up the kiln to find the color above. It is just right, for me. It has autumnal richness, and begs to be eaten off of or sipped from. And it is much tastier in person.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

white

My new color from the most recently fired kiln is white. I have been resisting doing pure white on my pieces, but an upcoming show at Nahcotta gallery in Portsmouth, NH, called for this simplicity. The set above contains a plate, a soup bowl, a salad bowl, and a cup. Yeay.

Monday, October 13, 2008

glazing

Once the pieces have been bisque fired, they are ready to be glazed. I apply wax to areas where I do not want glaze to stick, mostly on the bottom of the piece (shown above). If a piece is glazed on the bottom, it will melt onto the kiln shelf during the firing, and would have to be broken off.

When a piece has one color on the inside, and another color on the outside, I glaze the inside first. I pour the glaze into the piece, swish it around, and pour it out. The inside glaze has to dry a bit before the outside glaze can be applied. Once the inside has dried, I dunk the outside of the piece into a bucket of glaze. Shown below are fully glazed pieces. The color will come out when the glaze is taken up to around 2200F, or cone 8 in clay speak.

I made a new batch of glaze yesterday, it's always a bit of a mystery as to what it will actually look like once fired. Even if I follow the same recipe every time, the final result is always slightly different. Working with clay is an exercise of giving up control, which is hard to do for a trained graphic designer.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

out of the bisque, ready for glaze

The pieces are safely out of the bisque kiln. At any time in the process problems can occur. Fine cracks may appear during the bisque firing. All these pieces seem to have made it through OK. Two more firings to go, though. A glaze and a decal firing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

bisque

Here are the pieces all cleaned up and loaded into my electric kiln for the first firing, which is called a bisque. The bisque firing takes the temperature to 1945 F, or cone 04 in clay speak, and strengthens the clay enough so it can be glazed.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

slipcasting

I have started working on a very large order from Cog and Pearl. Seth and Kristin, the owners, have been my best customers and supporters for years.

The first step is to pour slip (liquid clay) into forms, shown above. As the water evaporates, the shapes will shrink and pop off the sides of the molds. After I remove the pieces from the molds, I sponge each edge until it is nice and thin. The finishing of the edge is what gives each piece its unique hand-made personality.