Monday, April 8, 2013

On Failures

I rarely share my ceramic failures, because I prefer to forget them as quickly as possible. Like Raven's epic fail, for instance, or Gnorman's equally tragic demise. Raven died in January of last year, and Gnorman, my first large sculpt, died in 2009, but their deaths still sting.

The latest failure made it through the bisque (first) firing just fine. He was an example of the pinch pot technique I gave as a student lecture. I wasn't attached to him, and decided to play around with him when he came out of the bisque. I started to play around with a sugar skull idea in order to practice my brush technique. Below is the beginning of the project.
I continued playing with the blue underglaze and decided to fill in some of the empty spots with a rose-colored underglaze. I committed a rookie mistake and forgot to check at which cone to fire it. It turned out to be cone 04 rather than cone 6. The effect is the difference between the warm and hold on your oven, and the self-clean option that leaves piles of ash on the bottom of the oven.

Underglaze gives one the opportunity to use glaze in a more "painterly way," as my teacher, Yoshio Taylor would say. You can use it on what's called, "greenware," which is unfired clay, and then put it in the first firing. Afterwards, you can cover it with a clear glaze and fire it to whatever temperature is recommended.

The problem you can get with clear glaze is that it can fog, obscuring in whole or in part your underlying design. When you use it on bisque ware, which you can, with good results, you can smear your design if you're not careful. 

I was careful, and because this was a new clear glaze to me, I smeared it, anyway. And? I think my old kiln isn't coming quite to temp, which means I have to put in a few pyrometric cones to see if that's the case. I know this because the clear glaze bubbled and didn't smooth out.
As a result of my mistakes, all the rose color completely burned off in the kiln, which was a major bummer, considering how much work I put into it. Additionally, the clear glaze fogged and looks bubbly, like dried resin.
Considering I wasn't all that attached to it to begin with, the results were still disappointing. The up side is, of course, what I learned. I need to test the kiln temperature and change the way I underglaze and see if that helps. Meanwhile, this little guy will get dumped, as I can't have him out in the word representing the quality of my work.

The next one will be better!


  1. I kind of actually like the little guy. He has this aged worn out look to him.


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