Friday, November 5, 2010

Apple Pelargonium Bowls

I keep raiding the pelargoniums... They've got an incredible variety of leaf forms, and heavy veining that imprints beautifully. I initially planted them in my garden because many of them have beautiful perfumes, but they also look nice and are pretty tough- most are drought tolerant, but some are frost sensitive. The Nutmeg scented one in this pic has suffered badly this winter, but the Apple scented one I used for these bowls takes the frost no problems.
These are smallish bowls, with a very delicate feel. (Largest diam. 16 cm.) There's a brown dot on the larger bowl that I refer to as a "beauty spot". It's the result of a speck of undissolved iron in the glaze. This kind of effect is one of the characteristics of using ash or any unprocessed glaze ingredients, and the natural variation and serendipity this gives to the glaze is one of the things that attract me to it. I think it adds a more natural feel to the bowls, a pleasant departure from the absolute control evident in mass produced ceramics.

Spiral Bowls

For a bit of a change from my usual impressed designs, I've done a bit of inlay. Fine coils of white clay against a darker clay background and glazed with my usual Ash Celadon glaze. The curious thing is that the "glaze fit" (which means how closely the shrinkage rate of the glaze and clay match each other) is different for the two clays, with the result that there is finer crackle (crazing) over the white clay areas. One of those subtle things that you only notice when you look closely.
Happy news is that these bowls along with the "Apple Pelargonium" bowls in the next post have been accepted into the Ergon Energy Central Queensland Ceramic Art Award, which must be in the running for longest award title, but it's a good exhibition. Beautiful light filled double gallery space at Rockhampton Art Gallery, and a wide range of works by both established and "emerging" ceramicists. The exhibition runs from 3 December 2010 until 28 Feb 2011.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Interlocking Bowls

I like playing with my bowls and plates, arranging them in different groupings or stacks. I’ve also noticed other people doing the same thing when they’ve been displayed in a setting without a “don’t touch” mindset (yes, risky, but ceramics are by nature tactile!). Sometimes the unglazed bowls are even more appealing in this sense, not having the visual complications of colour and shine.

Chun Blue

Chun Blue is one of the interesting but sometimes elusive glaze effects. The blue isn’t from any pigments in the glaze; it’s an “optical” colour, like the colours in a rainbow. The glaze forms tiny bubbles in the firing process that are the right size to refract blue light, but for this to happen, the glaze chemistry, firing conditions and glaze thickness all have to be right. If any of these are lacking the glaze comes out in the olive green seen in this photo where the glaze coat is thinner.

My Opalescent glazes also rely on light refraction for their colour, but in their case the refraction comes from tiny crystals that form as the glaze is cooling. Either fast cooling or reducing the amount of titanium (which encourages crystal formation) will result in the glaze being amber instead of the vibrant purples and blues.

Hot & Cold

Our town doesn’t have mains gas, so I run the kiln using LP gas cylinders. On a cold and rainy night you can get the mind boggling contrast of freezing cylinder outside...
while inside things are well over the 1000 degree (Celsius) mark. The blue colour of the flame indicates that the kiln is oxygen starved (reducing) which is essential for the development of colour in my glazes, especially the celadon greens.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I’ve often referred to ceramics as “pyrochemistry”- i.e. combining various minerals, either in a purified, pre-processed form, or in the less predictable but somehow fascinating form of natural clays, rocks and ashes, and then subjecting them to extreme heat in the kiln to combine them and permanently alter their molecular structure. I’m constantly entranced by the transformation of various dusty looking brown or grey glazes into smooth glassy surfaces of varied colours with no resemblance at all to their original state.

Friday, August 27, 2010

And another similar...

Another Pelargonium leaf bowl, using a paler stoneware clay and layering a green ash glaze and my Ash Celadon glaze. This gives the leaf veins more definition. For a change I used an old map instead of plain card for my photo background. Not usual practice for publication but I like it.

Pelargonium Bowls

I've been raiding the garden again. The plant I collected the leaves from was frost damaged shortly afterwards, I'm hoping it will recover come springtime.
I like the way the bowls interlock with each other.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shell Bowls

I've been selling some of my work through Shepparton Art Gallery, including the shell bowls above and the wavy bowls pictured in my "How to Make..." post. These bowls are moulded around a "Cartrut" shell found in a rock pool on a visit to Pambula beach, N.S.W. and are a good testbed/excuse for using a variety of glazes.

Shell Sprials

The plate and bowl in this pic have been patterned using a technique I mentioned in an earlier post of rolling a shell to produce spiraling designs. The treacle coloured glaze highlights the texture beautifully. All this mathematical precision from a sea snail that needs a bigger home.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How to make a wavy bowl

My wavy bowls are initially formed upside down. I drape a circular slab of clay over a padded base so that I don’t get any hard creases and carefully manipulate the slab into five waves, paying attention to the balance of the form. Once the clay reaches the point where it’s dry enough to be flexible but not floppy I gently turn it right way up, flatten the base a little and fine tune the shape of the waves. The finish of the edges is important in conveying a sense of delicacy, so I pinch the clay to a gentle taper and smooth it off with fingers and a damp sponge.
I always have trouble knowing how to describe my construction techniques for such things as exhibition entry forms. These bowls and a lot of my other pieces are technically slab formed, but “slab” carries connotations of heavy, chunky work. My slabs are quite fine, usually about 2-3 mm. thick, and don’t fit this mental image in the slightest.