I’m working my way towards a load of pots to fire in early February. I need white pots for my Valley Art show, and also to build inventory for summer shows. I’ve been working with Georgie’s Crystal Springs porcelain – a nice throwing clay. I have had some losses in handbuilt pots; I’ll have to be more careful if I want to continue to use it… Drawing texture onto the surface is heavenly – crisp lines and a nice soft finish.
I decided to make a blog post about how I put imagery on my pots during a recent conversation with another potter. “You just stamp the whole surface, right? Jeez… how I wish that I could. I do use some stamps from time to time, as part of a design, but to cover the entire surface of a pot with stamps just isn’t possible even if I wanted to do such a thing. For the clay to be tender enough to give a clear stamp image, it must be quite soft, and, you have to have your hand or a tool inside the pot to prevent the wall from being deformed by the pressure. Work that is thin enough to be pleasant to use is pretty much demolished by all-over stamping. I speak from experience.
Here’s the lid of a casserole I want to decorate. I don’t say carve, because that implies a dimensionality to the activity that isn’t there. I really am just doing a sort of relief drawing – drawing off the top of my head. I do have some set pieces in my “design vocabulary” – the magnolia/dogwood floral stuff, and a variety of geometric riffs that come easily to my hand. Doodling.
I use a heavy plastic arc guide if I want to duplicate arcs or curved forms on my pot. I also use a compass, but this is right for what I have in mind. You can see that the lid is sitting on a banding wheel, that makes adding certain types of lines very easy. I have added some edge detail that will look nice where the lid fits down into its’ seat.
The most important part of the design – lines that divides the space – are in place. I don’t require high accuracy in line placement, allowing a little irregularity makes tedious work bearable and ads a liveliness to the design. The clay needs to be leatherhard… it’s consistency completely determines the line quality. I often getting the pots all ready, and bag them for several days until the stage of dryness is just right.
Later! I have defined the cotton boll form with back-texture, added a border, and filled spaces. You can also see that I am using a nice little soft brush to finish my drawing, There are always crumbs and fine burrs, removing them makes the surface of the pot more beautiful. The salt will dissolve the finest of them. The green porcelain is a lovely surface… I can’t wait to see the fired pots.
When to stop decorating? Now that’s the $64 question. When I am decorating my pots, I am creating an imaginary universe that is the object in my hands. I am it’s Deity, and what I say goes! Yes, at this time I am terminally afflicted with Horror Vacuii, fear of the unadorned space. And yes, there really is such a thing….. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_vacui, have a look if you don’t believe me.
Not even the bottom is safe from my tool. I feel a great affection for the people who buy my pots, voting YES! to all this insanity with their money. I like to think of him/her, cleaning up after a family feast. Although my pots are tough; fine in dishwasher and microwave, lots of dishes are still washed by hand. She/He washes out the inside, and then turns the pot over to finish the washup. The image pleases, my pot is part of their domestic universe.