May 18, 2010

A Gift from a Potter and Clay Thoughts

I was recently contacted by a fellow potter that I know from the annual Potters Market, who had a fun thing to offer me.  Jan Robb makes wonderful functional pottery and tiles in rich green glazes with leaves impressed into the clay.  Her work is quite lovely... you can find it in her Etsy shop.  She makes tiles and uses a tile press to make them (which is a bit more advanced than my method of hand hammering the clay into molds, and one of the reasons I don't make a lot of tile).  Anyway, her process leaves her with some extra slabs that are a little too stiff for her to use again in her work.  She would have to reprocess the clay and doesn't have a pug mill set up.  I hate reprocessing the tiny amount of clay scrap that I create with my work, so I don't blame her.  She called me up to see if I could use the extra scrap and I thought I would give it a try!

Jan's clay is different than mine.  For these tiles, she is using a production porcelain. I use a more traditional porcelain which is ultra white and contains a lot of English Grolleg China Clay.  These clays feel different when working with them.  The production porcelain contains a lot of ball clay, which increases workability and gives the clay plasticity.  It also helps it fire white while giving it some structure to make it feel a little more like stoneware (without the grog).  My porcelain is very soft and silky.  I have said before that it feels like cream cheese, which can be lovely for its fineness, but is also very frustrating to work with.  I used a few of the slabs that Jan gave me and found I needed a little time to get used to the different texture, but ended up making some fun things already, so I am excited about using more.  Also, they are in a perfect pre-slabbed form, so I can just give a simple roll of my brayer to smooth the surface, and it is perfect for me to start stamping textures into!

Now, one issue with changing to a different clay body is that my glazes may not look the same on the clay.  Instead of doing extensive testing, I decided to make some one of a kind pieces and use this clay for a whole different way of firing: Raku.  I have been wanting to do this for so long and I think it is finally the time.  So I made the pieces above and am going to test them out soon (maybe tomorrow!  Its supposed to be nice out!)  I know I have been promising to Raku for a while, but this time I really mean it...
I love this long pendant!  Must make more.  Thanks again, Jan for the clay!

 
Melanie is an artist, blogger, writer, and ceramic beadmaker at Earthenwood Studio. Her beads and components can be found at her Etsy shop and her jewelry can be found in her Etsy Galleria. To comment on this post, visit the original post at the Earthenwood Studio Chronicles Blog.

13 comments:

  1. How nice to get this windfall of pre-rolled clay..will this new clay body take the thermal shock of the raku process with out breaking?

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  2. We shall see! I'll have to do it to see if it will work, I suppose. I was going to try my regular porcelain, but I think this will work better than that, at least. *fingers crossed*

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  3. OOOOH! I can't wait to see what you do with Raku. I love the stuff. I did it once with my kids with the most surprising results. This is fascinating...there are different types of clay? I love to hear about the behind the scenes. And I love that pendant! Enjoy the day! Erin

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  4. ooohhh that is a nice pendant! can't wait to see what it looks like when your done:)

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  5. Erin, Oh yes, many many types of clay! I have tried a little of everything! Earthenware, Terra Cotta, Stoneware of all colors, Porcelain, Egyptian Paste, just to name some. I stick with Porcelain as it is considered the finest and I really feel it takes a lifetime to learn. I only know a little bit about it, in the big picture of things, I like to think...

    Pearl & Pebble, thanks! Raku will be really great for these because I am expecting a lot of aged surfaces and metallics from the glazes which will go nicely with the industrial textures I have in the clay

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  6. I know nothing of thermal shock or what pre-rolled clay is but I do know that these look beautiful and my mother and I both love Raku. So, if I can, I'd like to pre-kiln order the 2 pieces at the right bottom of the picture. The anticipation is going to kill me.
    Good luck!~
    CG

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  7. Cerulean Gypsy,
    LOL! Thanks for your confidence in me, I love it! But if there is nothing else I have learned from working with clay, it is to hope for the best and expect the worst. Especially when changing glazes and clay! I am dreaming that all of these, including the two you like, will be beautiful pieces of art, but I am preparing for a big mess of yucky clay and glaze... It is very possible that it is what I will be getting, lol!

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  8. The pendant actually do look like many buttons together. I actually prefer my trinket to have a bit more color, but it's pretty cool as it is unique.

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  9. Michelle, these pendants will all be glaze fired with lots of earthy colors. They are in the first stages before firing in this picture. Can't wait to see them finished!

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  10. I found your blog through Katie and am your newest follower!

    Stop back by when you get a chance.
    http://waterwaif.blogspot.com

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  11. I am so excited to see these! I recently fell in love with raku and have only collected a few pieces. This would be the perfect Earthenwood piece to have from you!
    Keep us up to date!

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  12. miss fickle media,
    I think Raku would be a perfect match to your metal work!

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  13. That is so cool that you ended up being able to use something un-usable by someone else.

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