Artist’s Process

Fine Detail Work

I like to think of myself as a hands on artist. That means that every task from wedging the clay (at the beginning of the process) to stacking and unstacking the kilns (at the end of the process) is done by my hands alone.

Wheel throwing and hand building are used separately and in combination to create these one of a kind ceramic pieces. After the pieces are dry enough to handle, their surfaces are carved in relief. They are then dried thoroughly.

Each piece is hand painted with underglaze before the first firing. The blending of color is done by brush work alone–no airbrushing is used. To achieve the sense of depth and lush color, the underglaze (which is semi-transparent) is applied onto the surface of the clay in many separate layers.

Because of the transparent nature of the underglaze, each layer picks up the color from the layer underneath it which results in very rich colors. It is that same transparency, however, that requires up to fifteen and twenty layers of underglaze to be built up on the surface in some areas to block out darker background colors. When you run your finger over the surface of the underglaze you can actually feel the built up areas. Each layer needs to dry thoroughly before another can be applied. For that reason, several pieces are in process at the same time.

After all the color has been applied, black underglaze is painted on with a detail brush to give definition to the painted images. Some of the detail work is achieved by using a sgraffito technique. Black is painted on in a small section and while it’s still wet, an exacto knife is used to carve away the black to reveal the color underneath. It normally takes as long to apply black as it does to apply all the other colors combined on any given piece.

Once all the detail work is finished, the pieces are fired for the first time to a temperature of 2018 degrees. Clear glaze is then brushed over the pieces (three to five layers depending on the colors) and they are fired to 1945 degrees. During this firing, the glaze saturates the pigment in the underglaze and brings out the brilliant color. It also seals the surface and makes it safe for food.

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