Showing posts with label clay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label clay. Show all posts

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Backwards and forwards with laser decals

Yes I have heaps on Katrina Chaytor to tell you but I may not get that done this weekend, stacks going on family wise.  As I compose my thoughts on the huge amount of information gleaned watching Katrina in action at POTober - I want to mention a hint or two about laser decals that I may not have shared before.  It may influence how you go about your decal work.  Please excuse if I blogged this already.

Here are a couple of slipcast  bowls (Keane's JCast I think) onto which I applied laser decals post glaze firing, taking the decal firing to 1060 degrees C, way higher than normal onglaze decals which are usually around 750-800 degrees C (can't remember how to find the degree sign without getting distracted).  Can you see the difference?  One bowl has far clearer images than the other.  The least clear image is from the decal that was applied in the normal waterslide manner.  You trim your decal, soak it in water, apply it to the glazed ware face up and slide the cream card backing away from under the printed image leaving behind just the black laser printed image on fine transparent plastic, squeegeeing it into place and removing air or water from behind.  Easy right?  It really is exactly like those toy tattoos you used to play with as a kid.

bowls and decals by Elaine Bradley, drawn design of decals by Emma Vinkovic
Below the left hand bowl has a better, clearer image than that on the right - why?  This happened when I applied the decal onto the ware 'back to front' - face down, i.e. TONER side down, without relying on the waterslide effect to put it in place, and without the gummy layer between the decal and the backing paper to help it adhere to the ware.  I sometimes put a lick of gum arabic betwwen ware and decal on to get a bond going.  It seems to have kept more of the print/toner that was printed on the decal than the other bowl.  I think it is worth that teeny bit for effort for such a more defined result.

Below is a collage of laser decals applied to a store bought plate - before and after firing.

Right now I am experimenting optimistically with printing with cobalt in the toner cartridge.  I'll post the fired results when they are ready.  I doubt I'll get to finishing my post on Katrina's work.  So tired ... a local party kept my whole street awake and I am a yawning wreck.  See you soon, possibly over at 
Mud Colony blog where all the best clayfolk gather with their blogs ... come on.  We love feedback, so talk to us.  

All text in this blog posting is copyright of Elaine Bradley, Ceramic Artist, Western Australia unless quoting from another source.  All photographs in this blog posting are copyright of Elaine Bradley unless otherwise stated.  No responsibility can be taken for external links.  Please report any errors in crediting photographs, sources or facts to the author in order to allow her to rectify the matter.  Your response or feedback is welcome.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Most potters tend to be generous in sharing our knowledge and enthusiasm but this weekend  I encountered that and a little bit more.  Mary Wallace of Spiral Studio in Denmark, Western Australia (about 400km from Perth) presented a well planned, super workshop on throwing and working with porcelain at Perth Studio Potters in Cottesloe.  In fact I have never left a workshop with a 'goodie bag' before, a trend I'd love to see established.  We each received a handmade ramekin dish, a razor sharp carving tool, Mary's business card and publicity postcards and picture cards from the Ganjin Celadon festival.

I could be boring and relate the day exactly as it happened but this is just my little blog and not a magazine article.  Suffice to say, it was a very rewarding day.  Mary is a trained production potter, working in porcelain and she gas fires.  Production potters leave me a bit awestruck and envious of their skills.  They are so precise and decisive as they work and just get on with making - efficiently and well.   While she filled us in on her background, started at Perth Studio Potters in the 70's, TAFE, trained with Ian MacRae at Beaufort Pottery, moved to Denmark (the Denmark in Western Australia not the one in Europe) set up her own wonderful pottery and works there with her pretty great husband Daniel Webb, Mary was swiftly throwing repeat forms on the wheel.  She explained her interest in porcelain and celadons and her connection with Korea.  The day moved fast filled with demonstrations, quick slide shows, great explanations of clay bodies and how some behave when carved.  I had forgotten what the poster at Central Institute of Technology Ceramics noticeboard had advertised, I had just seen that Mary Wallace is coming to Perth, recalled her exquisite work - and signed up immediately.  I'd forgotten that carving was part of the agenda too - BONUS!  and we learnt how to make our own carving tools too and to temper the metal - double BONUS! and we got a goody bag - Oh I need a lie down.

Mary’s lotus tea set  (below) won the Judge's Prize in this years CAAWA Selective Exhibition as blogged here closer to the time.  She spent some of the day showing us how she carves these pieces having observed and learnt from Master Carvers and other craftsmen during her trips to Korea.  She made carving feel very achievable and worth doing. 
Image from CAAWA Facebook page.  Photographer, Cher Shackleton or Natalie Acton
Mary Wallace drawing the pattern of lotus flowers onto the leatherhard vase
A freshly carved outline ready for slip inlay (photo Elaine Bradley)
Coloured slip inaid into lines then trimmed away
Mary showed us how she inlays slip into carved lines in trays like the one below and several leatherhard trays for us to work on using our new carving skills.  There were about twenty two or more attending the workshop, everyone had a go.

Card supplied by Mary and Daniel

Perth Studio Potters aka PSP is an amazing resource for new and experienced potters without a studio or for the potter who likes to work in a bit of company.  There is a well equipped workroom, handbuilding table, slab roller, Venco wheels,  a brand new kiln shed out back and a glazing area.  This historical and important club which has been going for over fifty years has a small kitchen, a library and at the front of the building a modern gallery to show and sell work of the members.  A book on the club's history was authored by Janet Kovesi-Watt and which names many WA potters having had a connection at some point.  PSP runs day and evening classes and when there are no classes the members come and go using the place as their studio.  Neighbours on this suburban street often pass by and see club members sitting outside the gallery cheerfully sharing their lunch and clay tips.  As always at PSP workshops, everyone brought a plate of food to share and a delicious lunch was enjoyed with Mary outside in the springtime sun.
Peacock stained slip has been applied over the carved pattern and is being scraped away once firm.
I believe the Japanese term for slip inlay is Mishima, and I have used and appreciated the technique but now I've been told the Koreans were using it long before the Japanese or Chinese and the technique was adopted as a consequence of the many invasions of Korea down through the centuries.
I haven't mentioned Mary's husband yet.  Daniel Webb was with us all day too contributing in many ways especially when after lunch he demonstrated and advised how to make our own carving tools from umbrella spokes.  Golf umbrellas are made from better metal than cheapies are and the spokes or ribs inside can be cut out and adapted to make superb carving tools.  Daniel showed us how to cut the brolly spokes, flatten one end, trim with cutting pliers and grind to sharpen and then, bend into a useful hook all the better to carve with.  He used a variety of tools - pliers to cut, hammer on a metal block to flatten, tin snips or pliers to trim, some jewellers pliers to form the style of 'hook' desired, flat square edged, angular or gentle curve.  Fortunately I have all of these tools required, so tomorrow I will be hitting the Op Shops in Fremantle for an old golf umbrella.   I will also be plundering the garden shed and the retic risers to use them as handles for my new carving tools.  Thank you Daniel.
a mini tutorial card provided by Daniel and Mary
See how fine and sharp the carving tool is, the edges are razor sharp having been refined on the ginding wheel

I found a little more on the web about Mary, particularly here on the very informative pages ...
'Identifying Australian Pottery 1960s to Date' on  
Mary's potter's marks, image from Identifying Australian Pottery page
NOW if you are  regular reader of my blog you will know that I always redirect my blog pals over to the Mud Colony blog where you can read more of the antics, lessons and discoveries of many other clay bloggers.  The numbers are growing, there are nineteen blog links there already.  Perhaps you blog occasionally and would like to join Mud Colony?  Give it a thought.  Meanwhile hop on over here to Mud Colony.  Ciao potter pals.  


All text in this blog posting are copyright of Elaine Bradley, Ceramic Artist, Western Australia.  All photographs in this blog posting are copyright of Elaine Bradley unless otherwise stated.  Please report any errors in crediting photographs, sources or facts to the author in order to allow her to rectify the matter immediately.  Thank you  

Thursday, September 6, 2012


In the Cert IV class at CIT Ceramics Studio which focuses on investigating and experimenting, we've zipped through a really busy program of skill sets this term.  We've done handmade teapots, boxes and now we are pushing on with the subject of wall art.  Last week we had a short slide show via my iPad and the digital projector (so easy) to illustrate the diverse possibilities, looking at artists in working clay and other media.  Then we got started on our designs and clay models.  The purpose of this wall art project is to teach the students how to make a simple model from which to make a one piece plaster drop mould and then go on to make multiple copies to arrange as wall art.
Mel is working on a cluster form
At first I thought the students weren't keen on the idea of wall art and all the processes involved, but that gave way quickly to some enthusiastic sketching and planning.

 Zach was the first to get his model ready and out into the plaster area to form the mould.  Here you can see he's built up cottle walls with bits of MDF and recycled clay to hold the retaining walls in place.  He was at home with mixing plaster having used it previously in a sculpture unit and had worked in the trade at some point.  His clay model was not very big and the walls were firm enough to resist the pressure of  the plaster as we poured it in.  We were in and out of the outdoor plaster area in ten minutes while the sculpture class slathered plaster onto their self portraits behind us.  Then the rest of our class noted what Zach had done and followed suite with little direction from me.
One great thing was that the students were passing on the still soft clay with plaster in it for shoring up their subsequent moulds and the MDF walls were leftovers from the workshop area so the wastage was very low.  Meanwhile back in the classroom the students were working away on their models ...

Tanh, who has the concentration and determination of an athlete and works rapidly, was finessing her two cylinder model with a cool faceted surface texture, we may have to address some fine undercuts near the base though. 
Actually here is a little image transfer tip we used in class.  Rowan, below, had drawn his character in his visual diary and needed to translate it into clay.  We went over his drawing with a pen we'd tested to ensure the ink was water soluble.  We tried a couple of pens out to find the right one.  NB Must buy more!  
First we rolled two slabs of clay and placed them on top of each other, with no slip or water between them, the lower slab is about twice as thick as the top one.  When he pressed the image face down onto the top surface of the 'just rolled' slab of clay, the image transferred easily, a mirror image of the original  We'd also tested this simple transfer technique out with a printed 'inkjet' image earlier in the class to good effect.  For a curved surface such as a cylinder you'd just trim the paper to fit the curve.  

We used the print as a guide for cutting around it through the top layer of clay with a sharp knife and a with bevelled edge all round.  Some of the background layer will be kept as a foundation for the 2D image to enhance the sense of dimensionality.  The bevelled edge is to ensure we have no undercuts for when we make the mould.  Next week Rowan will be softening the edges of his clay character with his fingertips and brushing a small wet paintbrush into the cut edges to meld the two layers.  

Of course the ink lines that were transferred will disappear in the firing as the ink has no material content to withstand such temperatures but this transfer system works as a guide for carving, sgraffito or for painting on oxide or under glaze decoration.  I learnt most of these methods from Trudy Golley, Head of Ceramics at Red Deer College in Alberta, Canada while I was at ANU.   No photographic models were needed for this blog posting, I just happen to have a very good looking class.  

You may have learnt something new here or been enthused to try something out as a result of reading my blog, if so I would LOVE to get some comments from you.  Want more?  Pop on over to the Mud Colony Blog, we link our blogs up to Mud Colony between every Thursday and Sunday night - and there may be heaps more clay stuff there for you to enjoy.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

3D PRINTING IN PERTH CIT, a continuing story.

Left an early trial 3D print in clay (unfired) , right, a plastic 'raft' printed by 3D printer

The blogging mojo has been absent in the past couple of weeks due to plain busyness, and yet, of course, so much has been going on in my world.  For one thing teaching at CIT ceramics department has been a wonderful challenge and I am loving being part of the place.  The students are a great bunch and often surprise themselves when they dredge up a previously unknown resourcefulness or ability to put into their clay work.  I loaded a kiln last week full of their handmade teapots and boxes, we are moving onto Wall Art now and making simple drop moulds to replicate their  forms with. 

Meanwhile Graham Hay continues with his residency at CIT and tweaks and twiddles with the 3D printer CIT recently purchased.  It came in kit form and took a while to build. I imagine a ready made one would have cost a lot more given how many man hours went into building it.  The 3D printer was designed to print with a low temperature meltable plastic, this is fed into the printer from what looks like a roll of cable – but the cable is in fact the plastic consumable it prints with. 

In normal parlance the concept of printing entails the laying down of an ‘ink’ of some kind onto a flat substrate – usually paper.  The ink sits on the substrate and dries whether it is a screen print or an inkjet or laserjet of text or images.  Sometimes an ink or paint is printed where we can see and feel the change in surface where the ink sits upon the surface. 

In the case of 3D we are printing but layer upon layer and building upwards from the horizontal plane into a 3D form instead of across a flat 2D surface. 

There were weeks of calibrating our 3D printer and once that was done the hard part now starts.  Now the development of a suitable clay body is underway, one that will pipe through the printer under gentle hydraulic pressure – there is a large pressurised air pump attached.  So as well as the 3D printer a source of compressed air plus a computer are required to make anything happen.  The printed/extruded/piped clay mustn’t be too liquid or it will flop and flow, but must be soft enough to extrude and sit upon itself to build up layer upon layer to create a 3D form. 

I am assuming that you dear reader are smart enough to ‘get it’ if I threw in some hi tech terminology, I am putting this all into my own ‘laymans terms’ to try to explain it. 

So the printed clay, think of a coil pot but the printer is placing the mini ‘coils’, has to hold itself up and take weight while the printer head moves around the form laying down the clay – as directed by the computer.  Personally I find this whole subject completely fascinating.  I love modern technology and materials and I literally lie in bed at night thinking of what the printer might make and what might make the perfect clay composition to work best.  

Here is a short clip of me asking Graham about the printer.

There have been lots of trials and observations of the result of each tweak and change.  Graham lays out the tangible evidence of each test print in sequence on the long table at his station in the ceramics area to be handled and noted, prompting enthusiastic interest and discussion. 

 More – as it happens! 

Now, although I have missed the Mud Colony deadline – let’s hop over there anyhow and see what the other clay bloggers have been doing.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Coming around again

Oh dear, a cliché already, using a song title (Carly Simon's) for a post title.  I mentioned before that I am doing a residency at Central TAFE - aka Central Institute of Technology, Perth in the ceramics department so I will talk a little more of that.  I applied to Central about eighteen months ago when I only had a small but purpose built studio in the back garden.  Then I was lucky enough to rent a second work space for hand building and printing in Fremantle, close to home but up a stairs, albeit a very handsome stairs in the historical Old Customs House Building in Phillimore Street.   At Central I've been making large platters and purging the need to do just that, to explore engobes and textural glazes and now, unexpectedly, after making about ten platters, finding myself wanting to get back to the wheel, play with porcelain, make fine, thin vessels - what for? To glaze, to decorate, to light from inside with candles to make best use of the translucency of porcelain, to get glowy thin melty glassy rims, to put flowers in, or small fruit, to hang glazes on the white canvas of Southern Ice porcelain - did I say I had the answers yet?  I still assert that throwing with Southern Ice feels like I imagine throwing with Philadelphia Cream Cheese would feel.
I'd show you, but I keep forgetting to take photos because time is running out and I am getting quite a lot done.  But this lure of the potter's wheel got me thinking, and trawling and I found some good videos to show you that kind of illustrate the contentment and zen-ness of working with clay.
Anne Mette Hjortshøj
I went back to bed this very cold morning after sending the lads off to school,  got under the king sized electric duvet (or 'doona' to Aussies), snuggled up with Poppy - my cocker spaniel and we watched pottery vids on Vimeo on the iPad such as  Anne Mette Hjortshøj in Denmark, I have shared that one before, and
Rocking Bowl by Karin Eriksson
Karin Eriksson of Manos, in Stockholm, Sweden and Phil Rogers in the UK.   I think new pottery students should see these vids, to be inspired and excited and embraced into the world of throwing.
Now back to real life, supermarkets and work.  I hope your day treats you well,  especially you AC, hope 'the power' comes back on so your (magic) power comes back! Now get off your computer and make something.
Oh and did I mention yet that you lovely readers should hop on over to Mud Colony regularly, at least every week, to see what a growing number potters who blog have to say about their week and work.  Maybe you could join in with  your blog?
Phil Rogers throwing a Yunomi

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What have I been doing?

What have I been doing?  
I was prepping a batch of my laser decal'd nest forms for the kiln when the Kerrie Lowe Gallery in Sydney invited me to take part in their  Print show 'Transferring the Image', opening on 22nd June till 17 July,  'Printmaking in all its forms; limited edition books, works on paper, ceramics, 3D, jewellery and fabric'.  Oh, I would SO like to be there, to see the whole show and to see my own work in that context  - but it is almost 4,000 km away.  I had fun explaining to the CIT ceramics students in the studio how I make the nests and what I do to create and apply the decals.  It seems like a lot of work, but I feel it is worth it all.  

These are the works hot from the kiln, some were TMK stoneware clay and some were in Southern Ice Porcelain, both great clays by Clayworks.

I know, its boring - MORE of my laser decals nests!  I do a lot of these forms, I enjoy them and they mean something to me.  I constantly collect twigs, leaves and feathers to photograph, even my friends present me with them sometimes, it is like collecting shells or pebbles, in taking time for such things you are rewarded with a sense of their beauty and a respect for nature.  I've observed how people impose their own narrative onto a piece and I love to see this happen. If there are no eggs printed or physical clay ones on a nest then it becomes either a childless home or an empty nest, a whole new chapter opens in the imagination of the backstory of this little nest.  If there are two eggs, people with two children light up and relate to it, it becomes somehow more meaningful to their personal story.  An empty nest with a single feather can be about waiting, or loss, the feather representing the prepared home or the evidence of the emptiness.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mega Monday

I spent Monday afternoon teaching a very compressed version of my one day Print On Clay workshop to Advanced Diploma Students at Central Institute of Technology, Perth.  I whizzed through my demos and explanations of processes and materials involved, in order to allow time to 'play' at the end of the session.  They were quick on the uptake.  Before I knew it, two and a half hours had elapsed and they got an hour of trying stuff out.   The students were so polite and friendly, especially Holly who made me a Vanilla Latte which I then allowed to go cold - and nobody yawned.  We are enduring another heatwave in Perth and it was no surprise to hear it reached 40C, decidedly uncomfortable!  I would have been comatose in their place. Happily, most of the students tried out a few of the techniques and seemed to enjoy themselves.  We covered Inkjet transfer, Underglaze Tissue monoprints, silk screened imagery via Tissue, via Plaster and open stock decals as well as iron oxide laser decals.  There were so many other things we could have done but I will keep some of them for a workshop later this year at The Potter's Market.

Tomorrow night I teach Wheelwork for beginners.  One girl asked me if I felt she could ever make a teapot, good to see her planning ahead.  I wonder will my Japanese lady with the broken fingers come back, I have a few ideas for her to try out.  Anyone else got suggestions of what to teach her?
detail of one of my lotus series vessels, copper glaze on Southern Ice clay

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pottery Wheels

We all like to poke around someone else's studio don't we? We enjoy gleaning insights and hints about how people work.  I think most throwers here in Western Australia have Venco wheels.  This is a local brand and they are certainly built to last, they are practically ubiquituous here and seem to hold their value very well.  Oddly though my own electric wheel is what Aussies call a 'Bitsa' - like they call mongrel dogs a Bitsa - 'bitsa this and bitsa that'.  I have two wheels in my small studio at the end of my garden.  The electric one (above) was cobbled together from parts from many makes of wheel. I bought it secondhand twenty years ago from the technician at Curtin University Art School, and it still goes like a rocket and has amazing torque.  Is that the right word?  It spins very fast, has good control and the pedal can be locked into position so it continues to spin while you walk away which can be handy for banding or drying.  These days Venco produce the most desirable electric wheel I know of - a wireless wheel!  It is light, easy to transport and very, very adaptable.  I was lent the prototype by my friend Stewart Scambler and am hankering for one in a ridiculous manner.  Venco pugmills sell very well in the US too they tell me.  This wheel below is my other wheel, the pedal is on the left and being short, I need to counterbalance my weight with some bricks underfoot on the other side.  It is a very contemplative Zen thing to use this wheel. I never wanted one until I saw a video of Kaye Pemberton using hers.  The tray is lined with copper.

Anne Linneman, Denmark ceramic artist says that when she set up her studio she put her money into the Rolls Royce of Wheels, as it is her main source of income.  I can't recall what brand.  Additionally, she is extremely aware of protecting her body from repetitive strain injury, warming up before she sets to work.  There is nothing common about common sense, sometimes we need the obvious pointed out to us.