This was my first encounter with ceramics and I knew very little on the subject so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but as with all the craft workshops I was eager to learn a new skill.
We were talked through the following information and techniques that would allow us to create the 3D shapes needed for our Bauhaus inspired piece.
Preparing The clay
When preparing your clay you need to ensure that there are no air bubbles by smacking the clay down onto the your work surface, repeatedly on different sides. This is important as when put into the kiln the air from the bubbles would heat and rise, causing your work to crack.
Plastic clay is the state that the clay begins in when it is still at it’s most malleable, this is best for joining two pieces of clay together and for forming the initial shape.
Leather clay is when the clay has been left to dry, possibly in a heated cabinet like the ones we used in the college workspace. When in this state the clay is still workable but holds its form better and so is useful when cutting straight edges, adding detail or to smooth and neaten your work.
Scoring and Slipping
- When joining two edges together you should make sure that both pieces are equally as wet. This is because as clay dries it shrinks, so if one piece was wetter it would need to shrink more then the other, this would cause tension and make your work crack.
- You also need to make sure you score the area where you want the join to go, making cross hatch scores are most effective. Doing this allows for the slip to get into the clay making it easier to join the pieces together. Make sure you do not create air bubbles when adding the slip as again they would explode and crack your work.
- Once your work is scored and has the slip added put the pieces together and use the rib tool to help seal and smooth the join.
Making a Sphere by Pinching
- Begin with a ball of plastic clay and tear it into to two equally sized pieces.
- Next you use your thumb to create an indent in the centre of one half, gradually working the clay so that the centre is con caved.
- Once you have achieved this, keeping the thickness of the edges as consistent as possible. you repeat on the second half.
- Then you need to place both halves together using the score and slip method.
- Finally after leaving it to dry and become leather clay you can neaten your sphere and use water to help smooth it.
Making a Cylinder
- An effective way to make a cylinder is to use another cylinder shaped object such as the inside tube of a kitchen roll.
- Use a piece of paper to wrap around the cylinder to figure out the size and shape of clay needed then cut the paper to make a template.
- Roll out a piece of clay to an even thickness in the same way that you would roll out pastry.
- Use the paper template to cut out the clay needed.
- Put the clay around the cylinder shaped object, score the edges and use the slip to join them together then smooth join with your fingers or rib tool.
- Let the clay turn to leather clay to finish off the shape, using water if needed to smooth it.
Cube or Cuboid
- To create a cube or cuboid shape you need to first roll out enough clay to make all the sides, using a paper template will help you judge this and also to cut the shapes out later.
- Leave the clay to dry, turning it to leather clay, preferably in a hot cupboard.
- Once the clay is leather clay you can cut out the shapes needed to create your cube or cuboid. Next join them together by scoring the edges and using the joining slip. It may be best to do one or two sides at a time, letting them dry out further and then put the rest together.
The decorative slip is used to add a white finish to the clay. Although you can apply it in pretty much any way you choose we were shown how to cut out strips of newspaper to use as barriers or stencils, attaching them to your work by using a tiny bit of water if needed. Then just paint on the slip to create lines and shapes to complement your finished work.
I had two main sources of inspiration for my work, the first pictured bellow is by Gordon Baldwin OBE who is an internationally renowned potter. This piece stood out to me because of the delicate drips of blue which could be incorporated into my own piece.
I discovered this during my Bauhaus research, a piece of work from a class lead by Johanas Itten. When speaking about this particular piece he said ‘In order to let students experience primary geometric forms in a three-dimensional manner, I had them model sculptural forms such as spheres, cylinders, cones and cubes.’ I found this to be very relevant to our own task and was drawn to the continuation of the shapes, how they cut into one another.
Cube composition, Else Mogelin
We were told to draw some 3D shapes to get us started in designing our work. I found this to be useful in order to get to grips with the 3D element of the task as whenever I draw, design or doodle I do it in 2D with no consideration for the shape or depth of a 3D object.
As I drew the shapes I began to consider how I would place them together. Whilst considering the work of Else Mogelin I drew a combination of shapes merged within each other as I found the concept of not being able to distinguish between the beginning or end of each object to be visually appealing.
Constructing my Work
With my design complete it was time to get to grips with the clay. I began with getting the it rolled out, ready to dry in the hot cupboard and become leather clay, to use after break to create my cuboid and square. Once this was done I was left to create my sphere. I used the pinching technique and paid careful attention to keep the edges the same thickness on each half. Then after scoring the edges and using the slip and rib tool to join them it was also ready to dry in the hot cupboard.
After break I returned to cut out my squares and rectangles to create my cube and cuboid. Again I scored the edges and used the slip to join the sides, gradually my 3d shapes were formed.
Now I had all three shapes it was time to cut off parts of the sphere and cube and compile them together (more scoring and slip) to create my piece. The only part left now was to decorate, but I decided to go against what we had been shown earlier and instead use the work of Gordon Baldwin as inspiration and created a melting effect by pouring the decorative slip over my model. The unpredictable lines and drips created was a perfect contrast to the precise and rigid shapes and so I was very happy with the result.