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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ideas from underground grow into art.

This little putti figure caught my eye in an Ebay auction. It was one part of 200 pieces of broken dolls and other ceramics. After winning the bid and receiving the shipment it was difficult to photograph much else in the boxes because I kept being drawn back to this piece.

Although it is broken, the form excites my brain. When I saw the wings were complete I knew I had to reproduce them in ceramics. Using the two part silicone molding compound I copied the inner surface and made a casting of each wing.

I have been making these little skulls every day and finding lots to work with in changing the colors and textures of the glazes. While sleeping  I dreamed of one of these little skulls flying around like a hummingbird...

And this was the result. It is about an inch and a half wide and an inch tall. The photo doesn't really do justice to the colors of shimmery copper,blue and green on the head.  It is a bead drilled for hanging from top to bottom. I will make a few of these and I think I will make a necklace with the form of a rosary with this at the center of the y.

As i have been making Halloween items here is a pumpkin ring.

And a grinning skull ring. all these will be available at my shop later today.
Next time we will explore some restoration techniques with ceramic figures..That shipment from Germany has lots of unusual figures to work with.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ceramics used in a necklace

This little fellow is a recent creation from my kiln. The glaze and conditions in the reduction chamber control the coloring. Its started with an even glaze painted over the head and the kiln god does the rest....always a surprise in raku.

Collecting these dolls is fun. Finding all the variations that have been made over the last 160 years is impossible but as the archaeologists dig and sell more and more styles emerge. I am learning to copy some of the more interesting examples by making plaster molds and casting in liquid clay called slip. The level of detail is much higher than a push mold can give.

Once you obtain interesting pieces of ceramic for jewelry making the second stage of creativity kicks in..just like when you buy a great focal or a new stamping. In my case I decided to create a bronze piece for this small scarab from my friend Dorcas at http://www.etsy.com/shop/wondrousstrange?ref=top_trail She is a masterful maker of beautiful raku. I had some raku beads the Dorcas made and added some agate beads which echo the color of the scarab and contrast well against the bronze.

the raku beads are a fusion of metallic color and matte texture that I find interesting. I choose brown rayon cord for the necklace but find it is a little rough about the neck so I may change it out in favor of some silk or sari ribbon. Simple knots restrain the beads as a side station.

A closeup of the pendant shows the high shine in the beaten metal and hint at the fascinating part of this piece..a dapped depression behind the scarab polished to a mirror shine and reflecting the top of the scarab. It resembles a reflector from an oil lamp. The agate beads are held up on paddle pins that allow them to move and make tinkling sounds on the bronze shape. The contrasting textures and colors give a lot of interest to this necklace.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Raku and traditional stone mounting.

I have been reading and making and firing and making and glazing...ceramics  are addictive. I am a sculptor at heart and this medium makes it possible to create fairly quickly and actually I feel like a little kid again. The freedom to play in mud and have something interesting at the end is very satisfying. I call this one "Home is where the Heart is.)

Fall always makes me think of Halloween or Sam Hain, All Souls or Dia de Muertes. And celebrating with little skulls is part of the tradition...Fall festivals in general reflect the passage of time and people...these little grinning head bones aren't frightening to me just fun. About the size of a quarter in two tones of glaze.

My favorite so far is this little lady with a classical white crackle glaze and copper/blue/silver hair.

I am having fun with little houses as well. This one features a tree and a snowy yard. The windows glow with cheery warmth of the copper iridescence.

Now on to the jewelry...stones are available in many colors from sources all over the world. I prefer to work with synthetics most of the time. My preference is for man made gems that are the real chemical composition as the mined ones but perfect in cut and clarity and color.From the left is a hydrothermal quartz,four CZs and a ruby.

The package tells the story on composition...Ruby Corundum...that means its real...not a simulant but red corundum. It will test as a real ruby and needs to be labeled correctly when it is sold.

Even with the high price of silver it is possible to work with this type of ring. The mounting is less than $20 and the stone...in this case a deep amber cz 15mm round brilliant was $3. It can sell for around $90. The mounting is called a pre-notched, snap set. That means you don't need a setting bur to cut the seat, that has been done for you. You just set the ring on the bottom of the stone on a flat firm surface...

And push straight down until the stone snaps in place.

Once set the tips of the prongs need to be bent over the girdle to secure the stone and to minimize a prong catching. A final polish and cleanup and its ready to sell or adorn your hand. The stone came from http://www.wire-sculpture.com and the mounting from http://www.jamminggems.com

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The little village and other pieces did not get smoked...I had wet the paper in the reduction can too much...I should explain..Raku is a multi step process. First you make the piece in wet clay or cast with slip..liquid clay and dry it. Then its fired once to burnout the impurities in the clay and vitrify the clay. Then its painted with glaze which is like liquid clay with colorants and its fired again. When the glaze is red hot and has flowed its put into a covered container with some type of combustible material and the magic happens....the colors can change into metallic because the oxygen is used up when the 1800 degree clay is laid on the  paper in the reduction chamber( mine is a steel sauce pan with tight lid, this week..Next week I will have a steel garbage can..much more easy to work with).
The hot ceramic sets fire to the paper and burns up the oxygen.
Then the chemical magic happens and well it didn't this time. But I got nice blue and green glaze on the pieces. The blue is supposed to be blue but the green was supposed to be copper? Today's fifing may shed some light on this.

The big head on the right is the only one to change a little but the green faces remind me of maybe garden gnomes or veggie people...Next time I will show you today's firing..warts and all. Its in the reduction chamber right now and I saw smoke!

Here is a little bauble. A 19.80 carat lab ruby I set yesterday. Oh of course someone may purchase this little sparkler..at my etsy shop  www.oscarcrow.etsy.com
 Next time in addition to the ceramics fun we will talk about gems and their imitators. And we will see some pretty stones and talk about mountings.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The series of rings I call the Bowl of Blood are finished. This one looks as if its waving goodbye. I was inspired by the watching of a whole season of True Blood on one weekend this spring before the start of the new season. And now as the season is about to end this coming Sunday..I have run out of bowls. So its time to show you the set and send them off to Etsy for hopefully some new homes.

This little lady inspired me to add a small trim ring under the bowl.

This one seems to be sinking or rising from the blood.

The final piece is my favorite its just as weird as the rest...but something about a bare foot and chubby leg resting in a bowl of blood just tickles me.

Because my life and art are constantly changing and evolving I decided it was time to add some ceramics to the techniques available. I am working with a small electric kiln called a firefly. Its capable of high fire or low in ceramic as well as PMC. So expect to see me fumble along creating in these new media. First up is a series of houses in raku. This little neighborhood is only an inch across the base. It will be glazed and re fired today along with some very nice faces and a heart.

Here is the other view. I also am going to be working up a slip mold for my favorite doll heads and making my own "German style" repros in raku with hopefully metallic glazes. More to follow. Check back later Thursday and I will share what comes out of the kiln.