Another long overdue post... this one about the 2 weeks we spent in the Ceramics department just before Christmas (I told you it was overdue!)
We were working with a porcelain based paperclay - paperclay is more forgiving for beginners like us since any air trapped in the clay can find its way out along the paper fibres during firing, rather than expanding and causing the piece to shatter or break in the kiln.
I spent quite a bit of time finding out how thin I could roll the clay - quite thin here...
... but rolling it out between layers of oiled clingfilm means you can get it really very thin!
Pushing clay through a sieve gave a really interesting texture, although it was then incredibly difficult to handle without crushing.
These pieces were all glazed with a clear glaze applied in the spray booth. That was fun... the spray is quite high pressure and some of my pieces were so lightweight it was difficult not to fire them across the room!
We also had a go at raku firing. The pieces were biscuit fired first in the kiln, then we glazed them with a special raku glaze. For the raku firing we used a small kiln built from fire bricks, lined with ceramic fibre and heated with a gas torch.
The firing takes about 30 minutes. Once the pieces were glowing orange we removed them from the kiln (using tongs!) and plunged them straight into a bin full of sawdust, throwing in handfuls of extra sawdust to cover them and extinguish any flames - very smoky, this bit - and left them to cool.
Any areas left unglazed - like the inside of this vessel - are blackened by the raku firing.
Removing the pieces from the kiln while they are so hot puts a tremendous strain on them. This vessel had a join around the middle which almost cracked under the strain - fortunately it held together and has been left with a rather nice metallic black line along the join.
I was a teeny bit more adventurous with the colour on this one, and I do like the way the purple has come out.