Thursday, 29 March 2012

More teapots, and matching cups :)

This is the final terracotta teapot of the four I made, just going into the kiln for bisque! This is the biggest of the four, and I had problems with this one due to the length of time I tried to keep it damp so I could work on it. It was harder to impress the circuit board pattern in this one (leather hard is really not ideal) and as a result of all the pressure it was put under and the amount it got sprayed, two of the feet got compression fractures and started to slump. I've tried to fix this by squeezing the clay wall back into shape and smoothing over the cracks, but I won't know if this has worked until it is fired. If it was porcelain it would certainly warp. I really hope this one survives though. The knob on the lid is a new design, it is a shallow dish/bowl form with the idea that it will work like the glaze test bowls and really show off the beautiful effects of the glaze, but again it is also inspired by Japanese roofing with the flared edge, gabling and round ended roof tiles of the pagodas. It might also double as a handy built in tea bag rest!

I've been wanting to do this for a while now. I was originally always more inspired to paint people more than  anything else, as you can paint not just the form and play of light, but more than that the essence of who that person is. This person is a modern Japanese girl. Apparently electric guitars are very popular among high school girls in Japan, and this girl had posted a video of herself on youtube playing an electric guitar while wearing a contemporary styled short kimono and face mask. Many Japanese wear the face mask to protect themselves from pollution, from catching other people's bugs or passing on a cold of their own, to try and help with hayfever, or to make a style statement. "Yankees" (bad, tough, rebellious girls and gangmembers) often wear them to look hard. A lot of Japanese girls who post videos online often cover their faces to hide their identity too. So, it kind of goes with her kimono, which usually I would suggest is wa loli style due to it's short length, but this is not cute, fluffy and girly enough for that, it's far more punky in style. This is how Japanese traditions and cultures are evolving, the geisha who once wore beautiful kimono and played shamisen to entertain at parties are now street wise school girls in customized kimono with electric guitars. The whole thing has taken on a more vibey, urban and electronic feel. I've painted her in porcelain slip using the traditional Japanese style, again with the modern screen print to give that the contemporary twist the subject herself portrays, and put the computer circuitry behind her to emphasise the cyber/electronic influence. The Japanese character to her right is "ki", meaning energy, which I think is what time might really be; the continuous flow and exchange of energy through everything, even ideas.

When I first painted her, she was a little hard to make out, so the outline needed to be emphasized. I didn't want to use slip trailing as I had on the others, as her edges were formed by inward curves, unlike on petals where they were often high points, so I scratched some detail back in through the brush strokes to add some detail without losing the feel of the brush or her form. I found that in the end the red screen print was really what brought her to life by picking out the guitar. The rest of her suddenly became much clearer at that point. The only issue left was that I got her head slightly too big, but that's the risk you take with such immediate techniques where you can't rub things out!

Close up of the circuit board.

You can see the Japanese calligraphy a little clearer here, just right of her knee. I'm really happy with this one, so I can't wait to see what it will come out like when it's fired.

Here's the third of the terracotta teapots, and the only one that I planned out ahead of making (mostly). It is much taller and more slender in shape than the others, giving it a more elegant feel, and has a smaller rounder handle to compliment this. I left the teapot spout join unsmoothed, as I was trying to achieve a torn paper edge effect, and I had been using small bits of clay to help reinforce the cross hatching and slip and fill in any gaps, which were scraped across with a rubber tipped modelling tool and ended up looking rather torn and papery as a result. Basically, just what I was after. After discovering how to get this effect that I'd been searching for, I added it around the feet as well to match the spout. Originally, I tried to give this teapot very wide feet with only a thin shaped slit to echo the shape of the knob on the teapot, but I could not get them all even or looking any way that I was happy with, so they became like the others with tear drop shaped cut outs to refine the appearance a bit. I think that the thin slit was probably just a bad design idea. The teapots also look quite nice before the feet are cut, and are ok with a simple cut out design, but the shape I had chosen to use to make the slit just didn't look good when I tried it. At some point I'm going to make one where I leave the foot ring in tact though..

This was a continuation of the cross hatched surface idea. The first terracotta teapot had the surface slashed after I decided I liked the rough texture I made when joining pieces, so I had contrasting surfaces and a "worn" area on the pot. This time the area is defined into the shape the Japanese use to represent water in the landscape. The design on the top is peonies at various stages of blooming (buds through to wilting). The cross hatching and the peonies are what was planned on paper so that they interacted well compositionally (also, I couldn't decide what would look best anyway!). The shape of the peonies are particularly suited to being portrayed in brush strokes, so it's come out really well, but needed defining with the slip trailing just to define the form clearly. This has given it a really good delicate feel, and the slip trailing has managed to stay put on the terracotta too. I tried to make this design wrap around more of the surface of the pot after people commented about the teapots being very one sided and not considering the other surfaces, to see how the effect changed. I like the design overlapping the lid, and I think it is an improvement that the design wraps around more, as it is now interacting more with the form. The curving composition of the flowers really suits the form.

However, I decided it still needed another flower on the back just to complete the design and not leave huge  empty spaces. I added the character "ai", meaning love, as in manga I often see floating peonies used symbolically in romantic scenes where we would use floating roses.

There was a slight issue with this pot unfortunately. I still can't remove the lid as the fit is so tight. Another time I will know better and sand the hole before I fire it and it jams. So far, I have tried swivelling the lid in an effort to wear the hole down, had sand poured in the gap in order to sand it down more (unfortunately this just jammed it further) and tapped the lid with some wood to try and loosen it. I'll keep trying anyway.

I added only sparse splashes of glaze to this one so they were just accessorising the design and not interacting with it too much. The glaze creates fantastic lines across the surface where it runs, and also really improves the feel of the handle where I covered the grip. In this case, less is definitely more. 

Glaze and print on the handle.

Close up showing the translucent brush marks and slip trailing detail.

Going back to the Wedgwood Museum teapot I made previously, I made two matching cups. At first I couldn't decide whether to leave them plain to allow the teapot imagery to stand out, or whether to create matching surfaces. In the end I went for the matching surfaces to emphasize the main piece. I decided not to add the huge footrings on these that I use for my porcelain cups, as they were not needed to counteract a runny glaze, and I took the opportunity to try the different shape. I also decided against feet as the height would have looked wrong on such a tiny vessel compared to the teapot.

The new ocean deep glaze layered over the new dark gold coloured glaze (still needs a name - any suggestions?), the same as with the bowl I did previously, but this time on one of my teapots. I didn't get the glazes on as thickly as I would have liked, so there is a really thin patch at the back and less gold shimmer than I would have liked. The teal is also much paler. However, the combination of glazes works really well together, and the dark gold prevents the runny flambe from running off the pot. This solves the problem of the shape at the bottom of the pot being obscured or ruined :) Next step - try with the other flambes and develop more colours from the same base glaze.

The handle has warped much less on this teapot (it has only bowed further, which I anticipated) but this is a rarity. I need to learn to control the warping or change the handle design, because I cannot continue to only produce what can be only considered "seconds". There are a few options I can try: I can add molochite to the porcelain body that I use for pulling handles to act as a fine grog to create a kind of infrastructure, or I could create terracotta teapots and coat them in a thin layer of porcelain slip. I already dry the porcelain handles to just beyond leather hard in the handle shape before joining, moving them as little as possible after pulling, and then ensure that they go on perfectly upright so that there are no slight bends that can develop further, and that the centre of gravity in each handle is directly over the join. However, with the reliability of the terracotta, I can now start to investigate more complex handle shapes as I don't have to compensate for warping or a degree of failures in the kiln. Handles that failed before may now work.

The original plan with this teapot was to create a cover to compliment the glazes. It doesn't currently have one, but I do intend to investigate more covered pots. After the previous one, I still want to try crochet flowers on a plain fabric ground to allow the flowers to stand out.

This teapot has been glazed with ocean deep again, but this time the firing did not include a cooling ramp, so the bubbles have not been allowed to escape and the surface has a foamed up texture.

The handle has warped more than I anticipated and gained almost two corners. I'm not too keen on it now, but it will probably grow on me with time as the others that have warped have. What I really can't accept is how the glaze has run over the base and obscured the cut outs and detailing there, but this would be better if the glaze had been soaked longer and not foamed. Firing it again now would just make the running worse however. This kind of base doesn't work well with my flambĂ© glazes at any rate, but I could use a technique similar to the one above to fix this.

The group of terracotta teapots. I love grouping them together, as variety is the spice of life, and they set each other off through the slight variations in form.

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