Sunday, February 27, 2011

Making baked potatoes...

I don't remember who coined the term, but that's what Eduardo Lazo called it during his demo of ferric chloride saggar. It was a fun distraction from the Raku firings, and the processis is very simple and stepwise. Like a cooking recipe ! So let's make some baked potatoes, shall we ?

Eduardo making his baked potato

1) bisqued pots, either burnished or with terra sigillata
2) solution of copper sulfate
3) solution of ferric chloride (Radioshack sells one)
4) spray adhesive
5) aluminum foil
6) organic/inorganic matter: horsehair, rock salt, steelwool, sugar, oxide powder, seeds, cut flowers,...whatever you feel like trying

1) paint the pots with the copper sulfate solution
2) cut a piece of aluminum foil, big enough to wrap around your pot. Make a ball then gently flatten it back. The purpose is to crinkle it so it creates air pockets around the pot.
3) spray the adhesive lightly on one face of the foil and add the organic/inroganic matter of choice, in any pattern you want. The adhesive will keep most of it in place.
4) paint the pot generously with ferric chloride and wrap it with the foil, like a baked potato. That's your saggar.
5) Fire in a gas kiln, between 1000F to 1500F in 1 to 2 hours. Both the firing time and the firing temperature can affect the colorations.
6) Cool slowly in the kiln to let the colors develop, overnight being optimum.
7) Sponge the ashes off the cold pots and let them dry for two days to let the colors settle. Then wax/treat the pots. Renaissance wax is the best for high-end waxing. For a matte finish, use a light dusting with a matte acrylic spray then wax.

At the workshop, because of time constraints, Eduardo opted for a speed firing (1350F in 1h, cooling to 200F in 3h), and frankly we had some good results. But take a peek for yourself, that's what I brought back home.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Isn't spraying fun ?!!

Hazmat Face
Last day of the workshop was ferric chloride day, or FeCl3 for the chemist in you. Eduardo Lazo was leading the charge. On the first day of the workshop, we all glazed a piece with a low-fire glossy clear glaze and they were fired overnight.
First thing on Sunday morning, all the pieces were loaded into the Raku kiln. Firing was slow, about 2 hours, up to glaze maturity. When it was about time to stop the firing, the "sprayers" had to suit up appropriately to handle the corrosive ferric chloride solution. In my case, double layers of gloves (nitrile gloves, heat-resistant gloves), a respirator and sunglasses.
The hot piece was taken out of the kiln and placed on a soft block on top of a banding wheel. The "sprayer", placed upwind (IMPORTANT FOR SAFETY), started applying the solution holding the sprayer upright, while slowly rotating the piece.

The ferric chloride gradually colored the outside layer of the glaze a yellow/orange color. The hotter the ware the darker the color. In my case I waited about 30 seconds before starting spraying, resulting in an orange coloration. Once a metallic luster appears, spraying is done.

The piece is then transfered to a reduction chamber. I prepared mine by lining sides and bottom with newspaper and adding a handful of wood shavings on the bottom. Once the piece was placed in the chamber, I added some more wood shavings in the inside of the pot for some good smoking of the unglazed inside. Because the piece had cooled off considerably during the spraying, I had to start the flames by fanning the chamber vigorously. Once the flames start to consumme the combustibles, time to close the chamber for some good ol' smoking.

Once the piece was mostly cool, it was cleaned up with a soft brush and water to remove the ashes. Beautiful !!!

The final piece

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Raku Rodeo was an experience of a lifetime

Reduction Firing
Three days of Raku bliss under the Arizona sun ! I am finally back home, but my head is still in Phoenix, at the friendly Desert Dragon studio managed by Mishy and Kim. I learned so much, my head is swirling with ideas. I am slowly distilling Jim's, Steve's and Eduardo's lessons and looking at ways to include them in my work.
I have to say I was a good student. I spent those three days completely out of my comfort zone. I ignored the Raku glazes to experiment with stannous chloride fuming (Kosai), ferric chloride treatments, and commercial low-fire and medium-fire glazes in Raku firings. It was exhilarating ! No fear, complete freedom of expression. Jim's demos were also a true eye-opener. How he is literally using clay as a canvas, free-styling his compositions yet controlling his medium from throwing to post firing alterations. He truly inspired me to try out brushwork and slip decorations with minimum glazing.
Steve Branfman, Eduardo Lazo, and Jim Romberg are an amazing trio. Don't pass up on a chance to attend one of their workshops, it is an experience of a lifetime. Guaranteed ! Ask Mishy at Desert Dragon Studio when's the next one !
I have tons of pictures and almost an hour of videos. Going through everything will take time. I also need to take some good shots of my wares so I can share the end results with you. Expect multiple posts as I revisit the long week-end with my digital memories. For now I will end with pictures of the Raku masters in action.

The masters at work

Jim pulling his plate

Steve pulling his teabowl

Steve trimming his trademark bottle

Jim doing some heavy duty altering

Eduardo in his Zen zone

Eduardo ready for "fuming"

Mishy entertaining the crowd

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gallery 21 Small Image Show

So you missed the reception (January 29th), but you can still catch the show at the Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park until February 21st, from 11 am to 4pm daily.
I stopped by on the 8th to discover a wide selection of media covered: ceramics, photography, painting, collage, glass, sculpture among others. I was impressed by the quality of the work. But what really made me proud is that two of my artist friends won first place in their own category. Congratulations to ceramic artist Sue Bakely and glass artist Vicki Leon !

To view their work follow this link: spanish village center blog