Monday, March 21, 2011

Jim Romberg: Clay is his Canvas

For our first Raku workshop on March 13th, I introduced Paul Soldner's "halo" technique, utilizing Jim Romberg's white engobe recipe he demonstrated at the Phoenix workshop last month. I even showed the results on some bottles I fired in Phoenix. The technique strikingly highlights brush marks or other designs with a soft halo on a black background. I particularly love the effect, it is subtle but effective.

Jim is using the technique implicitly in his own artwork. Never at the forefront, it is however present in many of his designs as another effect in his layering of glazes, engobes, and oxides. I had the amazing opportunity to see him demonstrate his design technique on a plate.

Tall vase by Jim Romberg

Signature Plate

To aid in his work, Jim has accumulated over the years a huge collection of brushes, both commercial and handmade. The latter is a whole tale in itself (and Jim likes to talk !), so let's just say that skunks and other furry animals gave a few of their tails for Jim's cause. I have to admit they hold the engobes and oxides quite well and they slide on the clay very well. Gonna have to look in the canyon in the backyard one of these days...

A true collection of brushes

Jim always starts with a white foundation using his "dry engobe" recipe. The layer is thin but enough to cover imperfections in the clay. Though white, the unglazed engobe will absorb the smoke during postfiring reduction and turn black. The engobe quickly dries, thus setting up a clay canvas for Jim to work on. Watching him create patterns is fascinating. It is quite obvious that he is seeing the final product as he is laying down masking tape, oxide layers and brush marks. For us it looked raw and intriguing. I wish I had a picture of the final plate, post firing. Everything showed off quite nicely, and he refused to sell the piece.

50/50 iron/copper oxides application
Lungs of steel !
Knowing when to stop !

Decorating a plate was only a small part of what Jim demonstrated at the workshop. But it had a huge impact on my approach to Raku design. There is definitely more to Raku than just glazes, and it takes a true artist like Jim to combine the basic ceramic building blocks and create abstract works of art. It was an extraordinary lesson, thank you Jim !

1 comment:

  1. Can't agree with you more! His technique and process is deceptive, it looks simple but is incredibly complex. It is great to have him here in the Southwest and always available.