The Process


One of a kind platter with embossing embossing on a one-of-a-kind platter
extruded coils on a decorative plate extruded coils on a decorative plate
You can see how the stain has settled in every crevice Stain has settled in every crevice
A finished piece that has been burnished A finished piece that has been burnished

Embossing the Clay

Letterpress type used to emboss the clay Old letterpress type used to emboss the clay

My friend Gubby gave me a bucket full of broken lead type from a printing press years ago. Now that type has found its way into my work. I use this type to emboss the clay, creating abstract patterns on the surface. With a series of upside down or backwards letters and punctuation I can cover a pot with texture.

Found objects and tools can make interesting marks Found objects and tools can make interesting marks

Every day items like cake decorating tips, pastry cutters, chain, or found things like railroad rocks, coral, and even a wasp's nest when used to emboss a pot create interesting pattern. When I can't find something to make a mark I am interested in, I bend metal scraps into embossing tools.

Extruding

Hand-held extruder used to make coils Hand-held extruder used to make coils

This handheld extruder is loaded with clay. When plunged, a coil about 10" long and the width of a toothpick is extruded. I roll up hundreds of spirals in a variety of sizes each day. The surface of the pot is scored and each spiral is carefully pressed on one at a time.

Staining

The cup on the left has no stain, the cup in the right is stained. The cup on the left has no stain, the cup in the right is stained.

After the pots are fired for the first time they are stark white. Much of the texture is lost to the eye. I mix a stain using dark, dry clays. This is thinned with water and then washed over each pot. The porous nature of the raw bisque sucks the stain into the embossed marks and every scratch on the surface. The stain is then wiped off leaving all the details full of the dark blue stain.

Burnishing

A piece being burnished with a metal rib A piece being burnished with a metal rib.

If the smooth surface of the clay is compressed it will absorb less of the stain. By burnishing parts of the surface, the clay will have a striated look, adding texture to an area where there are no coils or embossing. (see cup above for example of stained burnish marks)

Glazing

A piece being glazed A piece being glazed.

When adding the bright colors to my pots I use the embossed lines or coiled edges to demarcate colored glaze from clear. The detailed parts of the pot are painted with clear glaze to allow texture emphasized by the stain to show through. The burnished part of the pot is coated with transparent color so its texture can be seen as well.

All Done!

A completed teapot A completed teapot

This completed piece integrates all of the above techniques. See more examples that use these creative techniques in the shop!