Sunday, 4 March 2012

Small Plaque - The Long Journey to Completion

A long time ago (in fact almost exactly two years ago!) I made a small stoneware plaque. At the time I was inspired by a tree motif in a series of illustrations and paintings I was working on. You can read the blog post here. Even then I mentioned I wasn’t sure how I was going to glaze the finished piece. So I put it aside to think about. Since then, although the plaque was subsequently bisque fired, the poor thing sat in a drawer for ages waiting patiently for me to decide.

In one incarnation I planned to raku fire the plaque using a simple white crackle glaze for the background and either glazing the tree green or leaving it carbon black. But believe it or not, despite all the raku firings in the past couple of years, there simply wasn’t room or time between raku orders and stock replacement for me to pop the plaque into the kiln! Unfortunately the poor thing wasn’t a priority in all the flame and sawdust, so it never happened.

My next plan was to reduction fire the piece using a gas kiln. I thought about using a white or clear glaze with wax resist on the tree to highlight the design, creating a speckled effect under the glaze and a dark toasted brown on the unglazed areas. But then, would you believe it, the gas kiln broke! In fact the gas kiln was out of action for many months last year for various reasons. It all began with a misfire caused by a power cut (the controls and safety switch are electric) which plunged the pottery studio into darkness, wheels spinning slowly to a stop. Let’s just say this event ‘coincided’ with the setting-up of the stage and cabling for last year’s Isle of Wight Festival...(!) Anyway, yet again, poor little plaque didn’t get glazed.

Then a couple of months ago I found the forgotten little plaque wrapped in tissue in a drawer; bisque fired but looking quite forlorn. So I made a decision: stick to something simple! I used a mixture of oxides (iron, cobalt and manganese oxides in equal parts) and brushed this into the tree design, wiping back with a damp sponge. Then I took a wide flat brush loaded with plain white glaze and simply ‘swiped’ over the top. Done! Fired in an electric kiln in oxidation and finished at last! You can see the different stages of making – from painting to finished plaque – in the photos at the top of the post. What the photos don’t show is the complicated, logistically chaotic and random stuff that sometimes goes on in the background when you try to made decisions about glazing!