I was supposed to post these pictures up after the bowls made its debut. Here are the ceramic cups made out of red clay, assignments from the same class I had in spring '08. For this assignment, students are suppose to make at least six cups. However, I made nine cups just in case any of them crack or shrink too much after firing. I selected six out of the nine cups I made here for my professor to judge for our final scores. The cups are judge on its proportion in size, its handles and its base. The design also has to be intentional. If a cup's handle is made to fit two fingers, it should fit 2 fingers. If it's between a two or three fingers, then it would make a weak statement.
Unequal thickness around the cup will cause it to crack when its put to firing. The cup has to be completely dry a day before it goes into the kiln so that to avoid being too wet. That means, preparing ahead of time is always best when your professor is as non-negotiable as mine. And it's also important to keep the clay free of air bubble before shaping it on the wheel or else the cup will burst while in the high temperature kiln, which might break other pieces that are also in the kiln. So kneading the clay like bread dough is essential to keep the air bubble out but it is never a guarantee. Yup, a lot of muscle is needed for this job.
After firing, students are also judge on glazing, which is the hardest to do. Raw glaze look like toothpaste. It will state what the color it is but the color in the jug look nothing like what it says. The jug may said the color is green but it look like white. So it's always hard to imagine how it would appear after firing or worse, how the mixed color would turn out after applying two to three layers on. All the glaze before firing look like white paste once you apply and the consistency is very texture and runny but dries up very quickly. Some students mix colors to emphasize or de-emphasize certain parts of the cup to create a more interesting visual effect but it's always a guessing game unless you have done some experiment before hand.
If you find the pieces below look rough because it look porous or brittle, you are right. Red clay is mixed with fine sand to make harder earthenware, which is the sand you use for your hermit crab. The smoother ceramic pots or tablewares you find in Ikea or Crate & Barrel are made of grey clay. They are either porcelain or whitewares. These types are smoother, not so brittle because it contains very little amount of sand.
Why we are using red clay you may ask? Because it is important for us to know how people of ancient times use clay to form their earthenware. Many cultures,mostly warmer countries make earthenware to store their food and water for consumption and this is a good indication of civilization. Isn't it interesting we are doing it the way people are making clay objects in the past? Of course with advance technology and electricity, such like the kiln and wheel, we have it the easier way. Even with so many resources on hand, it is still difficult to imitate the ancient pieces we see in the museum, especially the Warrior Jug from South America, dating as far back as pre-Columbian time (will be in next post). How do these people get their inspiration? How do they fire their earthenware? How do they know how much amount of sand and clay to mix and to form what they want?
And you might wonder, how does this class pertain to my Art Nouveau journey? First it is important for every major and every career in the arts stream to understand the origin and basic method to create 3-dimensional designs. Secondly, unlike what others may think, graphic designers also do packaging. Whether it is packaging for food, water, paper, luxury items, you name it. Clay does make a difference and it catch your attention creating a bigger impression than plastic that is mainstream.
Just to give you an example, I may want to design packaging for my essential oils, using clay to form the bottles. When designing the shape of the bottle, a graphic designer has full control of the overall packaging impression. If the packaging is inspired by floral designs, the bottle has to look rounder with softer lines. Or I may want to create kettles and cups for my tea company inspired by Japanese tea ceremony theme. The kettle would have to be edgier with more classic lines. Then the rest of the packaging, such that color and boxes can be designed around it.
I've had so much fun making them. Although this ceramic class require so much attention and time, I wouldn't trade anything in the world for this experience. It has made me more patient and it kept me very focus. Well, hope it will interest you as much as it did to me! I had so much fun making them, hopefully I'll be able to create bigger pieces next time!
For Malaysians out there, if you ever go to Ipoh and find that the famous earthenware is too expensive, think again! All my flower pots at home are at least three times more than what it cost in Ipoh. Isn't it funny how we don't really appreciate what we have back home until we left? Now I have to pay the price. I paid three times more for all my imported pots... and they are from Malaysia!