In order to learn about the world, you must leave your house; In order to learn about the universe, you must leave your galaxy…

Inspiration comes and goes and changes frequently depending on the subject matter I am interested in at the current moment. Presently, I am inspired by the universe. I am inspired not only by the contemplation of its massive expansion and by the magnitude of its wondrous secrets, but by our infinitesimal size in comparison. The universe is larger than any word can describe, and it must be extremely old.

While researching the universe, I think about life; its purpose and its direction. I think about energy and the soul and I think about the possibility of the transference of energy from one body to the next. The universe is constantly moving and fluctuating and exchanging energy over and over, back and forth, circling around and around. In that regard, I wonder about the idea that if the Earth and our solar system is orbiting the sun, and our entire solar system is orbiting a super-massive black-hole and a red giant mass that forms our galaxy, could it be possible that the Milky Way Galaxy, along with the other galaxies in our vicinity, are also orbiting some other gravitational force that is too big and too far away for us to see? And that mass is orbiting an even larger mass, and so on. These ideas of continuous motion and continuous layers are at the beginnings of my recent research.

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Returning to Earth, I’ve begun to look at shapes that appear often in nature and the known universe and I have thus been drawn towards the sphere. The shape is somewhat rare on the small scale, appearing as a bubble, as a fruit and as a flower, but the large scale spheres are my true interest, appearing as a sun, as a planet and as a meteoroid hurling itself through space. I will additionally be looking at circles and spirals, all of which revolve around a central axis and are relatable to spheres.

By looking at these (terrestrial) forms; how they were created, their layers, the amount of time and energy used for their creation, I am looking forward to the testing phase. I intend to begin with material exploration to find specific materials that will layer and fire somewhat successively in a cone 6 firing. I will be exploring casting methods and molds to find the most appropriate way to build successful and efficient spheres. As I begin to dig deeper with my research, I foresee a gradual evolution of ideas and do not wish to speculate on the eventual size or make-up of this work.

The link below will take you to a visual representation of my inspirations for this work.

Link to Wonderful Possibilities

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Spring 2014! Whoo! Let’s See What I Can Blow Up

For Ceramics 2 in spring 2014, I plan on preforming many experiments with materials and form. Previously, I was working with the figure, and while that served as a conduit between an emotional state and a physical state, I would like to move away from the figure, at least temporarily, so that I may dig deeper into the aesthetics of the materials themselves.

My subject matter will focus on negative space and the multitude of boundaries that we surround ourselves with. I will be keeping the content of my work simple, in order to really focus in on the fine details of the subject matter, which will hopefully lead to an improvement of my work.

To begin, I will be making and testing a cone 6 casting slip that will be versatile and can be used in a multitude of ways. The slip recipe I found contains soda ash, barium carbonate, KT OM4 Ball clay, KT #1 Tennessee ball clay, talc and sodium silicate. Although I haven’t tested it, I have heard that talc and soda ash will not react to each other the way I want (lots of orange and grey colors), so I plan on substituting the talc for frit.

I purchased five pieces of vermiculite board, which can withstand temperatures of 2102˚F, as well as ceramic brake caliper lubricant, which can withstand temperatures of 3000˚F, and I plan on dividing the fifth piece of vermiculite board into smaller pieces so that I can test if the lubricant will release soda ash, casting slip or possibly glass or other materials from the vermiculite board. This testing will allow me to then plan my large scale sculptures.

I currently have several sketches that I will be working from for this semester. I would like to create pieces that have deliberate negative space within cavities and crevices that are formed by materials that will burn out in the kiln. First, I would like to work with blue Styrofoam that I will be shaping and then stacking within a closed off space (vermiculite board) which will then be filled with casting slip and put in the kiln. This piece will be depicting the positive shape that is created within a negative shape.

After I test the first piece, I will then be able to move on to more complex shapes and ideas. I would really like to focus on finishing each piece by making professional bases that will bring a sense of completion to the sculpture. I plan on completing three experimental sculptures, each focusing on the reaction of different materials within differently arranged spaces.

Design and Production: cast wood grain

So here is the third casting after I forgot to take a picture of it and I cut it apart for test tiles (and so I could see the layers on the inside, to see if there was any hidden pockets of air. Which there wasn’t) the print of the wood came out really nicely, but you can see the big air bubble in the lower right quadrant.

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Here are some close-ups of the wood grain print.

I’m pretty happy with how the grain came out. I used a stiff wire brush to rough up the surface of the wood so that the varying textures would show through more. The wood itself is pretty soft which helped with bringing out the grain.

Design and Production: mold making

For Design + Production, I have narrowed down my project to an appetizer plate that I will be slip casting, using Andrew Martin’s cone 10 porcelain slip cast recipe. We just had a follow up meeting with the folks at a tavola, a restaurant on Main street in New Paltz, and I have tweaked my design slightly and have thus, landed on my final prototype.

Here are some of the molds I made for the plate:

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This is the mold of the first foot I built. I wanted the look of hammered brass (which are on the short sides) because of the light fixtures above the bar. I’ve kept it on the third variation, but made it less noticeable. I’ve also changed the shape of the foot, making it round and the sides are much rounder too, not quite so square.
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This is the first mold I made.  I am using a wood block to create the shape of the inside of the plate and to create surface decoration, as the grain of the wood will transfer to the surface of the clay. Here all of the sides of the wood block are square, I have since rounded them out to prevent the corners of the tray from getting chipped.

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These are the first two castings (white) and my very first prototype (pink). I used the usual slip casting method with the first casting, but had to pour it in layers, which ended up not working and looking strange and the wood didn’t touch sections of slip and I had to add more to the mold. Once I pulled the wood out,  I pressed burlap fabric into the surface because a lot of the top layer of slip had pulled up where there were air bubbles. It looked kind of weird so I decided not to do it again.

The second casting went better, I poured in all of the slip at once, using enough to push the slip up the edges of the mold with the (weighted) wood block, hence, casting the plate solid. That seemed to work better, but I still got air bubbles and the print of the wood just wasn’t clear enough.

So for the third casting, I poured all the slip I needed for a solid casting into the mold, and I painted the slip onto the surface of the wood and rocked the block from one end to the other. And it worked! There was one residual air bubble, but the grain came out quite clear.

I would have added a photograph of that casting, but I forgot to take a picture of it before I cut it apart for test tiles…

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This is after I adjusted the shape of the wood. The edges are rounded and I beveled the underside which will change the inside shape of the plate.

Throughout the process, I have adjusted my technique several times with different parts of the plate. For example, casting slip is kind of a tricky substance and requires some finagling in order for it to work semi-problem free. I had to try three different ways of putting the slip and the wood into the plaster mold, before it would leave a good imprint of the wood grain on the slip and without leaving separation lines or air bubbles. In the end, I managed to make a pretty damn good casting of it because of the suggestion from my professor to paint the slip onto the grain of the wood before pressing it into the slip inside the mold.

There is a lot of trial and error with this production process, and I enjoy working this way for the problem-solving aspect, although I have been finding it difficult to settle on an idea. It seems like there is always something that could be changed.

Design and Production: glaze testing!!!

 

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For these a tavola appetizer plates, the customer wants earthy tones, dark reds, browns, etc. so I thought I could color the casting slip with mason stains to get a orange/brown hue that would accent the color of the glaze and make the client happy. I tried two brown mason stains in different amounts to see what might look best. They looked sorta purple while green and bisqued and I was hoping the magic of ceramics would turn them brown in reduction, unfortunately, neither came out brown or orange, but a weird greeny-grey. I’ll have to go back to the drawing board and do more testing. I also want to experiment using underglazes and stains to see if I can get a good result from that instead.

Production Work

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For the last few weeks, my Ceramics Design and Production class (D+P) has been going through the motions of designing tableware, barware and décor for a local eatery called A Tavola (which loosely translated means “come and get it”). They specialize in Italian cuisine and appreciate a family-esque-like atmosphere.  So these are some test tiles that I made for the class. A Tavola has a rustic Italian feel so I used brown and yellow slip and then sgraffito’d different Italian inspired motifs. I’ve recently glaze fired these test tiles and they don’t look so good. Hopefully the finished product will work out better, I’ll have to do more testing.

First day of wet work

I’ve FINALLY begun working on my sculpture project. I’m working with a new claybody that was suggested to me by another grad student. It starts out grey and when fired, turns white.017 019 020

These photos were taken after about 5 hours of work.