Tuesday, December 13, 2011

To Glaze or Not to Glaze?

The surface of ceramics has always been the biggest draw to me. I started working in ceramics to play with glaze surfaces. I ran into something of a brick wall when, reaching my glaze goals (randomness, peacefulness, an “untouched” look) I realized I was focusing on a square centimeter or so of a piece and losing the bigger picture. My BU colleague Batu Siharulidze saved me from despair with the simple sentence, “the details always show the hand of God,” meaning that the challenge is in making the bigger piece and holding it all together.

So, to glaze or not to glaze? I’ve had a few good moments:

Glaze zones

Paleolithic Tool Closeup

Gorgeous Glaze Moment

but were these any better than what I could accomplish by non-glaze methods?

Pebble and Oxides on Terracotta

Radioactive Flower

Clay Knob

Where the Hand Squeezed

So I started asking the question: If it’s not a vessel why does it have to be glazed?

The past few months I’ve been playing with different surfaces, latex paint, oil paint, and oxides, with varying success. Then yesterday I wandered into Batu’s studio. I had just helped him fire some big pieces and he was demonstrating to students how to put a non-glaze finish on a sculpture. It was gorgeous.

He took asphaltum (thick as molasses…in fact I bet you could use molasses!) and mixed it with terps. Brushed it on in a couple of thin layers, then applied butcher’s wax, touched it with a torch, painting all the while, and finally buffed it to a semi-shine. Wow! I think I still have a lot to learn.

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