Subject Reflection

imageOver the course of my degree, I have learnt that my interest lies in geometries. I thrive in the satisfaction of transforming a lump of squidgy clay into a collection of angular Tessellating shapes. The manifestation of my ideas evolved from linear patterns to geometries. I began to decorate 3D slab constructed vessels with optical illusions, and was very concerned with the surface. The theme that remained the same right from the start of the year was my production of Interlocking forms. I began first by making 3D tangrams. This then of course evolved to Tessellating tiles. It was vital for me, that the tiles created an optical illusion which submerges the audience into an enhanced, dreamy mood. I am delighted at how my ideas developed as it has enabled me to go down a completely new avenue of creating wall pieces that can be both an installation in a gallery or functional bespoke tiles.
It was essential that I used cobalt blue stain in the making of the slips, the colours are all cool and refreshing, adding to the enhanced mood I wish to give the audience. They also had to be satisfying to look at, so they all combine well, with no two colours touching each other. This was very enjoyable for me as I had chosen these specific colours and was pleased with the outcome when it came to composing them on the wall. I am truly happy with physical outcome of my idea development. I am my own worst critic so for me to say the more I look at my tiles the more I like them is something!

Creating these tiles required me to step outside of my comfort zone, it had always been my wish to creat such smooth straight shapes, and in order to do that o felt my best option was to make plaster moulds of laser-cut Perspex shapes. A positive of this it that I had worked in the plaster room quite a lot in the previous academic year, creating my building blocks moulds and making slip casted spoons. However, I had never used illustrator before and hadn’t really stepped foot in the soft modelling workshop during my degree. I was actually quite nervous about doing this as I don’t see myself as a “digital person” and felt I would make silly mistakes. Worries aside, I did it, and I’m glad I used this digital approach… Not only were the soft modelling technicians incredibly helpful, I was surprised at how relatively easy the process was. In my head I was making a bit of a mountain out of a mole hill!
Moreover, I have gained a new skill and I will definitely be progressing with more designs on illustrator after I graduate. Is also worth noting that I’ve mastered my finishing techniques; a process I will stick by in the future: spend time making quality, pristine moulds. The neater that are the less work you have to do later on the castes article. Even with lovely moulds, I had to sand all my tiles after bisque, to keep their sharp appearance which for me was so critical in the composition, as the tiles will slot together smoothly, lending to the 3D illusion. To my delight the final kiln firing was a success without any breakages, I was like the Cheshire Cat when I unloaded my kiln!

The contextual research which helped pave the manifestation of my ideas had a lot to do with two things, architecture and colour. Interestingly, my trip to Rajasthan in Level 5 provided a massive source of inspiration for me, it was truly an assault to the senses, and the variety of beautiful architecture has been stamped in my memory. The most inspiring source of deign were indeed the step wells. The repetition of steps continuing downwards in an inverted pyramid was so satisfying for me to observe; the continuation of steps re,indeed me of Escher’s impossible landscapes which then resulted in me looking at Reutersvard’s 2D impossible shapes. This was the seed which planted my interest in optical illusions .
I must say it took me a while to work out where my original source of inspiration came from for the degree show; I had to retrace my steps. Going through my photographs on Instagram helped me discover my trail of inspiration; it provided a timeline of condensed research. This tied with our blogs set the scene; I would often go back to posts I wrote a few years ago, and it’s amazing how relevant some of them are to my current work.
Lastly, but not least, colour was key. Whilst I was creating certain colours- Celadon, Prussian Blue, Puce and Ultramarine- I realised how much I thrive in deciding what colours go together, and there significance- both culturally and psychologically. For example, green is known as being a calming colour, reducing eye fatigue which an be caused by looking at red – hence the reason why hospitals are full of green floors and surgeons often wear scrubs of that colour. The fascination I have for colour and the stories behind each one encourages me to explore and research them more after I graduate; retaining an emphasis on my colour palette in future projects.

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Hexagonal mould troubles

I have just about had enough of the plaster room, after making my hexagon mound three times, I was hoping it would be third time lucky: I would successfully take the epoxy resin backed Perspex fronted hexagon out of the second part of my two piece plaster mould.

imageBut this did not happen. It just wouldn’t release, I used compressed air gun, water, I’d even spread a thin layer of engine oil onto the piece prior to moulding. Had it been earlier on I the year, I would have tried casting this complex shape using a different material.. But I have made an executive decision to put this aside and concentrate on making tile with the mounds I already have. I justified it with the fact that I would have to learn to use a new material such as silicon or using a CNC machine; and at the moment my knowledge lies with plaster. Time is of the essence and at this point of the year I need to go with what I know.

IMG_6022On a positive note, if I hadn’t designed this shape, I wouldn’t have had my 3 separate rhombuses as a result of being the shapes pushed out of hexagon during laser cutting. Also, I am very happy with how the tiles I have are looking, so I don’t feel I need another shape in the composition anyway.

Optical Illusion Tiles Progress

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My journey in creating optical illusion tiles began with drawing out the design directly onto slabs of terracotta. I then created different shades of slip with the use of iron oxide to colour each section: bringing the illusions to life. Although this was fairly rudimentary, it was a start and I was very excited by the possibilities looming.

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The next step involved me stepping outside of my comfort zone. I challenged myself with laser cutting Perspex shapes to then cast, resulting in a press mould. This would mean I’d get the same shape tile every time, and saves me a lot of hours measuring out designs into clay slabs.

I am now able to use illustrator in the future as a vital part of the design process, furthermore, I am comfortable using the laser cutter as a method to cut out precise shapes.

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For my first outcome, I’m pretty happy with these. They have a flat surface, and that’s thanks to using pespex as the original I material I casted. They need some work, I want them to be sharper, pointier, however as a start I am very happy, and this project has a lot of potential. The next stop for me is to develop the moulds into two parts, making the tile production. Slip casting process.

In my head I have a picture of what I want he tile collection to look like, I just need to hone in on my technical skills in order to make this a reality.img_4554

After completing the final phase of glazing, I have decided that I definitely want to use the spray gun to apply glaze. I know this extremely early on in the process to be making this final decision, but I know that it will lend to the optical illusion idea, I think brush marks will take away from this giving the tiles too much of a painterly, rustic look. I am very happy with the choice of colour though, I am of course going to carry on using blue, it’s my favourite colour do with with in ceramics, so my next task is to develop particular colours.

I am keen to go down the encaustic tile root and make coloured slips. This is an old tradition in  tile making and ensures that when I sand tiles after bisque firing them, the colour will be all the way through, so I won’t be sanding away any patterns, only revealing them.

 

Reflecting on our field module

Creating the terracotta puzzle centre piece and spoons as part of the interior design group project ‘Fo[u]r Rooms’ was a significant point in my ceramics journey, I learnt a lot about what I like and how I work best…

This project taught me that I work more efficiently when I have a brief to stick to and a deadline looming. Also when I have a team relying on me, if I don’t pull my own weight, I’m not just letting myself down, but the whole team. Also how essential it is to plan things in advance and managing your time to ensure everything is done in time for presentations, installations and meetings, not just for ‘hand in”. Moreover, I think because we didn’t just draft a concept and pitch it to our field group lecturers, we felt a greater sense of satisfaction in our work… We actually made everything and put it in a real space, where people actually worked! We all improved our presentation skills too which of course will be a useful asset in whatever job sector we end up working in after we graduate.

I want to carry on to develop my skills in slab construction and slip casting. I know now that I thrive in making angular objects, things with straight lines, things that fit together with each other. Maybe it’s the smoothness I find satisfying, or it’s because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. But then, I like mixing things up by scratching into a would’ve been smooth surface, adding digital images or sponging on slip to a perfect cube to achieve a very tactile finish.

Moving forward with my ideas, skills and context

 

One of the people working at the Stradling gallery brought to light about “the whole dilemma about makers, they make things which are tactile. I think when a maker makes something most of the time they’re not thinking well maybe it’s going to be on a shelf and never be touched again.”

It’s very important that my objects are picked up and handled. I want people to feel an emotion. Even if they don’t like it!

My next step from simply responding to the materiality of clay and its capacity to record the activity of sitting etc was to appy actions of resting to thrown forms. This of course lends a more thought out and skilled approach to the concept; as I haven’t just recorded an action in clay straight out of the bag or that’s been rolled out; I’ve made an object with a particular shape to be misshaped through an act of resting.

It’s then this mishap of the pot, which I want to incorporate in the handling of the pot. So if I made a dent in a vessel through a particular action; where pressure pushed against the clay would have pushed another part of the pot out. This would be where people pick up the pot.

I want to govern where the pot is misshaped and to what angle; so it can be used as a mug. This leads to me researching the ergonomics of a mug/ cup. So my idea has evolved from chair to comfort to mug. I believe this is a circle more than anything though, as when one drinks a warm drink they normally do so sitting down. It’s that notion of one sitting in a chair, in the gallery, admiring the Ken Stradling collection, whilst drinking a cup of tea.

So I need to spend more time on the wheel; and explore more textures to accentuate the areas of pressure applied to my pot. I want to explore warmth. For example the heat distribution when one sits on a chair and gets up off it. Another person would sit down on it and it will still be warm- in some parts. Maybe I could create pots with varying thickness; the heat transfer is different depending on where one holds the mug.

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This is a photograph from my instagram, of a porcelain jug I’ve made. See how where I have pinched in has made a pourer and an area for one to hold the jug.

Materials involved in creating pots

Thought I’d do a post reflecting my knowledge so far in understanding glazes…Normally I make ceramic pieces with white St Thomas, it’s a very flexible clay body and has quite a broad firing range, meaning I can be pretty adventurous when it comes to glazing.

Talking about glaze, I recently made a blue/green glaze from one of Spencer’s (a fellow 2nd year) recipes.

It consisted of pot ash feldspar, whiting, tin, titanium and copper.

I wanted to do a bit of research into the properties of ceramic glazes; as I haven’t really looked at the chemistry behind them. Whilst researching, I found a short, informative video by a man called John Britt on the 3 key components of a ceramic glaze: refractories, fluxes and glass formers.

I then tried to work out which ingredient of the recipe was what component… I think that

Pot ash, also known as potassium feldspar is the flux. The flux is an accelerating agent meaning it speeds up the reactions of chemicals in a reaction.

Whiting aka Calcium carbonate, is it’s name suggests a whitener. Its job is to make the glaze more opaque.

Titanium (I used titanium dioxide) is for crystallising the surface, which in turn makes beautiful patterns in the glaze; much nicer than a plain one in my opinion.

And last, but not least, is Copper. I used black copper oxide and a touch more than what the recipe stated, therefore

the glaze came out more of a richer green (on the whole; there were areas on some of my pots with specks of sky blue). This makes sense as if the copper makes up for over 5% of the glaze, green colours develop. However anything below is more bluey. And, excitingly, if this glaze were put in a reduction (less oxygen present) firing, vibrant red hues could be present!