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  • An E-Mail With Everything I Know About Cold Finishes

    On: July 13, 2017
    In: Community, How To's, Studio Journal
    Views: 2009
     1

     

    Mended Incinerator Top with Pitt Pens and Colored Pencils

     

    The Summer Studio Journal Re-Runs just keep on comin’! This post from August 22, 2012 is essentially a reply to an email query, as you shall see. I have added a few more resources that I have learned of in the past five years, but other than that, it’s a great guide, so here it is:

     

    I don’t get a lot of emails from complete strangers, but after a few years of an active festival, gallery and online presence, I’m starting to.

    Most writers want to share a specific resource, ask an art business question, or even commission me to make something special. I take these conversations as they come and generally enjoy the new connections.

    This one, however, was from a person new to ceramics in a country on the other side of the blue Pacific. The subject line read “admire your work.”

    She explained she was seeking ways to decorate her ceramic sculptures without further firings.  She knew it was called a Cold Finish, but besides paints, she was finding precious little information about it.  She had miraculously stumbled across my work and was wondering how I got my pieces to look like they did. Was any cold finishing involved?

    I sat down to respond to her with a few ideas and out popped the following email, which does an incredibly better job of listing Everything I Know About Cold Finishes than I ever would have written without the compelling urge to help another beginning ceramics enthusiast. It’s one more reason I enjoy ceramics: we are a community of sharers.

    In that spirit, I thought to reproduce the email exactly as I wrote it the other day, with only some added bolding as enhancement. Here it is:

     

    Hello Catherine and thanks for your lovely words!

    Most of my finishes are fired to cone 6 oxidation (electric kiln) but I have a few cold finish techniques I can share with you.

    Sometimes my firing results are close but not quite what I want or I want some added bling.  At those times I have found the following list of products to be useful:

    Sumi Ink and India Ink, brushed into the lines and recesses of a piece and sponged off. Nice!
    Golden Acrylic paints, in thin washes. I especially use Micaceous Iron Oxide which not only has fun tiny mica flecks, but I’ve learned (by accident!) that it will last through a firing….so sometimes I fire it on too.
    Oil paints and watercolors are nice too, but I tend to reach for them less.
    Prismacolor colored pencils: a waxy drier finish which is lightfast and can be layered for subtlety. They won’t slick to glassy glazes and do better over very dry surfaces.

    (Which reminds me: most of these products are lightfast and archival, but probably not for outdoors.)

    Faber Castell makes a line of PITT artist pens which have tiny ink-based pen tips, and large or small brush tips that I use more for changing the tone of an area or linear emphasis. Very nice!
    Amaco makes a range of colored metallic waxes called Rub ‘n Buff which are useful for a bit of gold, silver or even blues, reds and purples, on highlights. Can help with a worn antique look.
    And lastly are two brands that market adhesives and thin gold leaf variations : Old World Art and Magic Leaf. This is if you want a bit of true shiny non-tarnishing gold!

    For a matte sealer, which is to me is better than a shiny clear coat: Delta Ceramcoat Satin Exterior/Interior Varnish. 

    That’s my brain dump. If I think of something else, I’ll send it along. I don’t know if these products can be had locally for you, but online is sure to get you most of them.

    I wish you all the best,
    Liz

    P.S. Most books don’t cover “post-firing” finishes, but I found an excellent discussion in Robin Hopper’s book Making Marks. He also discusses sandblasting, acid etching and cutting elsewhere in that book. There, you have all I know!

     

    And there, you Dear Readers now have it! I would add today that these types of cold finishes are more suited to sculptural work. If you put them on pieces used for food, even on the exterior to avoid possible leaching and toxicity, they will still suffer from the washing.

    Since 2012, I have also discovered an outdoor sealer that doesn’t change the look of unglazed ceramic sculpture or grout: Glaze ‘n’ Seal Waterbase Stone Sealant “Natural Look” Impregnator.

    And, lastly, while they involve another very low temp firing so are technically not Cold Finishes, playing with lusters, china paints and decals is pretty fun and adds a whole other dimension to things.

     

    ~ Liz Crain,  who knows it’s all a work in progress and hopes to be saying “Ancora imparo” – I am still learning – at age 87 as Michelangelo did.

     

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  • Rust as Teacher

    On: June 27, 2017
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 1009
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    ceramic shot-up rusty conetop beer cans

     

    In our Summer Studio Journal Re-Runs, let’s revisit this post from September 1, 2011 which is essentially a paean to the well-examined rusty surface. It seems the more one looks at rust, the more one sees and the deeper the story it tells. Even now, as my work is moving in other directions, the things I have learned from trying to recreate the tastiest rusty surfaces stay with me and continue to whisper. I still relish rust! Let’s see how it began.

    (more…)

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  • Crying “FIRE!”

    On: June 15, 2017
    In: Artmaking, Community, Studio Journal
    Views: 173
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    fire alarm

    We interrupt the Studio Journal Summer Re-Runs for an new post I can’t let wait until September, thanks to the ponderings of my thoughtful virtual clay buddy Carter Gillies. Carter wondered earlier this week about the difference between an artist merely expressing herself in her art and that of her further intending to communicate to others and wishing to be clearly understood by them. A lively discussion ensued about whether being fully understood was even possible and whether it should be definitive in any way and how should an artist feel about it all, especially if understanding seemed to rarely happen?

    (more…)

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  • Figuring Out What an Electric Firing Costs: Update!

    On: June 1, 2017
    In: Artmaking, How To's, Studio Journal
    Views: 1240
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    OverallKilnformula

     

    Here’s a Studio Journal Post that I could probably re-run annually, but am just getting back to after over three years. Boy Howdy, things have changed since its original date of January 18, 2014! I ran the numbers again (they’re the same for the kiln’ s power and firing hours, but keep in mind that older elements make a longer firing time.) The electric rate, however, has increased (shock!) and this kiln of mine now costs 30% more to run. The procedure described here is still the same, but know that the cost reflects a “worst case = most expensive” scenario. I never run my kilns at the highest rate. I am on a Time-of-Use plan and pay close attention to when rates are lowest, usually firing after 8PM. It’s a small habit to develop, but worth it.  Maybe you’re solar-powered or have a home battery system, the point is to know your costs.  So, here’s the original posting to help you figure it out:

    (more…)

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  • Kit Carson and Me

    On: May 18, 2017
    In: Artmaking, Creativity, Studio Journal
    Views: 989
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    Here’s another post from the Archives. (Guess I’m in reruns for the time being.) Originally posted July 12, 2011, it’s a description of what comes alive in the studio as I work and listen to a great book on CD or a radio interview and make further connections to my process and choices. 

    (more…)

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  • Hacking an Ikea Cart

    On: May 4, 2017
    In: Artmaking, How To's, Studio Journal
    Views: 2563
     1
    IkeaCArt5

     

    Recently I saw a couple of these Ikea carts in a small apartment and mentioned this hack to their owner. Then I thought to re-run this post, originally published May 20, 2014. This rolling work surface is still in use and still the most versatile I have. And what with my still tiny studio, I greatly appreciate how I can tuck it out of the way. Some ideas are good for awhile only. This one’s a longterm keeper. Here’s the original post:

    Meet a sweet small Ikea rolling cart. This gray one was bought – a little dented and scratched, but fully assembled and discounted by 40% – in the AS IS section which is by the checkout at most Ikea stores.  It was my second cart and even if I didn’t exactly know how, I knew it would be an asset.  It has found a home rolling around among my three kilns holding my stilts and small props and shelves. Sweet indeed!

    But I really want to tell you about my first Ikea cart, the powdered turquoise one that we appended. (more…)

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  • Spouting Off

    On: April 19, 2017
    In: Artmaking, How To's, Studio Journal
    Views: 364
     1

     

    Drawing of Teapot Spout Fail

    Dripping Spout drawing in “A Potter’s Workbook” by Clary Illian, University of Iowa Press, 1999.

     

    The spouts of functional pouring vessels have to do two things: deliver well and hopefully look pleasing. Stint in either task and ya got problems, some less bothersome than others. And after my last post about the snub-spouted Cube Teapot, it might be manifestly simpler to say that functional spouts really have only one thing to do: pour well, if not flawlessly.

    So what, specifically, goes into a smooth-functioning spout, whether on a teapot, pitcher, ewer or creamer? Yes, style still counts, but for now we will just explore how precise forming affects better function.

    (more…)

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