Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Some Tests and Experiments

Old Cat Died has been in an experimentin' mood lately, and here are some of the products of our play.

The first is Gabe's attempt to import some William Blake etching/engraving techniques to clay, specifically Blake's method of mixing etching with white-line engraving to create layers of texture and an illusion of depth. (Many engravers use similar techniques, but none quite so boldly as Blake.).

You can see in these images that there are two layers of scraffito. First, Gabe brushed on a panel of white slip and carved through the white to the clay below - the usual scraffito method. The figures and text are in this layer. Then, after bisquing, he colored the composition with underglazes and carved through the color to the white slip underneath, creating highlights and textures in white.

All of the elements in the composition are taken from Blake - the figures come from Jerusalem (the woman) and America (the man), while the textures in the sky and ground, as well as the halo around the man, are approximations of Blake's characteristic engraving patterns.

This experiment, done on a hollow wall hanging, is relatively successful, and we can see uses for it after some refining. The colors are pale due to a watered-down application of underglaze (hoping to approximate Blake's watercolors, but just kind of weak). We also found that we could carve with a wooden tool when the underglaze was wet, but had to use metal once it was dry, leading us to wonder if we could be weakening the body. That could be a problem on a functional piece. Overall, though, it looks like a potentially attractive technique.


After finally getting a Ted Saupe cup, Carrie has been experimenting with a more intentional but still organic and rough-hewn version of the hand-built cups she had left behind for wheel throwing. This highly-textured tea-bowl is a handful - but surprisingly comfortable to hold and well-balanced.

The outside appears craterous, but the inside breaks into this rich, glassy green that makes you think of a geode split open.

Our other formal experiments have been these wall hangings. They are very simple slab constructions, folded over into pillow-like forms.

They are decorative, cone-1 pieces, playing with textures and glaze combinations. As you can see, we have all kinds of collisions between glazed and raw panels, color combinations, and textural accents. These are hung on copper wire, a holdover from the mobiles Old Cat Died began with. The copper suits the clay color and the glaze palette we have been using, and as it ages and oxidizes copper will just deepen the earthy, material feel of these hangings.

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