Studio
Kiln Making Glazing Glaze firing  
Tucson studio

Welcome to my studio.
Behind the scenes this section is not quite finished.

My current studio in North Carolina

In this section I would like to show you my current studio and a few pictures of past studios.How I make my artwork and the various stages it goes through.

looking out

A winter view of the water and I'm making wheels.

I make wheels about once a year. they are very tedious and labor intensive. So I make sure i have good music on my ipod put my ear buds under the ear protectors and dance along whilst drilling holes.

Each wheel is handled a minimum of 25 times. starting from clay in a bag and ending up attached to the animal.

This is my main work bench. I was working on chickens for a show, you will see reference books. I make models like those on the window sill to become familiar with a new animal, learn a new shape or finalize the shape for a large piece.
this is the side bench it runs at 90 degrees to the front bench.
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another view earlier time. Plenty of books on tape. Those keep in the studio late at night listening to just one more chapter.
Lots and lots of animal picture books for reference.

finished wheeled animal storage

I like to have some of the most popular animals ready to go for those last minute gifts.

more finished wheeled animal shelves with the kiln room visible.
storage for larger sculptural pieces and my glaze test tabs on the wall.
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A shelf for work in progress which is always changing.

 

 

focus
'who are you waiting for dear'
David (the rhino)
gull watcher
waiting for their first firing

 

 


animal on wheels waiting for their first firing

 

Some reject wheels in the ice cube tray, they have grey areas on them, they will eventually be thrown away, but i find that hard to do, all that wasted time.
the other stacks of wheels are waiting for a glaze firing.

Moose in a bag, which is keeping the dust off, waiting to be glazed.
The mermaid piece did not work out and
I destroyed it.

 

2 giraffes waiting for wheels.
wheels are fired in a kiln by themselves, as red is a very temperamental glaze.

some awards from a local show.

2 what elephant sculptures and 3 camels waiting to be decorated.

a few more animals waiting for wheels and the rabbits waiting for some special wheels, different sizes so he will balance again, one of his legs had bent during firing.

some odd sizes wheels

storage area for glazed pieces waiting for their last firing. the pink will turn into a transparent coating and reveal the decoration underneath.
   

The plants share the studio with me in the winter.

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  making

A bag of clay, various tools, a bowl of water, a fan and some props and I'm ready to go
The pinch pots will vary in shape depending on the animal i am making. Giraffes are tear drop shape.
The connecting edges are scored to help the clay meld together. Then some water is brushed on and the edges pressed together.

Bodies are joined together smoothed and paddled into shape.

Paddle on the left.

They now have to dry some more so i can add the legs.

Bodies have hardened up enough to add the legs, I have scored where the legs will go.
Head and neck are roughed out and left to harden up some
Legs rolled out and ready to go on.
Attaching the legs
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All 4 legs on
Positioning the legs and giving them a little shape
The glaze pots are ready to sit the giraffes on whilst their legs are drying.

All the giraffes have their legs, the head and necks are roughed out.
I am force drying them with the fan so i can work on the next stage.
Its always a dance with time, humidity, heat and the speed I can work which determines whether I am wrapping them up to slow the drying down, leaving the uncovered or force drying them.
The clay has to be just right. It has taken years for me to accurately anticipate the time.
Moving from Tucson to north Carolina necessitated a big change in my routine.

Here i am attaching the axles
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time to go to bed, everything is wrapped up in 2 layers of plastic to stop it drying out.
I am starting to carve detail starting with the legs.

Here are some at different stages, one has the hinged lid cut in the 2 next to it have their legs finished and waiting for their lids.

one front leg carved and i will add clay to the top of the other leg to make it the same size
one back leg carved
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carvings complete now i will take a sponge and smooth out the legs and body. put them all back under the plastic so they do not dry out whilst i work on the heads.
Ooopps. that happens
to fix it I cut off the leg at the shoulder and wait for the new roll of clay to get leather hard put on a new axle and carve it again.
Carving the heads. going from left to right the rough blank through to a finished head and neck.
as you can see i have lots of photos around.
I am ready to attach the head and body and the tail. The neck is slightly hollow so i have cut a whole in the body to let the air escape during the firings. scored the areas that will be in contact with each other.
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There is a roll of soft clay on the body which i will press the neck into.
Neck roughly attached.
another view different giraffe
these giraffes all have their necks crudely put on they will now go back under the plastic so the clay will even out. the drier clay will take water from the wet clay.
Once that has happened i go back with a scraper and smooth the neck area.
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Then they go back under plastic to dry slowly for a week to minimize cracking.
Out if the kiln and putting the wheels on.
finished giraffes. ready to send out to galleries.
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Shelves in the kiln room.

there's those wheels again.

penguin waiting to go in the kiln on a wintry day
 

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My kiln full of 'green ware' unfired animals.

I fire my first firing (called bisque firing) higher than my glaze firing, this give me the opportunity to make the art piece stronger.

partially packed kiln, again first firing

Loading a kiln.
floor level

this is a bisque firing. Its purpose is to turn the clay into ceramic.

dry clay if it gets wet will melt back into mud.

fired clay will not. this in achieved by heat chemically removing water and permanently changing the molecular composition of the clay.

medium sized pieces go on the floor. If the first shelf is too low the pieces do not get hot enough, if the pieces are too tall, the stilts are unstable and everything could end up in a broken heap.

 

first set of shelves.

the shelves and props (the triangular mustard coloured things also called stilts) are made of a refractory clay that can withstand very high temperatures (1500c)

 

third shelf

the pieces can touch the shelves and each other in the first firing so the kiln can be packed quite tightly

oophs i forgot to take the last picture.

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A different bisque firing.

here i am stacking only one side of the kiln because i am going to put bigger pieces on the other side.

I make the wheeled animals in multiples of 4 or more. As it always takes me a while to remember the shape and face of an animal, so i am a little faster and the pieces are more fluid after the first one

big pieces going in
room for a little more

full kiln ready to go. the coloured tiles are test tabs, they will show me what colour the glazes will be after it is fired, because it is a different colour when i apply it.

this kiln will take about 8 hours to fire. there are metal coils (elements) in grooves of the kiln walls. think giant resistance floor heater.

and another 10 hours to cool down.

 

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Glazing

the pieces are then washed to get any dust off them and then set on the side bench and the decorating begins.

first they are checked for surface cracks and those are filled.

then the one with doors
are glazed on the inside.

This picture shows about half a kilns worth of work.

 

 

 

   

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next the black under glaze is painted on. I free-hand known patterns like the frogs and giraffes, otherwise i draw on the pieces to get the proportions right and to indicate other colours. this takes between one to three hours.
I paint a solid colour as a base layer on the furniture and then add up to four addition layers of decoration.

test tabs lower right help me see what the colors will be after firing.

 

Glaze firing


If its a black and white piece once it has dried for a day, i paint three coats of glaze over the under glaze being very careful so as not to smudge the black.It is hard to work out how long that takes because it has to dry between coats, I will work on ten of them over the course of a day.


If I am going to decorate an animal in natural colors, i will quite often put it through another firing before glazing it, as the colors i apply change color when they are fired and its sometimes hard to see if they are right. Once the glaze is on it is too late to do any thing about it. The glaze is like varnish, although it is really a thin coat of glass.

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Completed Glaze Firing

The bactrian camel you see in the kiln is on its third firing, i will glaze it now and fire it again

The bigger pieces always go through multiple firings, i add colour until i feel they are 'right'

These are ready to come out of the kiln, they were fired yesterday and have cooled down over night. This is a very lightly packed kiln.

assembly and photography

Here they are out of the kiln and i have grown off the sharp points left by the stilts. the sculptures are balanced on little metal points in the kiln to stop them sticking to the shelves when the glaze goes molten.
next i photograph them

 

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shipping

Time to ship. Lots of scrupled up newspaper to wrap around the animals. This will wrap about 4 pieces

Assembling the animals that are going to be shipped.
Packing the inner boxes.
Shipping takes over the whole studio.
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