Other Experiments at Vashon Firing

Besides toying with Chore Boy copper netting and steel wool, I also performed some other experiments in the Vashon Island pit firing last month. Here is a brief summary of these other experiments:


figure 1: unburnished and no terra sig

One experiment involves a piece which was completely unburnished, with no terra sig applied, and with a strongly textured surface from the thickly painted engobe. As you can see, the result (figure 1 above) has a very different quality from those other highly burnished pieces. Nevertheless, it is quite charming in its own way — there’s something simple and bold, and almost more honest about it… (perhaps because it’s less self-consciously trying to be beautiful?)

Packing materials: the usual cast of Chore-Boy, steel wool strands, salted raffia and salted burlap. The visible black and white net-like pattern apparently came from the Chore-Boy netting.


figure 2: carbonized plant image transfer

Another experiment involves transferring an image of vegetation onto a piece’s surface, which, as I mentioned before, was a technique first described by Dick Lehman in a Ceramic Monthly article. My last attempt at this yielded something that could conceivably be a plant’s image, but I couldn’t prove it. This time, however, there’s no doubt it’s the image of the fern (figure 2 above) I had placed there under a clay mask. Of course, it’s a far cry from the elegant shapes and patterns in Dick’s exquisite work — but my crude imitation worked well enough as a proof of concept, and that’s good enough for our purpose here.

Notice the subtle yellow-orange blushes near the edges of where the clay mask was — the clay mask apparently masked out most but not all the fuming from the packing materials (salted raffia, copper carbonate, etc.) — so clay masks could conceivably be used to create areas of soft, subtle colors. I think this is how some subtle color blushes got onto an early favorite piece from my first firing.


figure 3: the mask itself is more interesting…

Interestingly, the clay mask itself picked up far more colors from the fuming materials and carbon from the fern (figure 3 above) than the piece itself — which goes to show how much more receptive to smoking and fuming unfired clay is compared to bisqueware.

Finally, there was one last experiment in the mix: I performed yet another banana test — i.e. using banana peels as the main fuming material. Well, this time I didn’t get any of the deep red that I used to associate banana peels with. Actually I hardly got any colors on the piece at all. Am I ready to write banana peels off yet? Not quite, but I certainly am becoming more skeptical now…

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