It’s been a while since I last wrote about my ceramic journey. Feeling deflated about my last unsuccessful glaze fire, I hesitated to start decorating my new bisque wares and left them sitting in a box gathering dust. Then recently when I had a bit of free time, I thought it was a good time to face it and get it done. How else would I know what was wrong? I had to investigate. The glazes were not cheap to buy, I may as well use them up!
I used a different local kiln firing service to see if the outcome would be the same. Happily I found out that this was not the case. Yay!
The ceramic shine I’ve always aspired to worked on every single piece. The decorating glazes look better than the last batch, although not as vibrant as I hoped for but I think it is just the brand of the glazes. I was literally bobbing with delight when I saw them laid out on the table, looking back at me all shiny. In the words of the ceramicist who did the firing, they turned out “really charming”!
I will be using this kiln firing service from now on. It helps a lot that they have electronic controls on their kilns so they can fire quite accurately to what temperature my choice of overglaze needs. It’s also more convenient because that place is closer to get to.
In hindsight, I think I also applied a little thicker overglaze this time so it may contribute to the success of this fire.
All the research and experiments I’ve done for the last two years have at last paid off. I feel really inspired to carry on developing my ceramic collection and hope for a string of successful fires. I have some lovely ideas floating in my head I want to execute in the near future and I will keep sharing my stories here on the blog.
I am not quite where I want to be in terms of style and technique (still a newbie here!) but I felt ready to sell them and want to work hard on finding my style while I continue making things out of clay. So for the first time I sold them on my stall with Paperdolls Summer Market two Saturdays ago and I was elated to receive lots of positive comments and four of them were sold to very happy customers.
I’ve listed the remaining ceramics on the shop for very good prices, do check them out if you fancy getting your hands on a quirky ceramic – and thank you for enduring my ups and downs on this ceramic project of mine!
You may recall that I started making things with air dry clay about two years ago. I enjoy it so much that I find time in the evenings and at weekends to do my clay projects. Some time this year I found myself dissatisfied with my tried-and-tested materials – I longed for that shine we see in ceramics, and greater strength. I also wanted my work to be guaranteed food-safe and waterproof. I have been playing with the idea to build a ceramic collection for my shop, or when I hold a stall, but I don’t feel comfortable selling crockery made of air dry clay so I decided to look into firing my creations instead.
I found a local kiln firing service about 30 minutes drive away, and got a batch of small bowls, dishes, pots, and a mug – a very wonky mug! – bisque fired for the first time. I was very pleased that they came out well, and couldn’t wait to start decorating them.
Painting with underglazes turned out to be quite time consuming. They don’t have quite the same effect as acrylic paint, the application needs several coats to be apparent and I got the impression from ceramic websites that it is normal.
That was around the beginning of September. While painting my first batch, I had the idea that I could try selling ceramic Christmas decorations on my stalls. It is usually easier to judge how well my products are selling in person than on my shop so I wanted to grab the opportunity. I made some circle and star shapes with the help of cookie cutters. The bisque fire went well except for one breakage and then I spent two evenings painting the pieces. Then it was my first time getting my glazed work fired. I was very nervous!
It turned out I was right to be worried. They didn’t come out as I imagined them to look like. There were no serious cracks or explosions in the kiln, but they simply didn’t have that ceramic shine I wanted and the underglazes didn’t look right. I had thrown myself in the deep end not knowing much about ceramics, and I had to find out why they looked dull. After googling I suspect that they were under-fired or I didn’t apply enough overglaze for them to mature in the kiln.
I was extremely deflated. I realised that I picked a hobby that is expensive and challenging. But I am prepared to persist!
I recently found out that there is another local kiln firing service 5-10 minutes drive away – it is either new or I missed it in my original research! So I will be firing my next batch (hopefully with better glaze application) at that place to see if the outcome is the same or not.
I have asked for a good ceramic advice book for Christmas and hope I have better luck next time! Off I go to continue painting my first batch…
Previous posts: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
In January, I decided to make at least one clay piece per month, and here they are! I don’t love all of them, I’m particularly unsure about the mushroom ones but as always I had a lot of fun making them start to end.
Last November I picked up an air dry clay and made pinch pots and dishes. While I enjoyed the process so much, I didn’t really like the clay I used – DAS – it didn’t feel pliable enough even when kneading it for ages or blend with water well enough but I did get it from online so it might be old or hardened. The edges were quite flaky when I cut them and obviously I am not experienced so I am not sure if it is normal.
I was putting off to paint them in fear that I would just ruin them but I realised that I got to do it some point and finally painted them. A bit wonky paintwork there but not bad for the first time, eh? Well I’ve played with clay back at my school days but it’s been many years! I only used black and white paints but the colours came out blue-ish. Puzzled.
Even the cat is grumpy, I love this one. My favourite. What about you?
When the paint got dry, I coated them with a protective varnish and it did a good job with painted area, not unpainted area as it turned them into a muddy beige colour rather than keeping the light colour as it was before. It is not obvious in the photos though.
As I wasn’t fully satisfied with my choice of materials in first round, I bought a polymer clay – FIMO Professional – online and to my horror, it came tiny and quite hard. I tried to soften it by kneading it and it didn’t seem to soften enough for me to be able to make a pinch pot out of it. I then figured that buying a clay online was not a way forward and went to a proper craft shop when I visited my sister in Bristol last weekend. Gosh the clays were so soft in comparison! I happily bought three different brands of air dry clay so I could experiment them all at home. I can’t wait! With commissions queuing up, I will have to find time in the evenings to test them out and hopefully build a lovely collection.