Wednesday, 16 May 2012

CERAMICS 9. - 'Grass and Blood'

For the next project I took an inspiration from artwork of ceramists that I admire. The first image shows artwork by Tim Andrews, the second shows artwork by Judith Duff and the third image shows artwork made by my favorite artist: Rafael Perez.

My idea was to create a piece that would correspondent with my previous projects dealing with a theme of war conflicts and their consequences on human lives. This artwork is supposed to remind us of horrific outcomes of war in more subtle way, where the only reminder of a recent conflict are few stains of blood on the ends of grass blades.
First I made a sketch of my idea, where the flat basket holds bundle of grass:

For this piece I decided to use an air dry clay and try its possibilities. I went for Fimo Natural, which is made of 95% natural ingredients and it is recommended for its strength when dried completely.
The following images show the process of making. First I processed the clay together with white send through pasta maker. This gave the clay nice consistency and made it easy to use. Then I used white and black clay together to create beads for the base of the basket. I used the same clay to create the grass blades, half white and half black. I let all the blades and beads dry and preserved them with a thin coat of matt varnish (varnish for artists to protect finished oil paintings). After they were dried I applied red nail polish on the ends of few grass blades:

These images show a wire I used to create the structure of the basket and also show the basket after I weaved the beads together with a thin wire into its base:

My initial idea was to use a lot of 'grass' but due to lack of time I only made few blades. Still I think the piece works.
This is an image of the piece after the grass blades tied together with a natural cord and after the card was use to cover the baskets handle:

I was quite pleased with the outcome. I found this type of air dry clay easy to use and it also has a nice natural look. I think the sand helped its strength and also gave the material good, slightly rugged feel.

Just like the ceramic clay I also see air dry clay as another sculptural medium, without the thinking primarily about its functionality and durability. I do not concentrate on perfect finishing; the subject matter of the artwork is the most important to me. The material itself engages in the theme, and has the definitive say in the finished piece.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

CERAMICS 8. - 'Faded Faces'

This project refers to identity of soldiers represented by so called 'dog tags'. The image below shows a dog tag from World War II. and I found it on the website of The Washington Post:

My idea was to emphasize the fact that there is a human being behind any of these tags and to bring attention specially to those soldiers that went missing during the conflict or were killed without identification. That is why on my dog tags, at the place where usually is written the name of the soldier, I wrote 'unknown', or 'missing'. I also included names of well known European battlefields of World War I. where many of these soldiers were killed or went missing. These words were engraved with a set of rubber stamp alphabet.

I made my dog tags of white porcelaine and on the other side of the tags I painted faces of small boys from old photographs. This should awoke the contrast between the images of innocent children once the soldiers had used to be and the appalling fate that the war arranged for them.
The images below shows the process of making, together with transferring the images and painting them in an old style sepia photography:

Here are the finished tags after firing and with a chain applied. I have glazed some of the tags and some of them have treated by transparent gloss varnish. Since the coat of ceramic glaze turned out to be a bit thick and made the engraved letters hard to read, I prefer to use the varnish instead. The glazed tags are shown on the left and two varnished tags are on the right:

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

CERAMICS 7. - 'After The Battle'

The piece 'After The Battle' deals in a symbolic way with a horrific consequences of the 1st World War. It shows the ground of an unknown battlefield somewhere in Europe, with footprints of army boots and horseshoes as remains of the recent conflict.

First I made a print, trying to determine which colours would work the best with this project:

This the actual boot and the horseshoe used for the print and also for the actual ceramic work:

The following pictures show the steps I took to create the artwork: 

The piece was made of light grey stoneware and is in a shape of large platter. As a mould for the base I used a platter that I have at home. I mixed the clay with sand and filled the platter unevenly. Then I used the boots and horseshoe to create the prints. Then the piece went into bisque firing. To accent the depth and shadows of the prints after the first firing I used underglaze paint, which was partially washed off to give the piece the dirty, messy look. To finish the work I used thick layer of glaze to demonstrate the icy look of a frozen ground. I also used decorative dark red glass beads which melted when fired at 1000 ÂșC and created a convincing effect of running fresh blood.

The pictures below show the finished piece:

Detail of 'ice' and 'frozen blood'...

CERAMICS 6. - 'End of Innocence'

This project is based on a contrast between innocent childhood and impact that war experience has on a human life. That is why I choose to go strictly for only black and white colour.  I also choose an army tin mug as a reference to a war. This is an image of tin mug that I found on a Skirmish Line Relics website (

First I made few mockups of the mug in black and white paper and I used a bit of wire for handles:

Then I applied few stencil images on the surface of the mug and also on the base to create the impression of an event and its shadow, as a cause and a consequence of anything that we do:

I found the images of soldiers, crosses and a boy with a kite too loud, so I decided to go with a symbolism which a lamb and a wolf represent. This idea appeared far more subtle to me. I do not like to use symbols of animals in its biased way (a lamb - a pray, a wolf - a predator), but in this context I found it appropriate:

I have made two mugs in clay and after they were bisque fired I applied the images of a lamb on them. I blocked out the image of the sheep with PVA and stained the rest with underglaze paint. I left one mug jet black and washed some of the paint from the other one:

I used the negative effect on the tray when I left the base white and painted the wolf in black:

After the firing I glazed the tray and one of the mugs with a transparent glaze and varnished the full black coloured mug with a glossy varnish. Here is the result on white, dark red and green background:

CERAMICS 5. - Narrative project - 'Something The Boy Said'

As a theme for my narrative project I choose a song from Sting's album 'Ten Summoners Tales'. The album is very poetical and beautiful, and even though it is very dark and deep, I found it spiritual. 

The song "Something The Boy Said' says a story about a group of soldiers going to a war and a little boy - the captain's son - foretells them their bleak future. The soldiers suddenly realise that they are going to loose the battle and are not coming back... 'You will never see our faces again..."

As a first step I brainstormed together with my schoolmates some appropriate words that would relate to what I wanted to express:

I made few collages that dealt with symbols of destiny, fate, fortunetelling and symbolism of inevitable future:

While working on these I had a feeling that I am not going the right direction... I felt that the issues of whichcraft and tacky fortunetelling was not the point.

I also came across a small paragraph in a book dealing with symbolism of nature and freedom on one side and slavery and torture on the other. These was described through a beautiful story about a boy trying to save a wild wolf. I found the story very strong, but not fully relevant to where my narrative project was oriented. On the other side I found the symbolism of 'innocence' and 'experience' quite interesting.

The next collages express the feel of the song much better. I put together images that represent some of the words in the song and it works quite well:

Then I choose the main theme of the narrative project, which was going to be based on war conflicts and their consequences on humans. I put these symbols on one sheet:

From now on I proceeded with the actual projects.

CERAMICS 4. - 'Warrior'

The 'Warrior' is a piece I did while Christy Keeney had his demonstration in the class and we were encouraged to proceed with our own work - large heads. At this stage I already had in my mind the topic of my ceramics narrative project which deals with war conflicts and their human consequences. For the head I decided to go with a similar theme. The 'Warrior' is a soldier seen after the battle, worn down and injured, questioning himself about the meaningless of the recent slaughter.
I did not want to make the face of the warrior too recognizable and apparent. I decide to go with shadow and light contrasting areas giving the face an impression of engrossment and sorrow. The fading face expresses the impact of the battle, already turning into a memory.

First I made few sketches and also find few images that would demonstrate similar effect of contrasting light as I had in mi mind.

The ' Warrior' is made of gray stoneware. The following pictures show the steps of making from slab cutting and connecting two slabs together with a slip to give the head a shape. I scratched the surface to give it a rich texture. Then I cut off a shape of the face shadow and attached to the surface. I also made a helmet of few shaped slabs. After the piece was dry it went for a bisque firing.

After bisque firing the stoneware turns into beautiful off white colour. I applied underglaze paint and washed off some areas to emphasize the depth of the texture. I applied light, silver blue paint on the helmet. Then the piece went into firing again to harden the paint.

After the final firing I left the piece unglazed to achieve the raw, unpolished look. I treated it with neutral semi gloss sealant to underline the contrast between black and white. And here is the result: