CERAMICS

by Tracy Myers





At the foot of this page you will find some simple explanations for some of the terms used to describe my working processes.
I have always loved and collected pottery, but as a maker I began late in life. My way of working was always orientated towards the flat world of drawing, painting and printmaking. However, I began to think of working on some other medium, such a clay tiles, and transferring my ideas onto something I had less control over. Over the last few years I have immersed myself in the alchemical world of clays, firing temperatures and glazes. Nothing is straightforward and patience is key. I have gradually embraced the 3-dimensional and learned how to translate my various printing techniques onto clay.

 

Stoneware, with coloured slip, underglaze pen and glaze


Stoneware, with coloured slip, underglaze pen and glaze

Lines of the Earliest English poem, The Ruin, are drawn in underglaze pen.


Stoneware, partially glazed;

bell flowers hung on wire work


 

Stoneware, with coloured slips and underglaze

What if Ned Kelly had lost his battered old home-made armour in the Australian bush and it had been found and up-cycled by the indigenous people? Something menacing could have transformed into something beautiful.

 
 

Raku glazed and fired

Raku glazed and fired

Porcelain, with underglaze and glaze


 

Stoneware, carved, incised, with coloured slips, underglaze and glaze

I made the drawing for this piece after visiting the wonderful Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre. The fisherman hauls on the rope to pull in the laden net, getting covered in sea spray.

Stoneware, carved, incised, with fish sprigs, coloured slips, underglaze and glaze

The reverse shows the fish in the net; the sou'wester has become a buoy and a Great Yarmouth boat identification number is painted on the side of the old boat.

Stoneware, carved and incised, with coloured slip, underglaze and glaze

This image was inspired by an engraving from a Victorian history book. The shape is reminiscent of ancient carved stone markers, which record the names and deeds of famous warriors and their exploits.

Stoneware, carved and incised, with coloured slip, underglaze and glaze

The back has the sort of carved symbols found on rocks all over northern Europe. I’ve added a few lines from The Ruin (one of the earliest English poems).
 

GLOSSARY:

Types of clay:

Porcelain

is fired to stoneware temperature,1260º - 1300º. The high firing temperature results in a pure white and almost completely vitrified ceramic body (able to hold water without leaking.) However, it is always advisable to glaze any surface which comes into contact with food or drink.

Stoneware

I use grogged clay, which contains small ground particles of pre-fired clay, to give the clay body strength and help reduce shrinkage during drying and firing. It is fired to 1260ºc. This clay also contains a certain amount of iron: this, together with the high firing temperature, results in darker tones when using coloured slips and underglaze.

Earthenware

A finer clay body, which is fired at the lower temperature of 1030º centigrade. Mainly used for how bright colours remain after firing. This clay should always be glazed as it remains porous and can get dirty with use.

Raku clay

has a lot of grog in it to help the pot withstand the thermal shock of the raku firing process. Naked raku is fired to under 1000ºC and glazed raku is fired to 1020º. The firing process for raku is very exciting and full of the risk of the pot cracking. The glazed piece is put into a small gas-fired kiln, brought up to temperature rapidly - 40 minutes or so, as opposed to about 18 hours for an equivalent earthenware firing. Once the temperature is reach and the glaze is evenly melted, the kiln is switched off and the pot removed immediately to be placed on the ground, covered with combustable material (paper, sawdust) and covered to smother the flames. Smoke is created, which the porous clay body will absorb. The glaze crazes and carbon is driven into the tiny fissures.The pot cools for a while, then is cleaned up and you see what you get!


Naked raku uses the glaze, with a sacrificial base of slip beneath it, as a shell. The piece is fired in the same way as glazed raku. After the smoking process the pot is removed from the ashes and water is poured over it. The glaze shell pops off, the layer of sacrificial slip washed off and a pattern of soft, smokey lines and dots is revealed. The piece is cleaned thoroughly, dried and then given a layer of wax to bring out the colour and protect the surface


All raku pieces are for decorative use only. They are too porous to hold water.


Slip

is liquid clay which has powdered stains mixed in. This can then be painted onto the still-damp pot to give an overall body colour. Very useful for naked raku.

Underglaze

is used for adding colour to small areas of the pot, such as painting in detail. When fired to stoneware temperatures it can form a semi-glaze surface, which I use a lot for ornamental pieces.

Glaze

comes in many forms - clear, dry, crystalline, matt, glossy - the list goes on. This is where the alchemy of ceramics really comes in. The colours and textures come from mixing certain ingredients in precise measures to suit the clay body and the firing temperature.

Sprigs

are small pieces of clay pressed into clay or plaster moulds. They are then attached to the clay body with a dab of the liquid clay being used.