A Small Byway

I haven’t got anywhere else to record this sequence so I’m putting it here. My birthday present this year from my wife was a 2 day sculpture course at Mount Pleasant Gardens in Cheshire (http://www.stoneyone.webeden.co.uk).

The brief I gave myself was to carve something fairly cubic to avoid removing too much limestone. I decided on an elephant and focussed on abstracting it’s main curves.

I am now familiar with the scutch and the bouchard or bush hammer

The big fear was cracking the trunk whilst chiselling the hole.

She is now sanded wet and dry, smooth as a baby’s bottom and called Talulah.

I loved doing this. It was great fun. I look forward to my next birthday.


18 September 2017 (b)

Having decided to reapply to take the exam in Oct 18 I began to experiment with some ideas I have been having over the last few weeks. These were:

  1. Incorporate colour between layers of the bone china using a loom I made and CoCO3 (10%) coloured suspension
  2. Stabilise the tile surface before printing with 5% PVA
  3. Sgraffito of printed surface
  4. Over printing with different colours
  5. Print on fired tile.
  6. Strengthen tiles with artists acrylic varnish +/- varnish soaked rice tissue paper (See Graham Hay)
  7. Fire at lower temp on already fired tile for more stable colours
  8. Superimpose one coloured tile over another for more interesting image.

Images of all this below.

(1) Incorporate colour between layers of the bone china using a loom I made and CoCO3 (10%) coloured suspension

(2) Stabilise the tile surface before printing with 5% PVA

Nothing to see here but works very well. No dust. Good print surface. Burns out leaving no residue.

(3) Sgraffito of printed surface

The colours in the second two burnt to black at 1240:

The following represent (4), (5), (6 no tissue) & (7)

They look awful like that. However, sunlight and cool white look much better:

(8) Superimpose one coloured tile over another

Even though the actual images here are often a bit of a mess the outcome is striking. Although the rear tile is visually unsatisfactory alone, as a background through translucency it achieves something greater. Obviously more careful choice of image, pattern and colour for the 2 tiles would result in more aesthetic outcomes. The tiles could be glued together with cyanoacrylate and mounted and lit in various ways. Strengthening would be via varnish and tissue. Light via spots or light ribbon in wall box. Cool white.

18 Sept 2017 (a)

17 Month gap for family reasons. Now back. Spoken to Dave Binns. Won’t re-register for academic year 2017-18. Just register for degree show Oct 2018.

I did a bit at home whilst I was off. I developed the Japanese inspired stacking tiles with separators technique as outlined in the following pictures



I decided to develop the idea of cutting each piece individually rather than carving through. It makes for much crisper, more formal, shapes. I decide to make a piece based on a Fibonacci spiral. It expands logarithmically, rather than in a fixed ratio, and is based on phi, the Golden Mean. I used the curve to generate a straight line version:


I then used the shape marked on the template shown to produce another series of templates of a  rotating series of triangles within the rectangular space, each defined by one of the straight lines of the image. The idea is that these should overlap, producing a spiral expanding out of the lower surface. I cut the templates, then used them to mark the BCS sheets with pencil before cutting them with a scalpel.

This was then fired to 1250C, together with the piece shown in the previous entry. There were 2 failures. The top shelf seems to have been too hot and caused the tile to split. The bottom shelf, despite my efforts, was clearly not sufficiently covered with batt was and the 1st four tile of the other piece stuck irremovably to the shelf:

In each of the 2 sets of pics below the pieces are superimposed on one another in the correct order but not separated. They are illuminated from behind using a halogen bulb:

The pieces were then assembled on kiln shelves ( plastered with batt wash) using separators dipped in clear, matt,  earthenware glaze. placed by template, and fired to 1045C to reduce the chance of slumping. I will know tomorrow whether or not it was successful.

I have received word today that the acrylic bases are on their way.


Developing the Idea

This weekend I made a ‘loom’ for accurately placing oxide stained cotton string or tape between the layers of the BCS. The plaster batt sits on the central cross and the nails will be used to tension the ‘string’ as it crosses the sheet drying on the batt. The nails are overlapped and available every 0.5cm. When the sheet is dry the string can be cut and remains completely straight. It fires out, leaving the colour behind. If the application is timed correctly the colour does not leach into the surrounding clay

New Idea take 2

So, all good so far. Both the pieces shown with the holes in the bottom corners were made to take the non existent bolts and a piece designed for the new technique obviously won’t have them. I have now fired one of the 2 older pieces but I thought I would explore emphasising the negative space by outlining it. I used Black HiFire pigment, mixed with CMC to give it body and reduce the risk of dribbling. It worked to an extent, in that it did outline it, but the edges are gobby and the colour is unnecessary. But it is the wrong colour anyway –  cobalt blue would be better. I avoided that this time because I didn’t want it to vaporise across between the sheets but in fact I don’t think it will at 1100C.

The one specifically made for this technique wasn’t a full success either:

  1. shows good light transmission. But it’s too fussy and the curves of the outer edges are to shallow to notice the relationship to the inner shapes.
  2. & 3. show that even at 1100C an unsupported length of 20cm will bend and lose it’s shape. The glaze firing temp is 1060-1120C

Practical lessons learned:

  1. The design must include a plan for positioning the separators
  2. They need to be set back at least 1 cm from the surface so as to not intrude
  3. 10cm is prob the largest distance between them before slumping occurs
  4. There needs to be a grid drawn on the firing surface, or a template, to assist with positioning so the separators line up
  5. The shape of the outer surface needs to be more emphatic to draw attention to itself.
  6. The inner holes providing negative space need to be bigger, less fussy and with a larger internal slope to emphasise translucency
  7. Holes must penetrate the entire piece to permit light transmission
  8. 5 & 6 must be related in a whole concept.
  9. Outlining the edges of the holes with a contrasting colour draws attention to imperfections in the edges (caused by the carving technique) without adding to the aesthetic effect. In fact the effect is interesting – it is associated with microscopic cracking in the surface of the BCS sheet and driven partly by capillary action. But the cracks are often small flakes which make the surface look v irregular and slightly dirty. They are invisible when left uncoloured.
  10. It might work with simpler, geometric shapes.
  11. At the moment this is more a demonstration of technical skill than the creation of a beautiful object. But I believe it has potential