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

The New Idea

Came whilst I was trying to work out a good way to arrange the sheets. I read Mike’s excellent piece in Ceramics Technical in which he made reference to using earthenware matt glaze to join his large pieces of porcelain. I realized I could use the same technique by making bone china separators and joining the sheets in the same way. All ceramic –  no glue!

Would the sheets soften and bend? Theoretically not at 1100C but only the kiln would prove it:

This is the sky outside as I type:


Failures and successes

I bought some CoCo3 impregnated patterned rice paper at Aberystwyth. I thought it would be interesting to try it out on some of my sheets. Unfortunately, they must have contained some mineral residuals in the colour. They set solid and ruined the tiles; sadly – because they would have looked good. Sanding, grinding and acid all failed to remove it:

This prompted me to set off doing some printing on clay to make some little bowls to sell at Rufford. That wasn’t to be, either. The only one that survived intact was a direct print of CoCo3 in acrylic medium on to 2x BCS. The image was a photoshopped OS map of Rufford Abbey. Unfortunately it was printed in mirror writing because I got the acetate upside down. Doh! All the rest failed too- several direct prints with fritted pigments and a number of mono prints on to rice paper which I then placed on the wet clay and fired when dry. The outcome was a slightly stained piece of bone china with a bit of coloured dust sitting on it. Why? Because I was being lazy about my plans for Rufford. Bad karma.

Anyway, the success was inspired in Japan by this paper question mark.


As soon as I saw it in the book shop I was struck by how I could use stacked thin BCS sheets instead of paper. It set me to thinking over the next few days about the mass effect of them and shaping their external edges. Cutting/drilling holes or grinding followed as ideas. There was obviously an issue of how to mount and illuminate them. Initially I thought I might drill a series of holes through them and connect with a long bolt, separating the sheets with thick washers.. This failed on 2 grounds: there aren’t any thin 20 cm bolts and there is the risk of fracturing the sheets.

Next idea was to mount them vertically in acrylic blocks. I have found a manufacturer who will do this but he’s gone strangely silent now I’ve put my order in. Illumination from below.

At this point I had a review with DB of my plans for the degree show. We agreed that I would develop the cubic frame, the screen, some of the lights and explore the papery qualities of the sheets. Another Japanese inspiration of highly textured paper. This is my 1st ceramic version.



Back with the Spring

So….3 months without a word! I took quite a knock in confidence in my review with Dave & Anna. More a statement of my mental state at the time, I think, with some pre-existing low mood over winter. Anyway, I lost my mojo for making for a bit. To add to the misery, our garage was burgled twice in a week. The first time through the main door – my son’s unchained bike was stolen. The second time through the back window of the garage into my studio . My bike was stolen after the thief spent some time using MY tools to cut through My lock and chain. So – new locks and security system. Claims on insurance. Hassle.

Stuff knocked over on way through window

Stuff knocked over on way through window. I put the window catch on to stop it blowing in the wind

I did a lot of thinking about pieces, and some relatively non creative stuff in the studio – mould making, a bit of casting, some experiments that weren’t worth recording. I made 2 African masks out of porcelain a couple of years ago. So I made moulds of them and some casts. I think they are quite interesting and could be eye-catching in a well illuminated sparse display. I’ve made 5 of the female heads. The next lot will need support holes and tabs in them

I also made a collection of tubes which I thought would be interesting lit from below:


Unfortunately, the tall central cylinder bent in the kiln and it looks silly. Perhaps it would be more successful if they were all a more similar height.

I have spoken to a number of fabricators about frames for the pieces I plan. I’ve discussed stuff with the local metal worker, had a shoji frame made and found a place to make metal frames for lampshades. I have found 2 places that will cast/drill/cut/polish acrylic blocks to order and given them a small project to quote on. And crazily I have put my name down to share a store at Rufford. So I’ve given some thought to that – but not made anything yet.

Then we went to Japan. A brilliant 2 week holiday. Cherry blossom time. Inspiring. I’ve returned renewed. And my mojo is back.

And the kind of Japanese ceramics you can only recoil from:

Assessment today, Dave & Anna

Showed my framed image pieces, and those cast on plaster, the horse and the abstract rectangle piece in addition to cube.

Explained how I had got to where I am for Anna’s benefit and reviewed work this year. It wasn’t obvious that Dave or Anna were familiar with the contents of my blog – but maybe they were just being cagey. Points arising:

  • Still no clear mark making style
    • I explained that ‘cube’ is a step in that direction. Dave commented that, as it is currently constructed, it is a move away from using translucency. It is attractive, and I may choose to pursue the idea but it’s not the original point. True.
  • He commented on my inability to draw and the consequent implications for mark making, thru printing etc, of borrowing images (as in ladies in burquas). Anna raised issue of the aesthetics of the coloured sheets in a frame – essentially “what more?”
  • Reviewed the attractiveness of the cube with cup, plate and saucer. Dave asked if the cobalt blue was a deliberate evocation of Willow Pattern. It was (see Dec 22 – “I thought it would be amusing to suggest willow pattern ware by colouring some of the discs with Cobalt Blue and randomly distributing them through the image.”)
  • Long discussion of implications for Final Show
  • DB said that, despite his initial enthusiasm, he is now uncertain about my (or, I think, anyone else’s) capacity to complete a task as enormous as the installation we have discussed within the time scale available.
  • Anna pointed out the difficulties in obtaining a suitably high quality finish for public display.
  • These comments were made in the context of having to spend time doing other work for the show and having to work alone. The very strong message was that an installation of the type previously discussed was probably biting off more than I could chew. When I specifically asked the question both DB & AL said they felt I should set my sights lower and that their encouragement was a bit premature. This is both a disappointment and something of a relief. I have been giving a lot of thought to the technical aspects – with some trepidation.
  • Suggestions were made for future progress:
    • Use frames, and strings, but narrower. This will facilitate lighting and ‘jiggling’ effects whilst limiting footprint
    • Emphasize translucency, using thickness modification primarily, supplemented with print/colour
    • Sheets can be strung within frames, in overlapping layers, to make screens – vertical or horizontal. My thoughts:
      • Obviously, lighting could be from above, below, the sides or behind
      • Combinations of sheets and discs are possible
    • Important to keep frames minimal and emphasise porcelain. Not sure I agree with this since the contrast between an ‘industrial’ style frame and ethereal image would dramatic
  • I showed them drawings for lights.
    • The first was a series of cones and cylinders mounted one on top of the other, joined and supported up the centre by a steel pole. This would have LED strip on 3 sides to illuminate.Dave seemed to like the idea of it and likened it to Brancusi’s ‘endless column’ in Targu Jiu, Romania.

The second was a cylindrical light, lit from above and below by focusable spotlights, and supported in a steel frame. The idea is that it looks as if it is floating. No comment, so I don’t know what they thought.

This assessment contributes 20 marks. I have absolutely no idea what I will score. I came out feeling that I had in some way disappointed them. My projection?