The First Step

November 22, 2012

Now on to the making of the ornament.  What you need to do is make an exact replica of the ornament in plaster.  The plaster ornament has to be as perfect as possible with no bubbles or bumps or uneveness any where.  I will use this “model” to make a rubber mold from, that I can then use to cast all my working plaster molds.

I am using an old plasterers technique to make the plaster blank with rings around it’s edge.  A lot of the decorative trim in older houses used to made with plaster, moldings and the circular ceiling details above chandeliers.  I’m using that idea only smaller to make my blank.  Here is the first one I made but I wasn’t happy with the result.  It was too flat.

I want the rings to be more domed.

Here is the second blank with better rings.   The brass template swings around the post and scraps away the excess plaster to leave the ringed model.  I had to apply about 3 coats of plaster to get the final model.

The rings are more domed.

Here are the two side by side.  As you are about to see, patience needs to be in great supply.

I used the one on the right.


Finished Ornament

November 21, 2012

I was going to wait to reveal the finished ornament until after I showed the different steps in the process, but then I thought, that is the same scenario as one of my pet peeves; instruction manuals.  Instruction manuals, particularly computer programs, generally never give you the overview first, they usually dive right into all the 52 ways you can resize, rearrange, reduce, something but you are not sure what it is you are doing exactly.  So with that in mind, here is the finished ornament for 2012, “The Holly Wreath”.  In the next posts I will show how I arrived at the finished piece from the idea drawing.   I hope you like it.



Idea Drawing

November 19, 2012

I have incorporated the elements I liked from the 3 images to make my mock up.  I want to use that repeating element and let the glaze pool in the lines the rings create.  I will also try some different arrangements for the lettering.  This idea is a slight departure in format from all the other ornaments but that’s the beauty of making your own designs, you can do whatever you want.

The idea.


The Idea

November 18, 2012

Now that I looked at all the past ornaments, it was time to get at it. I started looking at images on the net and just picked things that immediately struck me for one reason or another. What you are mainly dealing with is the property the transparent colored glaze has. It’s a darker color when it’s thick and paler when thin. After selecting about a dozen images, I went through those again and knocked it down to three images that held something. Here they are.


2012 Limited Edition Christmas Ornament

October 26, 2012

It’s that time of year again and the new ornament is almost ready.  One of the hardest parts of the process is coming up with a new image.  After several drawings and several, “oh, we already did that”, I decided to get out the box with all the past ornaments.  I was immediately struck with the variations on the theme and thought I would make that the first post in this series.  I hope you enjoy them.  Which is your favourite?

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The Painting of Winston

May 4, 2012

I have another photo sequence of the painting of a pet portrait plate this time for Winston.  I will follow the same process I used for the horse portrait starting with the eyes first.

First the eyes

Next, I will start to build up the other colors.  The nature of ceramic colorant is not the same as paint, I can’t mix two colors together to get another, you need to have separate colorants for each color.  I can however layer one color over top of the other and let your eyes mix them.

I will now balance out the lights and darks so the painting reads correctly before I cover it with a transparent glaze.  The other special feature these underglazes have is they are not the same color in their unfired and fired stages.

Here is the finished plate.

Here is a close up photo.  The underglaze color always has to be overstated because the transparent glaze dissolves away some of the color.


A Portrait of Axel the Horse.

April 27, 2012

Now that I have shown how a plate is made, I’ll show you the sequence of a horse portrait.  After the bottom of the plate has been trimmed, I apply a white clay or slip to the rim and center.  I will have to let the plate dry for several days under plastic before I can scrape away the white slip to do the lettering, in this case the name Axel.  I then draw the horse in the center.  After the plate has been fired once to 1750 degrees F. (called the bisque firing), I paint the portrait with underglazes.  These are colored clays that are ground very fine and can be thinned with water and used just like watercolors.  The beauty of this process is that the ceramic colorant is permanent.   500 years from now Axel will look exactly the same.

First I paint the eyes and all the darkest darks.

Next comes the building up of the other colors.