Archive for the ‘The Process’ Category


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.


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.


Throwing a plate.

April 24, 2012

Now that I have discovered the slide show function, I’ll show you how a pet portrait plate is made.  (I have some photos of me painting a pet portrait so you can see how the layers of color are built up, however that will be the subject of my next post.)  Here I’m using an earthenware clay that comes from a brick factory here in Nova Scotia and is dug directly out of the pit.  I am so spoiled because it is such a fabulous clay to work with on the wheel.  In order to have consistency in the size of the plates, I weigh the balls out, here I’m using a 5 lb. ball which will give me a 12″ diam. plate.

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Decorating a Large Mug with Slip.

April 22, 2012

Here is a sequence of brushing wet coloured clay or slip on a large mug.  Compare the look of the white slip on the mug to the white slip on the teapots I posted previously.  The difference is about 2 days of drying under very thin plastic.  The plastic, a dry cleaning bag, is only put over the mug after the white slip has lost it’s sheen otherwise it will badly mark the surface of the white clay.

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Wet slip

April 1, 2012

I love decorating with slips or liquid clays.  I have chosen a very traditional earthenware process; to decorate my pots before they have been fired.  This has advantages and disadvantages.  The big drawback is always being aware of the humidity in the air as this controls the drying of the clay.  The pot is clay and the decoration is clay and both have to shrink at the same rate so they stick together.  The advantage is that you get to decorate on the most luscious surface.  Take a look at these teapots.  I have to let the surface dry a bit more before I decorate but isn’t that just so wet!ImageImage


Casting, Scraping,Drilling,Wiping,Numbering

November 29, 2010

Now using the rubber master, I have made a number of working plaster molds to use in casting the ornament.

Plaster mold ready for casting.

The casting slip is poured in and allowed to dry.

Filling mold with slip.

Filling the mold with casting slip

Now the back has to be scrapped smooth.

Scraping the back smooth.

A rubber stamp with the pottery logo is stamped on the back.

Stamping on the logo.

When just right, the ornament is popped out of the mold.

Knocking the ornament out of the mold.

Next a hole is drilled through the ornament so a ribbon can be used for hanging

Drilling a hole in the ornament.

Now the edge of the ornament has to be carefully wiped smooth with a damp sponge.

Wiping the edge smooth.

The last step in this part of the process is to number the back, as this is a limited edition. Once the edition is finished the ornaments are not remade.

Numbering the back.