|The aptly named Silverpeaks that are to the Southwest of Waikouaiti.|
I got my hands back into clay again one day last week, and again this week. After the best part of a month away from the wheel I struggled, and did not enjoy things at all last week, but achieved more over the next few days. I do hope that I manage a good period of work now without the body breaking down. It has been most frustrating!
I had a good glaze firing last week, or possibly the week before that! I was very pleased with my chrome-tin red glaze. For some reason this seems to improve every time I fire it. I think that the improvements I am seeing are largely due to my getting the "feel" for the right glaze thickness when applying it. It is a subtle thing.
One effect that I played with deliberately in the last firing was fuming. At high temperatures chromium oxide becomes volatile, and it can transfer from one pot to another. If a glaze has some tin oxide in it and a goodly portion of calcium, there is a chance that it will be stained pink by fumes from a pot near by it that has chromium oxide in its glaze. This can be a frustrating thing if you don't want this, but I have found the effect rather lovely where intended! One really amazing thing about the fuming is that only a very small amount of chromium oxide is needed. My chrome-tin red glaze contains between 0.3 and 0.5 percent (depending how heavy handed I am when I am weighing things out!), and it must only be a tiny amount of this that gets into the atmosphere inside the kiln when it is at high temperature, but it is enough to affect nearby pots.
It reminds me of the old song, "I'm a little Petunia in an Onion patch!"
I sometimes use a nice pale green glaze, that looks particularly good on porcelain. Chromium fumes give this green glaze gentle pink flushes. The pale green glaze can be found on page 172 of "The Glaze Book" by Stephen Murfitt, published by Thames and Hudson.
Potash Feldspar 45
China Clay 20
Tin Oxide 5
Copper Carbonate 1
I played further with various glaze combinations when I glazed some little porcelain cups. I generally pour glazes, and it is fun to let inside and outside overlap a bit as the runs make things interesting.
The other teapot was glazed with the pale green glaze. I found this really hard to photograph, my camera really struggles with certain colours, and tends shift colours toward red if it detects what it considers to be too much green in a photo. I should remember to put some other colours near what I want to photograph, and crop them out again later on the computer. I think I can fool my camera's "brain" that way!
With all the bodily mishaps over the last year or so, I have got horribly behind with pottery orders, maintenance work around the house, even visiting friends. It is embarrassing really. It is very easy to get into a state about it, and not achieve anything at all! One problem about stress is that it can make it difficult to concentrate fully on each task, because all the other ones are knocking at the door! Sadly some of my pots didn't turn out as they should yesterday, and I think it was as much due to my state of mind as to my "rusty" potting skills.
One unusual commission that I did complete in the last few days was a little painting of Mary. Years ago I painted some Christmas Angels that were based on a painting of the Annunciation by Fra Angelico. I painted the angels on watercolour paper, and these were stuck on board and later cut out with a fret saw. After varnishing, these could be hung as Christmas decorations. A while ago someone who bought one of these angels got in touch and asked if I could do a "Mary" figure to accompany the angel. I eventually completed the commission, but it took me ages to get started on it. Part of my trouble was in finding an image of Mary that suited the Angel that I had already done, what I thought my client would appreciate, and what seemed "right" for me! I ended up using the Mary figure on one in a beautiful Annunciation painting by Fra Fillipo Lippi as a starting point.
|Detail from Annunciation (1450-53) by Fra Filippo Lippi|
I think that an artist or a writer expressing religious ideas has a very difficult job. A painting says "this is what it looked like!" and a word says "this is how it is!" However,these are descriptions of Faith, rather than of literal physical fact, and that is how it should be. We don't need to know if Jesus or Mary had Acne, and yet that level of literalism seems to trap some people at what ever end of the religious spectrum!
In many ways -and I mean this kindly - images of Mary are a bit like those of Father Christmas. There are traditions that establish what Mary should wear, what she should be holding, and so on. In the paintings that I looked at prior to attempting the commission, Mary's clothes were much the same, however her age varied greatly. In one painting, Mary looked about 14 years old, maybe less, in many others she could have been in her mid 30s. The apparent age of Mary gave a strong clue as to how she was perceived, if she was Mary Mother of God, or Mary one of us.
I started with a pencil drawing. Then I outlined the lines that I wanted to keep with black waterproof ink, applied with a fine brush.
Then the shadow areas were established with washes of diluted ink.
Once the tonal work was complete, then colour was applied over the top.
Later the painting received two coats of acrylic varnish to protect it. After a day to dry completely, the painting was stuck to a board. Once dry, this was cut out with a fret saw, and a little hook glued to the back so that the figure could be hung on the wall.
I haven't done any painting for ages. It would have been lovely to have done a painting as sublime as that of Fra Fillipo Lipi, but it was nice to do this, and good to get the paints and brushes out again!