Sunday, February 24, 2013

Question #4

Back again, answering the latest Blog Watchers question #4.  A funny one too, for me anyway, a ceramist, since it is clearly designed for painters. Nonetheless, I'll give it a try and see what comes of it.  The question this week is:

What kind of paints do you use? How long have you had your painting table, and how did you decide to set it up?

Paint?  No, clay.  I mainly use porcelain, and more recently, some white stoneware as well.  Actually, I use regular stoneware at times too, especially if I am making pieces that are more functional.  But again, most of my work tends to be in a white clay, porcelain or white stoneware.  I like this because it allows me to use glazes that sit on a white surface, and when color is used, it works well.  Sort of like a canvas with gesso on it.  Color works better on top.  And the purity of porcelain is seductive, and with a slightly sanded surface, nice to touch.  Something about the whiteness I find alluring, and while I say that color looks good on top, I tend to use more black glaze to contrast with the white clay surface.  So both are reasons to use porcelain, at least for me.

The problem with porcelain is its difficulty to work with, compared to other clays.  For this reason I add a white grog to it (like a fine sand), which helps its workability.  Still, not the easiest.  And because of the type of work I am now doing in the studio, I have been experimenting more with a white stoneware.  It is a bit easier to work with than porcelain, and still gives me a white.  But the whiteness of this clay is not as intense as the porcelain I use, so there is a tradeoff.  I hope to figure it all out once I start finishing some of the work later with the white stoneware pieces, and see what I can get.  But for now, I like working in the white stoneware and hope it is not disappointing once I try to apply glazes. But in the end, I think I may be able to look for glazes that work better with the white stoneware than what I currently have for the porcelain.  These glazes are familiar to me as I have used them for years. The challenge is to not assume what you have for one clay will transfer to another.  We'll see.  More glaze testing will be needed to figure it all out!

As for my 'painting table', this one makes me chuckle.  I work on a potter's wheel, use a slab roller and an extruder, and even do a little slip casting, and have had them all from the beginning.  I have a large table that I use to assemble pieces.  So the idea of a painting table is somewhat abstract for a potter, at least for me and what I make.  Perhaps another ceramists working with colored slips and glazes, painting designs on the forms might find this question more applicable.  (Actually, I will correct myself a bit here as I do occasionally produce some colorful decorated bowls, and in doing so I have a number of colored slip containers that I use.  Perhaps this is as close as I can get to a 'painter's table'?)  Furthermore, asking how I 'set it up' is also different for me.  My entire studio is set up to allow for work to move from one location to another, depending on what I am doing to the pieces.  For example, I throw and trim pieces in one section, make slabs and extrude coils in another, and then assemble pieces in yet another.  While it sounds like they are separate rooms (I wish!), they are not.  It is all in the same space, but still, areas specific for what it is I am doing at that time.

So, in the end, I think asking these questions makes perfect sense for a painter, but for a ceramist, not the same.  While clay people share a common sense of what is needed, the work they produce dictates how the working spaces are set up.  Different, I think, for a painter.  Maybe?

Images of my studio in a previous posting might help illustrate some of what I say here.  But for now, I'll post some images here of pots, slip containers, decorating syringes, etc. to help round out some of what I am saying.  Really though, I doubt these images add a lot to the discussion, but I still like them.  I think the more we 'look' at an artists studio and their tools, materials and arrangements, the better we might understand the work produced, or at least how it is produced, or at least I hope so.