Photos and text by Robert Kokenyesi, Ceramic Artist, Beachfront Pottery, Godfrey, IL 62035, USA
The first time I thought about using morsels of bisque as surface element, when I was trying to create a rough, weathered, aged-looking surface. The Deep Sea Scroll series, as you’ve seen in a previous blog, utilized crushed, dry clay to create a rough surface. Once I saw how well that approach worked, I wanted to try out crushed bisque instead of crushed dry clay. The rest of this blog shows how I tried the first step, and then how the results made me think up new surface decorations.
The Effort and the Resulting Pieces
This is a 4X4 sized white earthenware bisque. Before the bisque firing at cone 04, I pushed several small chunks of bisque into the wet sheet of clay. This experiment answered my concern whether the bisque chunks would be pushed out from the sheet, or stay only loosely in place after the firing. A few of the chunks did become lose, but most of them stayed solidly in place.
Why use bisque chunks instead of clay chunks? When pressing a clay chunk into the wet clay surface, many times the cry clay would crumble, so the very rough surface texture would fall apart during the action of pressing. Pressing bisque chunks avoids that problem; you can press as hard as you want on a bisque chunk, it will not crumble.
For the “Still Life” call for entries by the Our Common Ground Artist’s Guild in Greenville, IL, I submitted several still life creations in the category of ceramics.
I used the bisque chunk technique to create seastar shapes out of the chunks. The complete process went as follows: rolled out clay sheet, and brushed underglazes on to create the “horizon”; pushed bisque chunks into the still wet sheet; cone 04 fired the piece; the using a cotton swab I soaked dark blue India ink into the chunks.
This piece was accepted into the “Still Life” exhibit in Greenville, IL. The underglazes created the great contrast between the wet and dry sand. The red color of the seastars is from a textile pigment, brushed onto each crumb by hand.
This variation on the blue sky horizon theme was just a fun experiment. Quite a few bisque chunks became lose during the staining process, and the missing chunks give the seastars a more ghostly appearance.
In a future piece I might try the chunks as a background to a darker colored seastar shape to increase the ghost effect.