I hand build my ceramic sculptures from native Colorado stoneware clay. This reduces the environmental impact of trucking heavy clay across country and also supports local businesses.
Forming The Ceramic Structure
I first form slabs of the white clay, then assemble the slabs into cylinders or other basic vessel shapes. Next, I twist and shape the flexible clay to add sensuous curves and unique shapes.
Once the clay sculpture is formed, I then modify the surface with one or more decorative techniques: slip-trailing, stamping and Sgrafitto (carving).
Slip-trailing was used heavily in medieval potteries of Northern Europe and Great Britain. I’ve written a blog post showing examples of the technique, which I use fairly extensively in my ceramics. As I note in the short video below, the trick to using slip-trail in the dry climate of Colorado is timing the application: both the slip itself and the ceramic surface to which it is applied must be moist enough to adhere but not so moist that the sculpture deforms as I rotate it during the application.
Stamping The Surface
I sometimes use stamps in my ceramic pieces, most typically around the base but sometimes elsewhere on the piece. I make some stamps. I’ve acquired other stamps during travels in Asia and Latin America. I use a variety of typographic stamps in my work.
Sgrafitto (Carving) The Surface
I perhaps use Sgrafitto most extensively in my ceramic work. The process involves carving through a surface layer of 1 material (I use a black underglaze) to reveal the underlying clay. I’m preparing a video example of how I use Sgrafitto as surface decoration. In the mean time here’s an example of a Sgrafitto surface of a finished piece.