Slabs, Slips, Sgraffito, and Wax Resist

These past few months have been busy and I have learned so much as I settle into the studio. The Spring rains have brought all sorts of inspiration. I've been decorating pots with trees and flowers while I explore a process using slips, sgraffito, and wax resist that am learning from Claude Graves here at Little Mountain Pottery.  

Here's a summary of the process:

You start with a lump of clay.

You roll out the clay using a slab roller:

You drape the slab of clay over a hump mold. The mold can be ceramic, wood, cloth, newspaper, or just about anything you can think of that will create your desired shape.

You smooth the clay as you press it onto the mold, then you trim the edges.

smoothing the clay with a sponge

smoothing the clay with a sponge

trimming with a cheese wire

trimming with a cheese wire

Then you let it dry on the mold for a while.

After it is dry enough to remove from the mold and not collapse, you let it dry in the sun.

Once it is completely dry you can start decorating. For this platter, I start with a wash of "dirty" slip: a slip made with local red clay.

Then I add splatters and scratches.

Then, using wax resist, I paint stripes.

I like using the colored wax because it's more visible.

I like using the colored wax because it's more visible.

Then I paint slip over the entire platter. 

The wax resists the black slip, leaving what's underneath untouched.

The wax resists the black slip, leaving what's underneath untouched.

Then I add the sgraffito. I scratch through the slips and the wax to reveal the red clay beneath.

Once the piece is absolutely dry it is now bisque fired. I bisque to cone 010.

after bisque firing

after bisque firing

Then you wax the bottom of the platter and coat it with a clear glaze. 

I pour the glaze over the platter because it is too large to dip. Then I touch up with a brush.

I pour the glaze over the platter because it is too large to dip. Then I touch up with a brush.

Then you fire the platter a second time to cone 04.

The finished Night Tree Platter.

The finished Night Tree Platter.

I've enjoyed taking this process and giving it my own imagery and approach. There are so many possibilities. I use it for my Night Daffodil pattern as well. Here are a few pictures of the Daffodil pattern coming together:

A finished Night Daffodil platter

A finished Night Daffodil platter

Here are some details of various pots that came from this process:

detail of tree plate

detail of tree plate

This process could be taken in so many directions. I feel like I'm just starting to scratch the surface of it's possibilities. 

Now I'm off to the studio. My Spring Kiln Opening Festival is coming up on May 16th, and I need to get busy filing those kilns!