Wednesday 6 May 2015

Struggles With Porcelain

A few years ago I set a goal for myself: to work with porcelain.  What attracted me to porcelain was its pureness, whiteness and transparency. But switching from stoneware to porcelain wasn't easy. It made me feel a bit frustrated - to put it mildly. Suddenly everything was different, as if working with porcelain needed some kind of reprogramming. The progress in working with porcelain was so much slower compared to stoneware years ago. Here are some of the struggles I've had with porcelain.

When I take porcelain out of the bag, it is mostly too hard to throw on the wheel. So before I would use the porcelain I started to wrap it in a wet cloth to moisturise and soften it. Only then I could actually use it.

I like to recycle and wedge clay. Wedging is always the first step in the process of working with clay. It makes the clay softer and smoother, which eases the work afterwards. Also it is important to press all the possible air out of the clay. To me, wedging is a way to prepare mentally for the throwing process. Somehow, my hands had some serious problem with wedging the porcelain. I even tried to smash it on the wedging table, instead of wedging it, but it was not the same.

I wanted to make porcelain vessels that are thin and transparent. There is always the possibility to throw thicker and then to trim away the excess clay. Actually, this is how I came to idea to make my faceted diamond cut cups in the first place. I threw cups that were (finally) nicely centred but I just couldn’t get them any thinner. So I cut of the extra clay with knife when the cups were bone dry. The result is astonishingly beautiful. However, this is not the long-term solution for me.

There are endless possibilities if you choose to make slip-casted vessels. You can design forms that are impossible to make on the wheel – like my beloved soap and ring dishes. You can reproduce the same piece many times. However, the whole slip-casting thing is not so simple. The slip-casted vessels do not have the stability of the wheel-thrown ones. If you like to slip-cast very thin pieces, the chance that they will deform when fired is much higher. Even though I was experimenting a lot with slip-casting lately, and mostly I can achieve the wanted effect, I find it challenging to slip cast the porcelain.

Did I forget anything?

In March I attended an intense porcelain workshop organized by my ceramic supplier. I learned a lot about porcelain and had many "Aha!" moments. Actually, only after the first hour I asked myself why I didn’t think of it before. Stay tuned to read about the porcelain workshop with Fritz Rossmann in one of the next posts.