CERAMICS AT THE TIME
Artist, sculptor, teacher, Department of Art Education, Faculty of Education, Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic
Ceramics at the Time of Quarantine
The workshop is a continuation of the project, which took place during the quarantine within the subjects of Ceramics at the Department of Art Education, Faculty of Education, Palacký University Olomouc (CZ).
Students could not visit a fully equipped studio, and from this limitation came the idea to explore the possibilities of "home" production of ceramics.
The workshop mediates the process to the participants and offers them participation in the whole process from the search and processing of clay, through the firing of ceramics to the finished ceramic products.
Ceramics at the Time of Quarantine
The workshop is a continuation of the project, which took place during the quarantine within the subjects of Ceramics at the Department of Art Education, Faculty of Education, Palacký University Olomouc (CZ). During the quarantine, students could not visit a university studio that is fully equipped for working with ceramic clay, and from this limitation came the idea to explore the possibilities of home-based production of ceramics.
The aim of the workshop is to find soil rich for clay in nature. I consider the experience of finding clay in nature and trying to process it to be extremely beneficial for the understanding of ceramics from a creative and pedagogical point of view. For finding your own clay, I recommend looking for it in these places: worn away banks of rivers and streams, holes in the ground left after uprooted trees, piles of dredged up soil. Often when the machines remove the overburden and dig further, they dig up grey, greenish or bluish clay from a greater depth – and precisely these types of clay are ideal for ceramics. After drying the clay, it is very hard forming lumps of hardened clay – you will need a hammer or an axe to work it. An old clay pit or the surrounding of a gravel mining area, or a routine sewer repair in the city is enough, and you will certainly find pieces of clay that you can use for your ceramics. Personally, I think that exactly such projects should be part of art education foremost, only the educator needs to know how to prepare such lessons or projects.
You let your clay dry, then crush it, soak it in until it becomes a thin slurry, sift it wet through a sieve (kitchen), let it dry on wood, plaster or just until it is pleasantly plastic, and then you can create any object, statue or just a bowl from the clay prepared in this way.
Then let this product dry and burn it in a homemade kiln. The least complicated option is firing your clay product in a fireplace.
The point is not to expose the product to a rapid change in temperature. The products are first placed either near a direct fire until they heat up and dry from mechanically bound water in about an hour (which is the most dangerous). Similarly, you can preheat the product, for example, on cooling ash or shield it from direct heat in the fireplace (just a few bricks, etc.)
After heating up the product, you can start firing it with the smallest possible fire directly on the product – first surround it with small pieces of wood and gradually add more, until finally you have a relatively large fire in the middle of which you are firing your product. You can significantly increase the heat by blowing into the fire – something like a fan is enough. However, such a fire must burn for at least 4 hours in order for the ceramics to fire well.
Thanks to the ash deposit, the ceramics undergo a partial reduction and the ash deposit creates something similar to glaze. The temperature of such firing will probably not exceed 900°C (average bisque firing) – it can be increased by blowing – but due to the ash it will not be as absorbent as during bisque firing from an electric kiln. The product will certainly not dissolve, but it is highly absorbent and fragile. On the other hand, direct fire ensures vivid decoration on the surface of the product.
If you want to experiment a bit, try throwing table salt or soda on the product during the high heat stage. With a little luck, a salt glaze will form.
For those of you who want to build a more complicated kiln, there are a few examples in the photo gallery.
For inspiration, I attach a few photos of the whole process, but participants can find their own solution.
It would be very rewarding for everyone if you took a few photos from your process of finding clay, creating a product and firing it and shared them with others…