Ceramic - Pottery Dictionary

by Susan Mussi




The work consists of seven pieces: the word ceramica is in three (CE/ RAM/ ICA), and there are four more, each a plate with background. The slight overlapping of the letters hides the places where the pieces join. It was all molded in refractory and bisque fired at 1300º C. Then the letters and the background were decorated with oxides that vitrify at 1280° C and fired again. After this, the plates were decorated using the Majolica method and finally these four sections were fired at 980º C.
Working sequence
a) When sculpturing with clay, first make a design on paper. Work out where the outlines of the different pieces will join in relation to the design and take into account the width of the pieces, making sure they will fit into the kiln when laid out on the shelves for firing.
b) Cut out in paper the shapes that are needed.
c) Use a table you can walk or turn round and work on top of a large piece of wood covered with a material; canvas is very good for this.
d) Knead, roll out the clay to the height needed and cut it into the required sizes following the outline of the paper.
e) Build up and carve away the clay following your original design, making the parts fit together correctly and overlap if you want to hide the joints.
f) In the drawings next to the three photos the outlines of the separate pieces are shown but in the finished work many are completely hidden by the overlapping of other parts of the design.
g) Keep advancing at the same stage and with the same plasticity, so the shrinkage is even.
h) When not working cover it with a damp cloth and a sheet of plastic and don’t let one part dry more than another. Take into account that a piece that varies in thickness will dry quicker in the thinner parts, which can lead to breaking.
i) As the work progresses let it dry off slightly. This makes it easier to add details and to smooth out. Gradually build up your design adding and changing ideas, leaving textures and finishing off smoothly where needed.
j) If they are large heavy pieces scrape out some of the clay from behind when finished. This makes them lighter and helps the drying process. On the back, indent lines to help it adhere when attached to a wall.
k) When the work is finished it will have changed from the original drawing. If it is complicated, redraw the outlines and number them, then indent each piece on the back with the relevant number.
l) When finished leave your work uncovered to dry, keeping it weighed down so the edges cannot warp upwards. Use small objects like ashtrays, weights, pots etc., and put them round the edges and places you think are more likely to bend.
m) During the drying period keep cleaning and tidying your work, altering parts if necessary to make them fit together perfectly
n) When completely dry proceed to firing them. As there are parts that are thicker than others it is very difficult to know if they are completely dry inside. For this reason start firing very slowly and at a low temperature for a long time. This is to give the thick parts time to dry out. I let the kiln take 4 hours to heat up from 0º C to 600º C, after which it takes about 6 hours to reach 1300º C.
o) Fire refractory clay at 1300º C. It can be decorated with colors that vitrify at different temperatures always starting with the highest of 1280º C and then decreasing.

The next section; Architectural Sculpture “Lleo”