Ceramics Is Not All Fun and Clay

painting ceramicsIt’s been lovely to devote the past two weeks to being creative. My project is going swimmingly, and I have also had a most enjoyable time helping Patty with some of her work—I painted earrings and buttons she made with black glaze so that she could etch them, glazed some of her workshop students’ work, and made clay slabs.

Ceramics, however, is not all fun and play. After my medallions emerged from their first round in the kiln, Patty introduced me to glazing. Glaze looks like watery plaster, and is applied to a piece before it is replaced in the kiln, where the glaze turns into a transparent glassy layer. I am not fond of glazing. For one, I couldn’t help but feel like I was destroying my 96 etchings by obscuring them with milky whiteness. Furthermore, Patty warned me that absolutely no glaze should end up on the bottoms of my medallions; if it did, they would stick to the kiln shelf, ruining both the piece and the shelf. I can assure you that I sponged off the bottoms of those medallions very, very well.

Patty has also taught me about some of the practical aspects of ceramics. It turns out that a special receptacle resides under the sink to catch all clay and glaze residue that would otherwise clog the pipes. This must be emptied every once in a while. Not only is plumbing an issue to which a ceramicist must be attune, but so is the environment. All of Patty’s glazes are safe and environmentally friendly; some are not. In fact, some ceramicists use a sort of metallic glaze that is not only unsafe to humans (gloves must be worn and extreme caution taken), but apparently as the pieces are fired in the kiln, you can see black smoke spewing into the air. Yikes!

Meanwhile, people continue to visit the schoolhouse. I had a lovely chat with one woman about the piano. In fact, the piano is turning out to be a dominant presence in my senior project life. More on that later…

Patty Griffin in Studio

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