Thursday, January 23, 2014

Carve it up

We have gotten SLAMMED with snow in Philadelphia this week!  When the weather outside is frightful, though, there's no better excuse for hunkering down in the studio.  I know that my own pottery changes with the seasons; while I often prefer a more neutral, natural color palette, in the grey cold dull winter I want to see color

Winter is also great for carrying out detail-oriented projects in your studio -- if you're like me, the frigid outdoors aren't terribly tempting.  As such, this can be a great time to explore Amaco's Velvet Underglazes.  These flexible underglazes provide a great pop of color into your work -- they're available in over 45 different shades -- and lend themselves to fun sgraffito or mishima projects.  Here's an example:

This is a 15" platter made from a rolled-out slab of Standard Stoneware 181, which fires white.  I then planned out a design, and working like a printmaker -- that is, moving from my lightest underglaze to my darkest -- I started blocking out my design on the leather-hard form.  Here, I first used Amaco Velvet Underglaze 343 Chartreuse (seen in the center -- here's the link: Amaco VUG 343 Chartreuse) and then I went around the edges and started cutting in detail with the much darker Amaco Velvet Underglaze 332, Teal Blue (Amaco VUG 332 Teal Blue). I then went in and painted in a centerpiece, not pictured above, with Amaco Velvet Underglaze 361 Jet Black (Amaco VUG 61 Jet Black).

After all of these underglazes were applied to my satisfaction, I carved into the piece -- still leatherhard -- using a variety of different sgraffito tools.  Currently, I am loving the sgraffito set by Xiem.  It comes with seven different tools that all leave a different mark, and they are hearty stainless steel.  When I started doing these intricately-carved platter, I used a generic ribbon kit, which was great -- until the tools' edges started dulling or the wires snapped. Xiem tools are fancy and awesome, though.  

The nice thing about doing this color-block sgraffito method is that the end results always look impressive.  Any smudged line that you might create when blocking out the colors can just be scraped away when you cut into the surface with your sgraffito tools!  It's really a much more forgiving method than people realize, so go on and let your audience be impressed.  Here is my finished (but not yet fired!) result:

Once fired, the carved linework appeared a crisp white, and the underglazes richened in color a bit -- although one thing I do like about this line is how what you see is what you get -- the Amaco Velvet Underglazes definitely fire very close to the color they they appear when green, which is a very nice feature. Likewise, these underglazes look great glazed or unglazed, although I recommend glazing for food surfaces. 

Platter party!

Check out our entire inventory of Amaco Velvet Underglazes here and keep in mind that we sell these in a few different sizes!  In addition to the standard pint, we carry all Amaco Velvet Underglazes in a convenient 2-oz. jar, which is perfect for completing a few projects or just testing new colors.  To give you an idea as to how far they go, think of them kind of like a paint -- you will often have to apply a couple coats -- say, 2-3 -- but the platter above was just one of several I was able to complete with less than a single jar of each color I use.  The Velvet Underglazes are also great under a wide variety of firing temperatures.  Although they appear most true to color when low-fired, most, if not all, of the colors can pretty handily look good in cone 6 (which is what I typically fire).  Any questions?  I'm happy to answer them!  Please don't hesitate to get in touch at 

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