New Glaze Combinations Same Soap Dish

One of our longest standing designs is the aspen leaf soap dish. After making the first soap dishes, molds were made to use for a press mold technique for reproduction. We are giving this long-lived design a fresh look with new glaze combinations.

When we start playing with multiple glazes on a surface, we have to put on our scientist hats. Glazes change from chalky powder to a hardened layer when exposed to extremely high temperatures in the kiln. The colors, glossiness, tendency to run or drip, metallic shine, and food safety can all change when different glazes are applied in layers or even side by side. The type of clay, texture of the clay surface, and whether the structure is flat (as in a soap dish) or vertical (as in a coffee mug) can also play a role in the end result of the glaze.

 

For all of these reasons, we take copious amounts of notes on how we apply glazes (either painting or dipping), how many layers of each glaze, the order of application…and then we take notes on what happens after firing.

Combining glazes means new looks for items in the gift shop and tested options for you to try in the studio on your own work. Look for aspen leaf soap dishes in our giftshop and on our webstore. If you would like to try making a soap dish in our studio, call us to schedule at 970-731-1619.

Meet Gigi!

Here she is, our little cutie…she is growing like a weed! Soon she will live up to the giant French poodle name. She loves people a whole lot and when we reopen the studio, she will be there to greet our visitors and give everyone a snuggle.

For now, we are offering private studio time, which you can call us to schedule:

970-731-1619

Progress on Susan’s Backsplash Project, by SUSAN MARTIN-SERRA


Today I was able to revisit the backsplash project that we shared about in a previous blog. Since that time, I’ve glazed and fired the two test tiles that I made to test out the technique that I thought was best suited to this project (Quenca, or raised clay line process) where glaze is squeezed from a hand-bulb out into the lines on the tile using different sizes of thin applicator tips. Of the two images above, the top one shows the glazed and fired test tile and the lower image shows the original watercolor sketch. When you compare the two, it’s clear that the glazed tile is in need of lighter blues and white highlights in area of the river/sky. The sun also needs additional glaze to darken some areas and lighten others. So often, it’s necessary to do multiple glaze firings in order to achieve the look that’s desired. It takes a lot of time and patience, but the result is usually worth the extra effort!

 The test tiles above (already glazed and fired) show the addition of raw glaze in several different colors, but a fairly generous amount of light blue and white were added to the river/sky areas as well as the sun. In order to add more glaze to already glazed surfaces, it helps a lot to heat the surface of the tile a bit. I use a heat gun, or sometimes just a hair-dryer to heat up the tiles a bit so that the glaze will more easily stick (it sticks when it drys a little). These tiles will be fired to around 2200 F to develop the glaze which will melt a bit and soften the line-work making it a bit softer and more blended.

Hearts are out of the Kiln! By Susan Martin-Serra

Hearts Grouping
Susan’s Hand-built stoneware clay hearts
Susan

The last couple weeks I’ve been very busy working in my Chromo studio getting these hearts completed for Valentine’s Day and beyond. This is my first grouping of hearts so it was an adventure, but it was certainly an interesting and fun journey. Now, I’m happy to say that they are ready for the store and should make a really cool display as well. If you’d like to have one of your very own, just check out our webstore where they will soon be listed for sale! They are sumptuous to hold in your hands with their colorful smooth glazes melted into the patterned clay surfaces.  The white stoneware clay is very well vitrified (very durable) and these lovelies will hang just perfectly on a nail.

If you need a very unique Backside of HeartValentine’s Day gift for that special someone in your life, these wall-hanging hearts are sure to please. Click Here to find them in our webshop.

Pictured to the left is the backside of the below heart “Waves and Lotuses” glazed in a soft celadon green. Note the cut-out on the backside which is to allow the heart to be hung on a wall. These pieces are hollow and fairly light-weight. There are a number of sizes ranging from 6″ up to about 12″ tall.

Waves and Lotuses Heart

 

Susan’s Kitchen Backsplash Project: Progress Update

This past fall, Susan began working on a project for a kitchen backsplash. After the watercolor sketch was completed, the next step was to find a clay technique to capture the colors and feeling of the watercolor sketch while still maintaining the accuracy of the drawing. After consideration, Susan thought the quenca method might work well. Quenca is a Spanish term that refers to the “raised clay line” that will separate one glaze from another within the work. It’s commonly called “tube-lining” here in the US and is often used by artists doing handmade tile.
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The  image above shows the original watercolor sketch and  above that, a raw white clay test tile  which has been darkened on the raised-line pattern. The lines were darkened by gently rolling black/brown iron oxide across the surface of the leather-hard tile with a small spongy paint roller. This tile was later bisque fired in order to harden it and make it ready to receive mid-range temp glazes.
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Making the clay slab: To make the test tile, Susan rolled out a slab of clay (Columbine Cone 6) using her slab roller. She placed the slab onto a piece of drywall board and covered it with plastic (both sides) while she prepared trailing slip.
 
Making the Trailing Slip: Susan set out to make a slip that would create a strong raised line on her tiles and not just slump into the tile surface when heated in the firing. To begin, she gathered bone dry clay scraps (using her Columbine clay) and crushed them into a fine state and added a limited amount of water, letting the mixture set for several days in a bucket with a lid secured. She then mixed it with an electric mixer to fully blend the water and clay and added a few drops of Darvan #7 to deflocculate (adjust the clay particles and make the mixture appear thinner).  Before using the slip, she ran it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps that might otherwise clog her bulb syringe.
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Tracing the design onto the leather-hard clay slab surface and cutting out the tile: Using her photocopier, Susan made a copy of her original design (line work) and used push pins to secure the copy to the clay slab (one push pin in each corner). She then used a regular, sharpened pencil to gently transfer the line-work to the clay surface. After removing the push pins and paper, she cut out the tile from the slab using a needle tool and a ruler.
 
Applying the Trailing Slip to the Tile: A bulb syringe with a larger sized tip was used to carefully squeeze-out the thickened slip over the traced lines on the cut-out tile. The small pins are used to keep the applicator free from clogging up with slip.

Everyday Ceramics: The Spoon Rest

Kat with Belvedere Arts, here! As I studied Puffs Plus Lotion tissue boxes at the grocery store, deciding which package to buy based on which had the prettiest box, I was struck by how beauty has begun to spread into most facets of our lives. Most tools that once existed as purely utilitarian can now be found in whatever color, motif, or animal-likeness that we want! Ceramic products excel in delivering on gorgeous, useful products due to the durability and adjustability of the medium. As a ceramic art studio, we are happy to explore and present new options for your home’s needs; from kitchen utensils to garden accessories; from wall adornments to soap dishes; from coasters to candle holders!

Today, I am sharing one of my favorite ceramic products in my home, a spoon rest that lives on my stove top. I try (try being the operative word, here!) to keep kitchen surfaces clear of unnecessary items. My spoon rest lives 24/7 on the stove, though. Every time I see it, it makes me smile. I picked out one from our giftshop that I thought would make both me and my husband happy. It has a metallic, dark-glazed top and the underside is glazed a light turquoise. When you see the bottom of the form from across the room, it is a happy, bright pop of color peeking out. The top is quiet and keeps the stove from looking cluttered, which is good because my counters are not going to win any clutter-free awards this week.

 

If you have never had one, spoon rests can be a bit of a game changer when it comes to keeping your cooktop clean. Kitchen tools do need to prove their worth before I invite them into my home, though. For years I would put a little saucer on the stove when I was cooking…and often would make more of splattery mess when the handle rolled off the edge. One of the things that I like about the Belvedere spoon rest design is the small footprint and the simple dip in the edge that means no fussing trying to balance the handle on a ledge.

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A little bit of ceramic art here and there goes a long way for putting happiness in my heart and home. The functionality of our spoon rests will mean beauty without clutter, too! You can find your own unique spoon rest at our gift shop or on our webstore. If you have a design or aesthetic in mind that you don’t find in stock, call to inquire about special ordering.

 

Prototype Casserole Dish Part One: Greenware

Our garlic pots have been finished, from prototyping, to production, and on to the webshop. As we  continue to explore ceramic kitchen tools, Bri shares the process of how she makes a casserole dish prototype.
Step #1:  Throw the Wall
I start by throwing a large ring on the wheel without a bottom. This will be the wall of the casserole dish. I make a flat base and, starting from the center, pull outward and press all the way through the clay. I think about the height and length that I want the casserole dish to be as I work the clay with my hands.  Once the wall is the right height and shape, I make an inner flange where the lid will rest on top. I use a wire to cut through the bottom to separate the wall from the wheel head. I allow the wall to dry so that it will retain its shape when lifted; not so dry that they crack, or so wet that they are flimsy and flop. Once the clay is stiff enough, I gently lift the wall and rest it on a drywall board.
Step #2: Make and Attach the Base and Cut the Slab for the Lid
I roll a slab of clay, making sure the area will be slightly bigger than the oval wall from step one. I lift the wall onto the slab and trace a quarter-inch around the wall. The quarter-inch excess clay will be used to smooth onto the wall and secure the base. Next, I cut the clay slab along the traced line and remove the scraps.
I roll another slab for the lid and flip the wall over using two boards placed on the top and bottom of the wall to prevent warping and place the wall upside down on the slab for the lid. I cut the edge an inch wider than the rim of the wall. I remove excess clay and set it aside to use for templates for handles.
Going back to the base slab, I score and “slip” (slip is a clay/water slurry) the bottom of the wall and top of the base where they will join together. I push and smooth clay from the base onto the inner and outer wall. I make a coil of clay, score and slip it, and then place along the joining of the wall and base and smooth it. This gives the joining extra strength. Now I can trim any excess clay.
Step#3: Make the Lid
I place a piece of plastic on top of the rim of the wall and lay the slab that I trimmed for the lid on top of the rim. The slab is still soft and pliable so the extra clay hangs off around the edge of the wall. I place another piece of plastic on top of the lid and use a dry sponge to gently push into the clay with an even, petting motion to indent the lid and round the top. When I flip the lid over, the bulbous side will be the top of the lid.
Once the clay is dry enough to flip over without distorting it, I can gradually start to trim it. Using cutting tools and a “Surform” Tool will help to achieve the right fit.
Note: Because this lid fits on the inside of the rim it is a bit more difficult to fit properly. If you wanted to make an easier fitted lid, you could have the lid rest on the outer rim and make a coil flange on the inside of the lid so that the lid doesn’t fall off. You can measure the inner lid (this is where you will attach the coil) when you make your slab measurements in the beginning.
Step #4: Make and Attach Handles
I think about how I will design the handles. I need a handle for each side for moving the dish in and out of the oven and handle for the lid.  Because this lid is oval-shaped a long handle would be most comfortable for lifting a heavy, oblong lid.
Using a template, I cut out the shape of the handles that I want for the casserole dish. I smooth the edges and carve designs or patterns into the side handles. I will further refine the design after it is attached. I hold the handles where they will go on the dish and trace around the edge. I set the handles down and score and slip the areas being joined together on the dish and the handles. Now I can push and smooth the clay handles onto the sides and lid. I make a coil for the top seam of each handle and smooth it again. This coil will add stability to the joining, which must be strong as there will be more forces applied to the dish here during handling.
Step #5: Add Details and Refinement
After the handles are attached, I add and refine detail back into them. Now is the time to add any other clay forms to the handles (I added little button swirls).  Finally, I use a sponge to smooth the edges. I inspect the whole dish for any spots that need to be smoothed out, nicks that need to be healed, etc. Once it has been perfected, I let the casserole dish sit under plastic to slowly dry. When the dish reaches a state of bone dry, it is ready for firing.

COME SHOP IN OUR NEW WEB-STORE!

NOW YOU CAN SHOP ONLINE IN OUR WEB-STORE! WE WILL SHIP ANYWHERE IN THE USA AND LOCALS CAN PICK-UP CURBSIDE!

Although we are closed to the public due to Covid-19, we are happy to offer online shopping in our new Web-Store! The Web-Store, while still under construction, is functional and will allow you to make purchases. We are in the process of adding new high quality images and item descriptions/details that will improve your shopping experience, but you can still find and purchase many great items now! If you have questions about the site or a particular item, please feel free to phone the store to get clarification.

Handmade Glass Maple Leaf by local artist Cheryl Crane

NOTE:  Curbside pick-up is at Belvedere Arts LTD, 2363 Eagle Drive, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147

Looking Back…Thunderbird Tile Project

Belvedere has a long history of commission work in and around the Pagosa Springs area, most of which consists of installation projects.  Here is quick look into the planning and inspiration behind the Thunderbird Project.
The Thunderbird is a mythical creature orginating within the cultures of indigenous peoples of North America (most notably with the Peoples of the Pacific Northwest)  so we give credit to those cultures for this concept and basic design. The Thunderbird is a spirit being and is related to lightening and storms. It is said that when the sound of thunder is heard, that sound is the Thunderbird beating its wings. It held great importance for its roll in creating storms and in bringing water to the Earth.
The use of this symbol in our project would be within the family home of a historic local cattle ranch which had recently changed ownership. The piece was specially made to grace the backsplash of a large and beautiful new stove. The design was made from a red/gold stoneware clay, hand-carved and hand-painted and fired to mid-range temperatures in oxidation.
The project began with Susan visiting the ranch location to meet with the ranch managers who were in charge of the home’s remodel. Susan listened carefully, took detailed notes and measurements and let the feeling of the surroundings “soak in.” With that information as a starting point, Susan went back to her studio in Chromo and created a scaled color sketch which was presented to the ranch for approval.  The preliminary steps of gathering information and refining a design, are time-consuming and critical to the overall success of the project. Once the sketch was approved, the actual work to create the ceramic bird was begun.
First, a clay cutting pattern was created to the proper size (shrinkage considered) and clay was rolled out and allowed to dry to the leather hard stage. Then the design pattern was incised into the clay and the tile pieces were cut out for the relief carving process. After the carving was finished, the piece was very slowly dried to the bone dry state, and it was then placed in a kiln for “bisque” firing which hardened the  individual pieces. After the bisque fire, the tile pieces were washed with black/brown iron oxide to accent the relief carving and again fired to set the oxide. Finally, the design was hand-painted with both colorful underglazes and glazes and fired to stoneware temperatures. The Thunderbird was then installed into the kitchen backsplash wall, grouted and sealed for many years of enjoyment by the ranch’s new owners.
We welcome commission inquiries. Please feel free to call to discuss your special project with us at (970) 731-1619!

Let’s Make a Production of It!

productionsgraffitodish

Our studio is small and we experiment a lot. However, when it comes to making items to sell in our gift shop, it is important to hone in on what our customers like and then repeat those designs. Prototyping is what it’s called when we experiment. Not all prototypes get approved for production and sometimes they don’t even make it to the gallery/gift shop to be sold as  one-and-onlys. While many factors determine whether or not designs are appropriate for production pieces, complexity and appeal are probably the two most significant considerations. Our “production” runs are always limited to small quantities and only take place after we carefully refine a design and develop our processes to skillfully create multiples which are consistent in their size, shape and other aspects.

Prototypes take a long time to create because there are questions at every turn. There is a sketch, a plan, and then as we make a new design, we find parts of the process that could be smoother, elements that would be more appealing, etc. These prototypes are studied and improved upon through trial and error until we are confident that we have a design that is free from problems and ready for small-scale hand production using processes that are fully understood and consistent.

productionsgraffitodishlot
This is what production pottery looks like. The dishes are made, one step at a time, but in a  group. So step one for dish one, dish two, dish three, and so on until we have our whole group finished with the initial step. Then, step two for dish one, dish two…get the picture? We move the piece forward through the steps as a group. This saves us the time of setting up for each step for each dish and allows us to pass those savings on to the customer in pricing that reflects a greater economy of making items in multiples, versus the very high cost of creating one-of-a-kind items.
For our sgraffito dishes, after all of the pieces are hand-built and carved, they must dry very slowly. The dishes are completely covered with plastic for at least 24 hours to allow the moisture content in the clay to equalize throughout each piece. Then throughout the next week plastic will be removed for a few hours each day, allowing the dishes, which are set out on drywall boards, to dry a little at a time. They are then wrapped in the plastic to equalize again overnight. This process is repeated until the dishes are dry enough to be lightly covered for a few more days and then ultimately set out to finish drying completely.
Clay tends to crack, or warp if it is dried too quickly, or unevenly; so drying at a controlled, slow pace is a very important step. You can tell when the clay is drying when you see the clay lighten in color. You can also feel the clay’s temperature; if it is cold to the touch, it is still wet inside; if it feels room temperature, it is dry and ready for kiln firing. Firing clay that is still wet can cause the water inside the clay to expand, resulting in the clay-ware exploding in the early stages of firing. Therefore, it is critical that the ware be “bone dry” before it is placed in the kiln for “bisque” firing which burns out the clay’s organic material and hardens the ware making it ready for glazing or other decoration.

Stay Tuned!

This is only the first leg of the journey in the creation of this group of plates. Next, you will see how we add color to these dishes before the final glaze firing. We will be sharing all the steps throughout the whole process!