I've been experimenting quite a lot lately to try to achieve a specific effect which I'm calling a 'stained glass' finish. This came about after I had an idea for a Cleric-themed base for a miniature figure that was styled after stained glass windows in a church. Here's my initial design:
At the time I had no idea if it was do-able, as it was very different from anything else I'd ever done. The construction of it was actually easier than most of my other carvings, but it was the finish I was concerned about, as I mostly focus on using oxides and underglazes.
So I started experimenting with crushed coloured glass, working on the assumption that it would melt and settle into the sunken areas I'd created.
Well, that didn't work. It's one of those things that sounds like a good idea at the time, but the glass was horrendously difficult to find the exact temperature that it would become just molten enough to merge and settle, but not so molten that it began boiling and bubbling up over the edge.
Additionally, for some reason several of the glasses would change colour at different temperatures. I had a red that was a deep, fully opaque maroon at 1,200C, but went completely colourless and transparent at 1,250C. It was just too volatile.
But never let a couple of failures stop you, as there are always different options in pottery and you just have to keep trying things till you get the results you want. In this case, the saving grace turned out to be celadon glazes. (Or faux-celadons, to be honest).
Celadons are a breaking glaze that are thin and pale over areas of raised detail, and thick and darker in sunken areas where the glaze pools. So by using a thick application of different coloured celadons, I was able to achieve a pretty similar result to what I originally envisioned:
Encouraged by those results, I've been working on some new designs, all themed around elements or motifs in Dungeons & Dragons or similar role-playing games. Earth, Air, Fire, and Water are the obvious ones to begin with, but I also want to do nature-inspired patterns, serpentine designs, and images relating to the different fields of magic.
Here are a couple of designs I've mocked up quickly (some haven't been fully coloured/finished yet):
There's a variety of different glazes I think can be used to highlight certain areas, such as using the lava glaze for the Fire Element design, or a sparkle 'Moonglow' glaze for parts of the waves in the Water Element. I'm really excited to see how these turn out, and I'm looking to come up with new designs.
If there are any you'd like to suggest, pop them in the comments and I'll see what I can do. 😊
So I've started expanding the options for the pots - I guess I can't really call them kusamono pots anymore, because I'm now making them much larger than a standard kusamono, so simply 'pots' will have to do until I come up with a better name.
I love the iron/manganese wash that I've been using up till now, it works wonderfully with the ancient designs and I'll continue to produce pots using this clay and finish. However, I wanted a couple of different options to give everyone a bit of variety.
Having just emptied the kiln of the latest batch, I can now show you what some examples look like. 🙂
Here are three in the Black & Gold style. The same materials and method used for my standard Black & Gold carvings range, but now in pot-form.
The new high-fire terracotta. I felt that the bare clay didn't show the designs quite well enough on its own, so I've added a finishing wax to highlight the areas of raised detail. I very much like the effect, as it looks as if it's been scorched or burnt somehow.
This is me learning that the high-fire terracotta isn't actually that high-fire. The three above were from a previous firing, but these two were accidentally fired up to my old gloss temperature, rather than adjusted down to suit the new clay. Bit of a difference that 50C can make! I don't dislike them, but I would prefer the richness that comes from the traditional terracotta red. They've been given the same wax treatment as above.
This is the over-fired terracotta with the iron/manganese wash finish. I'm expecting stronger red tones when I put the next batch through (and keep the temperature to what they should be). Even so, I think these are showing a lot of potential and I'm happy with the results.
These should be hitting the eBay store shortly. 😊
Whew! The Historical page of the Product Range section has been finished. It was a much larger job than I originally anticipated because I wasn't happy with the photos I had on hand for the original carvings - keeping in mind that many of these photos were taken nearly 20 years ago now...
So, the weekend saw me crawling around in my loft bringing down the many boxes where I'd safely packed away all the original carvings, and carefully unpacking them all so I could take a new set of photos of everything.
Just to explain, the main photos of all the pieces on the Historical page are the original carving - the backgrounds don't matter for these so you'll see them come with all sorts of odd shapes. I remove the background for the pieces I sell, or the image becomes part of a kusamono pot, as you can see in the slideshow photos.
Up the top of the page it has examples of some of the different finishes any of the below pieces can be done in. If you have something specific in mind but I don't have a photo of it, the likelihood is that I can put it together for you - just drop me a message via my eBay Store.
I've gone through the results of the New Year's Eve gloss firing and I'm broadly happy with how everything turned out. There were a lot of successes, and a handful of 'instructional pieces' (nothing's a failure if you can learn from it).
To go through a couple of the more noteable pieces...
This is the lava glaze I'm so excited about. The first example is with the rocks painted in my moon glaze (only thinly, so the crater texture didn't come through), and the second is my standard iron oxide wash, wiped back. I think I wiped back a little too vigorously on the second, as it's looking a little pale to me, so I'd like to try it with a darker iron wash - that way preserving all the detail but keeping it fairly dark.
The lava glaze itself is bringing up white patches where it's not thick enough, but I have plans to get around that next time.
In all I'd say these were 80% effective, with just a little tinkering needed to get them to where I want them to be.
I'm not all that fussed with these, to be honest. I was trying out a different colour scheme from the usual Black & Gold or ancient iron oxide look, but they just don't have the panaz I was hoping for, the detail in the white areas just gets a bit lost.
It's hard to tell from the photos, but there's metallic rub'n'buff on the coloured areas - gold and a deep brown. It does make them a little more appealing than the photos may suggest, but I'm still not inclined to pursue this colour scheme unless someone specifically asks for it.
The glass was, as I suspected, the area of the biggest disappointment. I'd hoped that dropping the temperature by 50C would be enough to fix the problems from last time, but apparently not. It's still expanding far too much and ruining the pieces, not to mention that it reacts really oddly with my buff clay (top left). 1,000C was barely enough to get it to melt, 1,200C is far too high...
At this point I think I may have to move away from that line of thought and look for alternatives. I can't realistically drop my gloss firing temperature down much further without it starting to have an impact on other things. But luckily there's always alternatives, and I already know what I'm going to try next to get a very similar effect without as much hassle.
These turned out well, I feel. The yellow sections have been touched up with gold rub'n'buff, so they shimmer nicely in the light (which the photos don't really capture, of course). A lot of time went into painting these, and they're probably not realistically viable, but I'm glad to have done them and am pleased with how they came out.
As expected, these darkened up nicely in the gloss firing. They have a lovely solid feel to them now, alongside a nice, rough texture that's so characteristic of terracotta. Most terracotta fires to earthenware temps, and call me a snob, but I just don't think that earthenware feels 'finished'. It feels too fragile and doesn't make the same nice little 'ping' when you tap it with a fingernail. So I had to search around for a high-fire terracotta that I could take up to 1,200C without it slumping, and I think I've found it. :)
Still deciding on whether to put an iron oxide wash over them to help accentuate the details. I've got another couple of pots coming through so I might trial it out on those and see how it looks.
Well I knew these would darken up in the final firing, but the depth of colour in these is really quite a surprise. Keep in mind these are body stains mixed in only at 5%, because I wasn't wanting them too bright. The recommended minimum is 10%, so I'm glad I halved that with the trial. They really are quite beautiful, strong colours, and this is definitely a result I can work with. :)
Saving the best till last...
I'm really happy with how this attempt at marbled clay turned out. With the different shrinkage rates of the four types of clay I used, there was a significant danger that they'd pull themselves apart in the final firing. But there's not a crack to be seen, they're all quite solid and show no structural issues.
The colours, particularly the black and red, have darkened up beautifully to provide contrast. I'll definitely be putting these to use in the future.
An important gloss firing is currently cooking merrily away, holding a number of test pieces that - hopefully - will result in some great new lines. Or there could be a catastrophic failure and it's back to the drawing board. Don't I just love the suspense??? 😬
I took some photos of the shelves as I packed the kiln, so I'll briefly go through them one by one.
Not much to see here on the base of the kiln; a handful of black and gold pieces, including some new Egyptian Amulet designs, and a couple in white clay that I'm trialling a new colour scheme for. The yellow will be touched up with gold rub'n'buff, and the reddish parts should go darkly metallic. It's a very thick iron oxide mixture that hasn't been wiped back, I'm aiming for a real metallic sheen, but we'll see how it turns out...
Shelf 2 is the glass level, the one that could potentially go badly wrong if I'm unlucky. These are all miniature bases - that is, bases for miniature figurines such as used in Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop games.
I've tested using glass a little, but not extensively. My last firing was at 1,250C and the glass mostly worked... The end result was largely what I was looking for, but I believe the temperature was a bit high 'cause it bubbled over quite a bit before settling back into the recesses. So I'm hoping that dropping the temperature to 1,200C will be sufficient to prevent that from happening this time. Otherwise I could lose the lot, and have some messy scraping back to do on the shelves, at least for the blue 'ice sheet' bases that are most likely to leak.
Here's a close-up of the glass being applied:
It's literally just a matter of sprinkling it on and then brushing it off so that it fills up the cracks. Some of these ice bases have a snow effect glaze applied, and some are just bare clay. So we'll see which ones turn out best.
I'm not quite ready to trial glass in the black and white 'Cleric' base in the middle, it's too intricate, so I'm going to do a couple with coloured resin first to get an idea of how the end product will look and whether it's a design worth pursuing.
The other bases are for Wizards (with the red and purple glass), and necromancers (with the skeleton crawling out of the green glass). They're designed to be painted after firing, which is why they look a bit bare.
My Wheel of Time shelf... An *enormous* amount of time went into these, so I'm half wanting to keep this first full set for myself.
This was my lockdown project, at least the first one. At the start of the first lockdown back in March I decided to re-read the Wheel of Time series again - all fourteen very large books (I'm midway through #12 now) - and I was inspired to start carving the chapter icons. On the backs of many of the original carvings I inscribed things like, "Day 28 of coronavirus lockdown, 2020". Gotta hope they're found by a future archaeologist in a couple of thousand years... 😉
The plan with these is to display them as a mosaic in a box frame, either with people choosing whichever ones they like, or having the tiles grouped by themes. For example, the dice, the horn, the ruby-hilted dagger, and the fox and serpent symbol (and possibly the ravens) all go together because they relate to a specific character.
If you enjoy fantasy and haven't read the books, I would strongly recommend them. Particularly as Amazon Prime is apparently filming a live action series. It has the potential to be very, *very* good (please don't stuff it up!)
The remainder of the Wheel of Time series, and some extra Cleric bases (yes, I know one's unpainted, I'm going to trial a different method with that one, because painting the black lines by hand takes far too long to be practical - nearly an hour per base).
The other pieces are the first of the smaller sized historical carvings. I've been producing them in black and gold for a little while - some are currently for sale on eBay - but I wanted to do a coloured set to see how they looked. It may well be the case that it's just not worth the time spent hand-painting them, but I won't know till I try. All the colours are expected to darken somewhat in the firing, and black shading from underneath should bleed through to give them a bit more definition. In theory, at least.
Finally, the last shelf, prominently dotted with the terracotta pinch pots mentioned in the last post.
In between them are some more miniature bases, in particular one that in my head I'm calling 'The floor is lava', because it should fire up to look like an underground volcanic scene. There's two different types, one with the rocks painted in iron oxide, and the other in a glaze that resembles dark moon-like craters.
Alongside them are a couple of test pieces that I'm very eager to see how they turn out. First are some small examples of stained clay. This is where colour pigment powder is kneaded into the clay body itself to give it a different colour. I'm trialling some subtle colours (only 5% body stain to 95% white stoneware clay) which I'm hoping to use in an upcoming project.
Similarly, for the same project, there's a couple of disks of marbled clay hiding in between the other pieces. This is where I've taken the four different types of clay I use - white, buff (pinkish grey), terracotta (red), and black clay (actually dark brown) - and carefully mixed them together to create a pattern of the different colours.
There's a slight concern that the whole thing could crack and fall to pieces, as the shrinkage rates of the clays are different, but it's worth the risk.
Both the marbled clay and the stained clay will be used in an upcoming series of cosmic-themed pieces, quite different from anything I've produced before, but I've got a couple of designs planned that literally have kept me up at night in excitement. When my brain gets an idea it wants to run with, it doesn't care if it's silly o'clock in the morning, it's going to tell me alllllll about it. Heh
If only there were more hours in the day! 😊
So, I did a bisque firing on Christmas Day... Not quite as sad as it sounds, I had it all packed up the night before so just popped down to get it started early in the morning, then turned it off sometime between chopping brussel sprouts and putting the potatoes in the oven. Two very important things cooking that day, although one considerably hotter than the other. 🙂
This was largely a test firing of some new bits and bobs I'm trialling, so I'm pleased to say that it went well. There's a dozen or so of the first of the miniature bases to come through - a new line that I'm testing out - but more about that later when I have some photos.
I've also got a new clay that I wanted to take for a spin, a high-fire terracotta for the kusamono pots (and another in-the-works project). Here's a piccy of a handful that came out of the bisque:
They're looking rather orangey at the moment, but I expect that to fade to quite a dark red once they're fully fired. Haven't decided yet whether I want to put an iron oxide wash over them like I do with the others, I'm going to fire this batch up and see how they look, and go from there.
Hoping to get the gloss firing going tomorrow, I worked hard over the Christmas weekend to get enough pieces ready for it and I'm *really* eager to see how some things turn out, especially this:
I don't want to be counting any proverbial chickens before the all-important hatching, so I won't say too much about it in case it turns out to be an unmitigated disaster, but let's just say... The floor could be lava. 😉
Not only am I a sci-fi/fantasy geek, I'm also pretty geeky about ancient history; to the tune of spending five and a half years of my life completing an Archaeology and then Egyptology degree. History, and mythology in particular, is one of my great loves.
So it's been knocking around in my head for a while that I'd really like to make a series of Egyptian amulets - possibly other cultures at some point in the future too, if people are interested, but the Egyptian ones are particularly well known and there's a heck of a lot to choose from.
Of course there's Ankhs and Eyes of Horus/Ra aplenty out there in New Agey stores, most of them overly stylised in a way makes me cringe a bit to be honest. But there's *so* many more from ancient times that you never see. The Egyptians had an amulet for pretty much every situation, and most of them are steeped in rich history and symbolism.
So I've been working on recreating a decent number of them, and while there's still a way to go before I have the full planned set up and running, I'm starting to get some finished ones through. Yes, I've made Ankhs and Eyes of Horus - the set wouldn't be complete without them - but I've also carved the lesser known ib (heart/strength), the au (gold/fortune), and the sa (protection), among many others.
The first set I want to keep for myself as I fully intend to be buried with them - hopefully many long years from now. But with my archaeological training it gives me a little laugh to think of some future archaeologist unearthing my body, bedecked with Egyptian amulets, and thinking "What the...?"
I'm sure there are other people out there with the same sense of humour as me. ;-)
Anyways, here are some photos of the progress so far. Let me know in the comments if you want to know what any of them mean.
I've decided to completely overhaul and redesign my website.
Actually, I decided to do it a couple of years ago, but other projects kept taking priority and procrastination is a fine art. But I've finally cleared enough of my To-Do list that I can get started. It had become a bit of a sprawling mess and I very much wanted to simplify it, and maybe look into adding a store directly onto the website (still working out how that's supposed to be set up...).
The biggest change from all this is that I'll be taking off all the tutorials that I had posted. The Youtube videos will still be accessible, but all the written articles have been revamped, added to, and put into an ebook which is now available instead. I feel a little bad to be charging for something that was free for so long, but I've kept the price down to the minimum Amazon will allow, and I think it's much more user-friendly in this format. It has also been updated with new content, photos, and articles. Updating it all is the main reason it's taken me so long to redesign the website, as it was a fairly big job!
The ebook is available here.
Going forward, I hope to be a bit more active in keeping this section filled with photos and details about the new projects I'm working on. I've got so many new things I'd like to share... :)
So make sure to check back from time to time.