Tea for Two – Printing

We had lovely Anne Gibbs to give us an intense introduction into printmaking, and how it can help us develop our ideas and use the imagery and techniques on clay.

Using water-based inks for easier cleaning and benefit of environment, Anne showed us throughout the day different print techniques such as addition, subtraction, blocking, mono-printing and mark making with different range of tools.
Printing with Ann GibbsPrinting with Anne Gibbs

Printing with Anne Gibbs


The workshop was absolutely amazing with the artist giving us live feedback and talking to us about our current project and exploration.

I was able to reflect on my prints and decide straight away what approach would be best to continue and explore my theme.

I came out with a range of interesting prints and passion to explore the printmaking further.
Printing with Anne Gibbs




Next week we started to apply the learned techniques onto leather hard slabs of clay.
The ink consisted of printing medium mixed with stains.
I used some of my plaster shapes to print with and feed the 3D into 2D imagery.
Preparing for print workshop with Ann GibbsPrinting on clay with Anne Gibbs




Later in the Term I took an opportunity to get inducted into developing images onto silk screen and print through it.
I built on my imagery explored with Anne with architectural motives.


Exposing screen in print workshop




Printing with a screen










I ended up with a number of prints I could compile into a small book, book-band by me.
Screen Printing


Progress on throwing & turning skills

Throwing on and off for about 2 years, I really want to extend and perfect my skills in throwing and turning vessels in this first year project.

throwing with 1kg ball of cal

These are my latest trials in throwing with a larger, 1kg ball of clay of White St Thomas.

By this point, I found centring and pulling up the walls relatively easy, as well as centring and turning leather hard vessels.
Being so scared turning my pots before and always thinking how impossibly hard it is; by now I must say I am looking forward to turn every single vessel I throw on the wheel.
However, there was significant collapsing and failing when adapting the shape of a larger cylinder, showing me that I need plenty more practice.

trying to throw identical cups
That was after setting a small challenge of producing number of identical cups
from 400g of Ash White. Drawing the design and then using a ruler to measure the width and hight while throwing, I managed to produce 9 reasonably same cups.


This exercise was great to limit myself into a one, slightly inward curved shape, and repeat it over and over; focusing my skill to develop in areas important when throwing: controlling the hight, width, thickness of the walls, curvature, etc.

However, I still feel that I don’t have full control in ensuring the shape and size is identical, therefore I shall repeat this challenge again to be more consistent in my work.

I also turned each cup to finally learn it, therefore the result was always slightly different, not really limiting myself but rather just play and get practice in the pure timing of the leather hard stage and centring and not cutting through the walls or bases.

extruded handle
I pulled handlealso tried to apply handles onto the cups. First pulling a handle, which proved to be rather tricky, but after a few attempts the result was acceptable.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the result; so I touched the extruder for the first time.
The result was even less satisfying, with the extruder disk providing too thick handles for my cups.
However, the immediacy and industrial, like a pipe or cable look was desirable, so I’ll have to look at producing my own extruder plates later.

Here are my earliest thrown object from 500g balls of Ash White and Terracotta at the beginning of this year. Always going for as thin and light walls as possible, but still rather modern, industrial and rather minimalistic look.

In the very near future I have to look more on functionality of my vessels. In their shapes as well as features such as handles, spouts and lids.
earlier throwing practice earlier throwing pieces

Processing my dug clay

Initial processing of my dug clay from Fforest Fawr near Tongwynlais, and shaping it for experiments and analysis.

After drying up my clay at home and braking it into smaller pieces, I brought the dried clay to the studio where I covered it with water to soak and brake the dried pieces up again.

Leaving it for a few days to sit and braking it up a bit more with hands I noticed how my substance is more like a sandy mud, than a clay.
I decided to screen it first through 30 mesh sieve to remove any larger sand, rocks and organic debris more easily, and then again through finer 40 mesh sieve.

My very short clay, most likely very high in organic compounds.

The process was very strenuous and incredibly smelly, the clay substance releasing powerful sewage odours, giving me more proof that what I have is a highly organic and sulphury substance with little clay in it.

When I removed all larger sand and organic debris with the sieves, I poured the wet mud onto a plaster bat to soak up excess water, and tried to wedge it into a one ball.
The substance felt rather sandy and as sand is a non-plastic part of a clay, I knew that my clay would be very short and lack plasticity.
This would make it difficult to shape my clay into tiles for further testing, therefore I decided to integrate some clay available in university to make it more plastic and malleable and see how the two clays would react.

There could be another option on how to separate and retreat the clay from my dug substance, using levigation. However, that was the more time consuming process and I already felt slightly behind with the task.

I decided to introduce the same amount of porcelain as my dug clay; choosing porcelain for it’s plasticity and whiteness; so that any colouring from my raw clay would be more noticeable.
Wedging the two clays together, the mixture was still too short for my likings, so I added a bit more porcelain.

Totally my clay mixture consists of 1296 grams of my raw dug clay and the same amount 1296 grams of porcelain with extra 300 grams, as the mixture was still too short. That is 44.81% of clay sourced in Fforest Fawr and 55.19% university’s porcelain.

Raw clay test tiles
The test tiles and 100 grams balls.


I ended up with a more plastic and malleable clay, but also more porcelain than my dug clay.

I managed to shape the original raw clay at least into a ball of 100 grams, to test the water content in the dug substance.
The clay mixture was also shaped into a 100grams ball to see the weight difference compared to the pure raw clay, bone dry and then bisque fired; suggesting the amount of water as well as chemically bonded water in the clays.

The test tiles from my porcelain and raw clay mix will be fired to different temperatures raging from just bone dry, biscuit fired to 1280°C reduction.
This will demonstrate changes across the different temperatures as well as the shrinkage rate, when measuring the 10cm long line marked on the tiles.

After drying for few weeks and then weighting the 100 grams balls again, the difference in water content was 33.3 grams for raw clay and 26.1 grams for clay mixture with porcelain.




Kiln Care and Firing Induction

With our Technical Demonstrator Matt we were introduced to the ceramic kilns, how to take care of them and how to use them for firing out work, over two sessions.

Required reading

Kilns are one of the most essentials tools in ceramics (ignoring all the other, more primitive forms of firing), as it turns clay into ceramics – through quartz inversion which happens at 573 °C and becomes stable at about 870 °C (depending on including fluxes).

We were introduced to the booking system used in the department.
The arrangement of kiln furniture, always having three supports under kiln shelf, and on the same place as below.
Importance of cleaning or supporting glazed surfaces, so that glaze doesn’t run down and damages expensive kiln furniture.
Pyrometric cones which measure the heat-work – the effect of the heat on the glaze inside, rather than just set temperature in an instance. Their position. Health and safety when viewing them, and when operating the kiln.

Gradual firing of the manual test kilns:
* 10% on the dial for the initial 1 hour.
* 30% for another hour, at this stage the internal temperature will be approximately 400 °C
* 50% for another hour
* 70 % for an hour
* on 100% – check the cones.

Dampers (lids) 1. open until 600°C is reached – all the moisture is released and quartz inversion began (on bisque firing). On glaze firing the damper can be closed a bit earlier, at about 300°C.
2. Open when viewing the cone and the atmosphere inside is misty (never blow!)
3. Dumper should remain closed when cooling
4. Can be open at 300°C
5. Close the damper when opening the door very slightly, at 150°C

We received further documentation for reference when needed.
I also started reading The Electric Kiln by Harry Fraser from our list of required reading, do strengthen and deepen my knowledge which is at its complete basics right now, and for future reference.

Slab Building – Building a Sagger

On our Workshop day last Monday, we were introduced to the basic techniques of Slab Building by our wonderful Technical Demonstrator Matt Thompson. By the task of building a sagger for our future combustable and experimental firing, we acquire the essential skills through practice.

The session covered all the basics of slab building techniques, of which I was already aware of, but it was good to recap on them.slab
I have just finished reading book from our required reading list – Slab techniques by Jim Robinson and Ian Marsh, so I was very keen to test it in practice.


I had some issues with planning my time and started making my sagger a bit later, rushing it and therefore the result is of slightly decreased quality than anticipated. Mostly in the absence of a proper lid. However, that shouldn’t be a big problem as the lid needs to have some air holes, which my one has sufficiently enough around the edges.

I went for a simple box shape, using hand rolled slabs.

Each side is decorated with my exploration of patterns linked to my research into industrial functional architecture.
I’m very fond of the geometrical, triangular patterns; I’m just afraid how will I be able to translate them into a thrown piece.

Health & Safety

The first point in ‘Material Alchemy’ lecture raised the importance of Health and Safety in our practice as a ceramicist.

Slips, trips and falls are the first general risks that we need to be aware of while working in CSAD. As the nature of the environment we work in is dynamic with possibilities of spillage, objects placed around and lifting heavy items; we need to be aware of the risks involved in such environment.
Although it’s a common sense, it still needs to be discussed, and not forget; being aware and clear of the hazards and proper procedures.

All the material used in ceramics are at least irritating and hazardous when exposed for a life-long time. That’s why correct procedures for each material handling should be fallowed to avoid accumulation of toxins in the body.
The most toxic and deadly substances are found in the Glaze room, which could enter the body by:



“Material Safety Data Sheets” are created for each substance to provide safe procedures when handling and working with a material; including data such as physical properties, health effects and toxicity, first aid, storage and disposal or protective equipment.
The Data Sheets can be accessed online (such as http://www.potterycrafts.co.uk/MSDS).

This information gave me a notion of how important Health & Safety in my practice is, even if it sounds dull and common sense.
I’ll try my best to listen to all H&S instructions given to us at individual workshop and follow them thoroughly.
I actually find myself being interested in all the correct procedures when handling and properties of individual materials, with detailed information written down in the form of the Material Safety Data Sheet.

An example of a common Data Sheet: Continue reading Health & Safety