NaMoPaiMo – How I got to this point

Underglaze9

In the last post, I talked a little bit about the Animal Artistry Hackney shown in the inset picture. I want to use him to illustrate how lighter underglazes “sink” under darker ones, and how that can be used to advantage for certain kinds of dapples. But first let me explain what has been done to him up to the point where he is in that picture.

Like a lot of bone china models, he has a base which can serve as a safe hand hold. Remember that raw underglaze on bisque is too delicate to touch. If the Hackney was cast in earthenware, the underglaze would still be easy to scuff after it was fired, but on a bone china horse fired underglaze is much more durable. But since the green underglaze is really stable under the glaze—it doesn’t fade after multiple fires—my default is to completely finish to base before working on the horse. The picture above shows a row of bone chinas with their glazed bases. That gives me an impervious handle to hold while I work, and also protects the base from overspray since it can now be wiped off. (That is another constraint of underglazing: it is almost impossible to completely remove raw underglaze from anything other than bare bone china.)

Once the base is glossed, I am limited to translucent (“easy stroke”) colors. Opaque colors are supposed to be brought up to Cone 04 (the “bisque fire”), and the gloss glaze is limited to the lower temperature Cone 06 (the “glaze fire”). That’s not a problem for this project, since the translucent colors are more suited to dappling anyway.

Here is what has been done up to date.

Step 1. Base, mane and tail
With each firing, I want to get as many things colored as I can within the limits of my handholds and protection from overspray. So with the Hackney I sprayed the mane and tail black and wiped away the excess. Bone china has the advantage that raw underglaze can be removed with a damp brush. Earthenware, which is more porous, has to be masked because using the damp brush could leave a stain. Holding the horse by the barrel, I added the green of the base and wiped the overspray from the lower legs. That was bisque fired (04), and then the glaze was added to the base and the horse was glaze fired (06).

Step 2. Hooves and pinking
I spray the basic shell coloring on the hooves and pink the face and between the legs. It won’t matter if I have pinked parts of the muzzle that will be dark, since the colors used for bay are darker and will cover the pink. (I am likely going to have to “refresh” the pink towards the end anyway, since it tends to fade.) The glossed base makes it easy to wipe away overspray. This gets fired.

Step 3. The dappled ‘underpainting’
This first pass at the dappling establishes the pattern, so it is much like an underpainting. The Collier in the inset photo is at this stage of the process. For this step, I would have masked the Hackney much like you see in the photo above, with the white parts in that image covered with masking tape. My preferred masking material for bone china is tinted plastic wrap, but more specific areas require either liquid latex or low-tack masking tape. Masking tape works better with bone china. Once he is masked, I give a light spray of dark brown – just enough to tint the bisque. The masking material is then removed and an eraser is used to clean up the edges of the pattern and create the dapples. I also add the first layer of hoof shading (painted by hand) is done at this point, too. The horse is fired at Cone 06 again.

Steps 4-7. Layers of dappling
The next four firings involve the gradual building up of the dappling and body shading. This is done by spraying and erasing. Once I reach the point where I need to some portion of my work “set”, I fire it. Depending on how dark the dappling needs to be, this can take two to six steps. The details on the hooves are being done at this time, too, because I find gradual layers give the best results for them.

Step 8. Final details and glossing the pattern
This step brings us to the horse as he appears in the inset photo. His facial details were added along with the final shading spray of his body. Gloss was added to his white pattern to make the clean-up in the next steps easier.

That brings us up to the present with the Hackney. I’ll post tomorrow about the next steps with photos instead of so much text! But in the meantime, I’ll close by pointing out that the horse pictured has had eight firings, and has two or three more. As you can see reading through those steps, logistics is a big thing in underglazing. When I first started, I would write out step-by-step plans for each project. After almost 20 years, it is pretty much second nature, but I do recommend that new ceramic artists work their approach out, start to finish, ahead of time.

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