Sunday, December 26, 2010

Who woulda' thunk?

...that there are so many different kinds of clay, so many different kinds of glazes and so many different ways to mold them....  that's what makes ceramic beads so much fun to make!  I thought I would share just a little bit about some of the different clays that I am currently using.

This is the clay that I use most often.  It is a mid-fire porcelain.  The white beads on the left have been bisque fired.  Bisque firing is done after the bead that was formed has been thoroughly dried.  They are fired in the kiln to approx. 1850 degrees preparing them for a glaze firing (2200 degrees).  The glaze that you see on the right is called shino.  It's a popular color and one that works well when combined with other colors.

This next picture is of the same style of beads, but I've used a stoneware clay.  This stoneware clay is actually a higher fire clay (2400 degrees) mixed with a local clay that surfaced after a landslide (Tully, NY) in 1993.  Although there were no deaths caused by this, there was a significant amount of destruction to the structures located in the area.  My husband Bill (Split Fire Pottery) introduced himself to the people who currently live in the area and got permission to dig.  He brought home chunks of clay, dried it, sifted out all of the stone, foliage and anything else that would make this clay difficult to work with.  I feel fortunate to have a husband that shares an interest the same as mine and to have these types of opportunities, since I really can't see myself being quite that adventurous on my own.  You can read more about Bill's work by clicking HERE to be taken to his blog.

I have used the exact same glaze on these beads, but the results are quite different.  Glaze outcomes vary depending on the clay body that they are applied to.

Finally, I have these chocolate brown beads.  I actually fired these on the 23rd (December) after testing out how high I could take them in the kiln two prior times.  The first experience was a bisque firing that was successful (1850 degrees).  They really didn't look like they were any more effected by that firing than my porcelain so I took a small group, glazed them and strategically placed them in my kiln during the glaze firing (2200 degrees).  That didn't work out!  Fortunately, I had planned for failure (just in case) which was a good thing since they melted right off of the bead wire.

I then tried a large group of them alone and watched them from 2000 degrees on.  When they were still hanging on the wire at 2150 degrees I decided to shut the kiln off.  That was perfect!  They are completely vitrified (glass stage) and came out a beautiful chocolate brown.  What's even more cool to me is that it is the pure Tully clay without any added stoneware!  I used them in some last minute jewelry gifts which is also very cool to the receivers who are from the area.

These beads are clay only.  They have not been glazed.

Below is a picture of what the clay looked like when Bill brought some home. 
As you can see, it was a process that get them to the beads that you see above.

This is the area from the landslide.  Bill blogged about it during the digging stage.  You can read about that by clicking HERE.

Making ceramic beads may look like it is a very involved process, but it is really easy and enjoyable.
  You can actually BUY the clay ;o) don't have to dig it up yourself!!

  I started out with a little test kiln because I wanted to make beads for my own jewelry designs and I really didn't have a plan to sell the beads.  Once I got into it, however, it became as addicting as my bead buying was prior to this.  I started out for less that $500 and I was on my way to making creations that I had only been able to admire online.  So, if you have thought about attempting something new in 2011, why not explore ceramics? 


pam hobbs said...

very interesting Mare, thanks for the info. I would have never knew that you could use the "dirt" from the landslide to make something so beautiful.

Patty said...

Wow Mary Ann, talk about crafting your beads "from the ground up"! This was an impressive amount of effort. I love the way the unglazed brown beads came out. Very nice!

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