Monday, April 22, 2013

Plates and Bowls and Tiles, Oh My!

It's been a while since my last post, but I didn't even come close to winning the Ben Affleck caricature contest. 13th out of 19. Not to be discouraged, I tried again. This time the subject was Yoko Ono. Here's my entry:
I ranked 12 out of 14. Tough crowd. The result was a bit discouraging for me, so I decided to take a break for a few days. That has turned into nearly a month at this point. While I'm not abandoning the project, I'm certainly further behind that I expected to be so soon.

Fortunately, I've been otherwise distracted in a good way. Two projects popped up at once for my pottery business, Beaconsfield Designs. The first surprise was a friend ordering eight place settings! In this case, the place setting consists of a dinner plate, salad plate, and bowl. I got right to work making the dinner plates, which were going to take the longest to dry. Some potters use molds for plates, but I'm not set up to work that way, so they are all thrown on the wheel. I did my absolute best to make them all the same, although there certainly will be some variation. That's the best part, though, right?  As I write this, they are being bisque fired. I've been posting photos of the progress for my friend, and she is loving the process, too. Here they are freshly thrown, in the dark of my damp basement.
And then two days later they were dry enough to trim.
trimmed and drying..

Just after I started making the plates, another friend asked for help with tiles. He has been doing a complete renovation of his kitchen, gutted right down to the studs. To break up the modern upgrade that was feeling a little too sterile, he ordered hand painted tiles from a company in France to match some antique pieces he and his wife received as wedding gifts many years ago. Apparently, after months of waiting, the tiles went from 'back ordered' to 'discontinued'. He received notice about two weeks before the scheduled counter installation, the last step before tiles.

Even though I've never painted tiles, I said I'd give it a try. He brought me the original pieces of pottery he had and nine blank pre-made bisqued tiles he found at a local paint-your-own-pottery place. After a visit to my pottery supply, where I found a tile setter for my kiln and hopefully the right color glazes, I was ready to go. When I glaze stoneware, I plan on the glaze expanding and moving while it's being fired to an extremely high temperature. The tiles are not stoneware, and they do not need to be food safe so they are fired to a lower temperature. The colors stay exactly where you put them and there's no room for error.

The first tile was a color test and I found some of the glazes a little goopy. The result was a bit lumpy with some colors and some of the colors burned off a bit. I made the adjustments and painted one feature tile and eight tiles with just the corner motif. They were happy with the results and requested one more corner motif tile and six more feature tiles with what I believe is a Cosmo near the center. The final results are shown above and I think when they see them they'll be quite happy.

Firing the tiles has helped the plates finish drying. The glazing begins tomorrow and I'll be firing for five or six days straight. I can't wait to share the results. The bowls are still in the works, and I'm hoping to finish throwing them today while the kiln is going. I've worked a fun, new, all-purpose shape for the bowls. They're a combination of my small, angular bowls and a classic onion soup crock. My friend serves up a lot of stews, chili, and soups, so I want to make sure they look cool, hold a hearty serving, and have a shape that prevents sloshing over the rim. Plus, they can be stacked!

After I finish making the bowls, deliver the tiles, and have dinner, I might just sit down and draw a caricature. That's the plan.


  1. COOL! my mantra has been, "Do good work, get more work..."

  2. Those tiles came out fantastic! And, I can't wait to see what the place settings look like when they're done. I'm also super curious to see the new bowl design, too.

  3. Those tiles are lovely. I can't wait to see the new bowls.

  4. Holy shit the tiles look fantastic. And I can't wait to see the plates and such... and possibly drool on them at some point! :D