Fun With Ceramics

During the first weeks of March, our class had the opportunity to study ceramics with Diane Fullick, private conservator and alum of the WUDPAC program. We started by learning about the geologic origins of clay and the methods of manufacture of clay objects. Diane brought in a great study set, helping us learn to visually distinguish among the three main clay body types: earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain … we are still working on it! During the block, each student chose an object to examine and document, including many delftware and Chinese export porcelain objects. Winterthur Curator of Ceramics and Glass Leslie Grigsby gave a lecture using pieces from the Winterthur collection and met individually with each student, helping each of us understand our documentation objects.

Each student also chose two ceramic objects to reassemble, one low and one high fire. Similar to glass block, students experimented with adhesives, such as B72 and epoxy, and mold-making materials, such as silicone and dental wax. Learning new techniques, we cast plaster fills to compensate for losses to our objects with more opaque clay bodies. We experimented with slow-setting epoxy, bulked with fumed silica and tinted with dry pigments, for fills to our fine porcelain objects. We even tried Japanese paper, just for fun! With many, many layers of acrylic paint, dry pigments, matting agents, and acrylic gloss media, each student created at least one toned fill.

At the end of the block, our class took a field trip to Baltimore. In the morning, we visited the Johns Hopkins Archeological Museum, and our metals block instructor Sanchita Balachandran. During our visit, Diane pulled examples of Cypriot, Greek, and Ancient American earthenware vessels, as well as Egyptian faience. After discussing these ancient artifacts, we turned off the lights, examining the objects with ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In the afternoon, we visited the Baltimore Clayworks, a non-profit clay studio and exhibit space, offering classes and kilns to the community, as well as exchange programs and retail opportunities for students and artists to gain experience in their chosen medium and visibility for their work. Education director and resident artist Matt Hyleck was kind enough to give us a tour of the facility, as well as a wheel-throwing demonstration. He makes it look so easy …

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