Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Day in the Life... glazing donkeys

Working with ceramics is a messy thing. Like making chocolate. Except that since you can't lick the spoon (or the airbrush booth), the work space usually stays messy longer. Chocolate would be gone in between working sessions... iron oxide and manganese aren't going anywhere until they are washed.

Before glazing a new batch of donkeys, or anything, I always clean up the airbrush booth, because when you are airbrushing glaze, it stays wet for a while and things have a tendency to stick to it. And not everything burns off. Hair burns off, but can leave little charred ashes. Other pigments definitely don't burn off. So, a spray bottle full of water, a couple of paper towels, and **voila**! Clean airbrush booth!

Now that we have a clean booth, let's assemble the tools that we need to glaze these puppies.. I mean donkeys...

You will notice a mask (!!! STERN FACE !!!) Yes, a mask. Very very important. We are going to be spraying glaze, which has silica (glass) in it. We don't want to breathe it. So, a mask.
Also, an exacto; small paint brushes; the palette; the Ipod Shuffle; an unusual palette with just black in it; and a very sturdy mug full of water. That's important... I've knocked over the water before, and it's not a pretty site. Also, the donkeys are assembled. The ones sitting on the big metal lazy Susan do not require as much work as those sitting to the right of it. You can see the airbrush, with the glaze bottle on it, hanging to the far right. The rubber band keeps the heavy glaze bottle on the airbrush. This airbrush is just for glaze. Since glaze abrades the insides of the airbrush, it is not a good idea to use the same airbrush for both glaze and paints.

Here's our lineup of donkeys, ready for their details. Eyes, spot cleanups, repairs to minor flaws that occurred in the original painting, that sort of thing needs to get done now. Some manes and tails need to be painted, and some dorsals and shoulder stripes still need to be done. I try to do everything similar, at once. So, touchups requiring hoof color or nose pink go first, since those colors are the lightest. Then browns, and finally blacks. Eyes all get done at once, as the hoofs did in the first part of the process. Mass production? No, but it does make things a little easier. The paints on the palette dry out if they sit for too long, so its just easier to keep with each color until you are through using it.

Here, we are going to repair a smudged area that happened when I was painting the previous colors (before they were bisque fired) First, since the other leg is white, we wrap it in aluminum foil. You could use Saran Wrap, or most anything. I just happen to have foil handy. Don't put foil over fired colors, though!

Now, ready to spray it with black... just a light coat will do it.

All fixed!

These donkeys are ready to be glazed. They have all of their details done, and have been checked over for flaws. Spraying glaze is tedious, but spraying really does work the best. You can achieve an overall even coat, and you can gauge exactly how much you have applied. It takes quite a few light coats to get the glaze just right. In between, you can hit them with a blow dryer to dry the glaze enough so that you can touch it. That's where the Ipod Shuffle comes in... good music makes the time fly by, and with the Shuffle you don't have to blast the radio and disturb the neighbors!

One or two coats of glaze, and the one nearest the camera is still wet. Yes, after all of the beautiful colors, I AM spraying them pink! But that is just the dye that is used to tint the glaze, so that we can work with it. In the kiln, the glaze will become crystal clear and glossy.

Into the kiln they go! The bottoms of their feet have been wiped clean of glaze, so that it doesn't melt and stick to the kiln shelf. One final check of the kiln, all systems go... so, push the button and go back into the house. A good days work!


Lauren Henline said...

These are the cutest! I showed Matt and he just about had a heart attack, too, over the cuteness.
Ipods are important part of work process. I agree :)

Hana said...

This last photo reminds me of the terra cotta soldiers.

Lyn said...

Sometimes I miss glazing the little beasties. Seeing the shed reminds me of some fun times.


Long Lost Lyn