We were very fortunate to have Mollie Bosworth talk about her stunning decorative techniques, for while she has been using and experimenting with mineral salts for many years, she has been reluctant to do workshops due to the toxicity of the materials and the unpredictable results.
As levels of toxicity vary, some being carcinogenic, it is imperative that users know the health and safety recommendations for handling these substances. With these concerns a priority Mollie gave the following tips for working with these materials:
Mollie was introduced to this process in a very old book, which is now difficult to find. A request to a library may locate a copy for borrowing. Written by Norwegian ceramic artist Arne Ase, “Watercolours on Porcelain” is an essential reference and includes health and safety tips on each material.
Also reference the work of:
Mark Goudy & Liza Riddle (California), John Shirley (South Africa), Angela Mellor (Australia/UK), Luca Tripaldi (Italy), Piet Stockmans (Belgium), Astrid Gerhartz (Germany).
The colourants that Mollie spoke about included:-
Some of these are available in garden sections of good hardware stores, while others can be purchased online from chemical suppliers. Usually, the dry or crystalline materials dissolve fully or partially in water, but some require Hydrochloric acid, and gold needs a combination of two acids, termed aqua regia, to dissolve.
As with our basic colouring oxides, these salts look different in different concentrations and work a bit like watercolours. Having obtained the strongest concentration from dissolving a salt in either water or acid, they can be diluted with water to give weaker effects or left to become stronger after evaporation.
Mollie prepared several samples by dividing up areas on thin bisque white clay tiles using a resist liquid, Liquitex* or Latex**. She decorated both moist and dry tiles.
(Apply the resist with cotton buds and throw away, or dip brushes in detergent first for easy cleaning.)
The colourant solution was brushed on horizontally so that areas of single, double, and triple coatings were separated by resist lines.
The acid** was brushed on vertically, over the bands of colour, and we watched the acid displace the colourants. The degree of dampness of the bisque is critical, as moistness encourages diffusion.
We also observed that:
*Liquitex is a gloss medium/varnish available from Art Suppliers, Bunnings, etc. Liquitex is water-soluble, it can be diluted and used as a resist material.
**Latex is also a wax substitute and water-soluble while still liquid.
Another decorative idea shown by Mollie is the technique known by many names, whereby the resist material is applied to raw ware (leather-hard or bone dry) and when the resist is dry the un-masked surface is eroded by repeatedly sponging with a damp sponge to remove areas of raw clay, leaving the resisted areas proud of the surface, in relief. Extension: Apply more resist and repeat to build up a 3D look and vary the translucency - apply up to 3 times. Variation: apply oxide/underglaze to the surface before the resist.
The resist can be peeled off before firing using a scalpel or pin, which enables mistakes to be peeled off too.
** Acid is Phosphoric – 85% food-grade, used to clean commercial kitchens and brewing equipment - watered down. Work with small quantities for ease and safety.
Store liquids in small lidded glass jars with labels.
The salts can be blended for more colour options. If applying one over another, it makes a difference which one is on top. Bisquing between applications may be helpful.
Mollie bisques Southern Ice porcelain to 1000˚ and polishes with diamond pads, grades 120, 240, and 400.
Mollie concluded this part of her demonstration with words of encouragement to test anything that comes within your reach, or go seek unusual materials, rare-earths for instance, to see what they can reveal.
The simplest type of decal is a ‘waterslide laser decal’ printed on a printer where the black ink (toner) contains iron. Mollie uses generic ink cartridges in a basic black (not colour) HP printer.
Finding decal paper got a little more complicated in recent years after the US supplier Bel Decal was put out of business following a successful patent application over the laser decal process.
However, Mollie has tracked down an Australian source, Dr Decal and Mr Hyde, who sells the original paper now called “Bel-type decal paper”. A list of other suppliers below.
A waterslide laser decal is a one-colour decal, black that fires brown. As we know from using iron oxide, when put with a clear glaze, the glaze “eats” the iron, it goes very pale or disappears.
So Mollie uses these decals on bisque ware with no glaze and fires to 1300˚C.
She suggests it may be possible with care to apply decal to a fired glaze and refire to just the temperature at which the glaze begins to soften, perhaps around cone 04 - 1060˚.
It can be tricky to get just the right temp at which the iron will stay on the surface and not get consumed by the glaze as it melts.
Mollie confirmed that Johanna is developing a paper with a flux in the cover coat so that the iron-bearing toner fuses onto the glaze at a much lower temp, like 800-830˚.
Normal decal paper result is dullish, matte colour, while fluxed paper is slightly glossy.
The images for the decals can be created with any image managing software. If you don’t have Photoshop or similar, you can download Gimp for free.
Fill the page with images; duplicates, smaller, larger, leaving just a few millimetres between.
Photographs work well too.
Plain colour decal paper can be used for flat areas of colour or printed on.
Ready-made decal designs called “Open Stock” are available. Bailey Decal (UK) sells packs.
Your own designs can be digitally printed: A3 sheet ($60) John Stewart (NSW), Decal Specialists, Northcote, VIC., and Johanna DeMaine can source screen-printed decals in quantities of 10 A3 sheets from Japan
Laser Decal Papers
Low-fire (fluxed) laser decal paper, and coloured sheet decal paper
Open Stock Decals
At the closing session of the recent Australian Ceramics Triennale in Hobart, 1-4 May 2019, the 700 strong audience was invited to assemble again in Central Australia. The re-birth of interest in ceramics will undoubtedly see this as a hugely popular destination, favoured as it is with many environmental aspects so compatible with living with, working with and firing clay.
The experience in Hobart confirmed just how wondrous is the level of involvement, creativity, and camaraderie within the growing ceramic community.
Young and old, new-comers and frequent attendees immersed themselves in 4 days of talks, demonstrations and exhibitions. Multiple choices had many moving quickly from place to place, while others settled comfortably to absorb the generous sharing of knowledge and experiences.
Held in the vast Princes Wharf 1 building it was so convenient to have all the conference events under one roof, or almost. Last-minute registrations had the organisers (an amazing team of 4), expanding seating and spaces to absolute capacity, adding two marquees to the perimeter courtyards for demonstrations.
CAQ had a presence, along with other Australian ceramic-interest groups, in the exhibition section of the venue. Representation was limited to those who could deliver their work on set-up day and 14 artists took part: Julie Shephard, Liz Izquierdo, Michaela Kloeckner, Dianne Peach, Sandra Robertson, Megan Puls, Anne Mossman, Larissa Warren, Bill Powell, Sue Fraser, Johanna DeMaine, Evelyne Upton, Molly Bosworth, and the collaborative work of Johanna DeMaine and Tatsuya Tsutsui under the brand name Kayabuki Kobo.
The organisers kept secret the colour of the plinths, except that all the tops were greyish white. The grey/black background of PW1 was illuminated by oranges and yellows, blues and greys of the cleverly designed painted cardboard box plinths. Ours were mid-grey and very complimentary to the work. What we lacked in lighting was compensated for by the corner position, which gave excellent exposure to all. Five pieces were sold along with many appreciative comments.
Other exhibitions in the space included TACA’s “Manifest – the art and design of contemporary Australian ceramics”, curated by Damon Moon, showing selected artist’s works with diverse approaches to the medium, and the “Presenters Exhibition”, showing the work of the national and international speakers and demonstrators.
“Holding Space” displayed works by both current and past Tasmanian ceramic artists/potters, all influential in the development of ceramic knowledge in this state and exposing the exceptional strength of the craft in this comparatively small geographical area.
A cameo collection of pieces by Prue Venables celebrated her award bestowed in 2018 as the 9th ‘Living Treasure – Master of Australian Craft’ by the Australian Design Centre.
The Pot Shop inside the venue and the Saturday Market in the forecourt was where opportunities for delegates to sell, and buy, from an amazing array of wares rarely seen ‘under one roof’.
Eight exhibitions in nearby Salamanca drew delegates to the buzz of this popular recreational precinct, and almost as many galleries were a short walk away in the CBD. The Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery showed five separate groupings of ceramics from their collection spanning decades.
The ‘serious’ business of the conference was presented under daily themes, the first being “Contemporary Meets History”. The custom of Triennale's is to examine all aspects of ceramic practice; the practical, theoretical, philosophical, experimental, conceptual, ephemeral, ethical, and even more mind-bending angles.
There was a lot of valuable talking, mostly in the mornings when our heads were somewhat clearer, with afternoons broken up by moving from Derwent Stage to Kunanyi (Mt Wellington) Stage, demo to demo, browsing exhibitions and trade displays, and of course, meeting old friends and making new ones. It was impossible to do/see it all!
But one session I’m so glad I didn’t miss was the “Glaze Chemistry Workshop” by Curt McDonald from WA. Expecting 20 booked delegates the overflow (double the number including me) were standing, leaning, for hours to hear the presentation. It went all afternoon, and I was lucky to get a chair mid-way through, but honestly, I was prepared to stand for the duration. This old potter, me, doesn’t know it all, and it was so enlightening to hear this complicated topic dealt with in such a rudimentary and methodical manner. Supported by generous handouts and references (mostly from Hamer & Hamer – essential reference book – Curt held our attention to the last second. Not to say we have it all clear in our heads, yet, but we all have a new appreciation of and awe for the depths to which we can go in understanding this fascinating subject.
Another highlight of the event took place on the second last evening in the entry courtyard - the opening of the “petal kiln” designed and fired by Andres Allik. Three days of wood stoking by the dedicated team concluded at 1300˚ and the fibre-lined petals were opened like a flower, sparks rising into the clear, cold night, to reveal the 3m high sculpture made by Nanna Bayer and Selena De Carvalho – as if they didn’t have enough to do getting the whole show on the road!
Skipping to the last day, and getting a wee bit overloaded, the theme was “Onwards and Upwards”. The morning was free for The Makers’ Fair and the adjacent famous Salamanca Market. After lunch, one of the many speakers, Amy Kennedy, talked about her experiences as an Artist in Residence, as she has been engaging in these for many years in many localities around the world.
Tips on how to apply, both for positions and funding, were invaluable. I came away with the feeling though that more preparation was needed in sourcing and applying than in doing the actual residency.
I was surprised by a brief encounter regarding ceramic durability when Ian Clare, demonstrating his making of functional ware, dropped, purposely, a thrown lemon-shaped hand squeezer he’d brought with him. It bounced on the concrete floor! Impressed! The story goes that Ian leaves a small hole in the hollow form until it is almost dry (and shrunk) and then fills it in. “No, it won’t explode in the gloss firing”, Ian says.
The internal air/gas is compressed by the shrinkage in the final firing but not sufficiently to split the form. And when you drop it, the internal pressure seems to counteract the external shock of the drop. Can’t wait to try it with my eggs!
And this brings me to the final Closing Address by Glen Barkley, the Closing Ceremony, and the revelation of where the next gathering will be in 3 years’ time. Glenn’s closing Keynote Address touched on his experiences with clay as a practitioner, lecturer, judge, and curator, amongst other activities he enjoys, all of which influence his various artistic pursuits. Glenn became prominent in recent years for his outspoken appreciation of expressive rather than tidy craftsmanship, and fuelled debate amongst practitioners about the superiority/inferiority of such works, and whether these are ‘cutting edge’ or remnants of similar movements in the 70s: or just playful doodles or “kindergarten” art.
The questions from the audience indicated that this debate is not over yet, and I was tempted to think it a good launching pad for discussion when next, we all meet in Alice Springs. Hope to see you there!
Raku is a method of firing pottery that is quick, inexpensive and spectacular! Originating in 16th Century Japan and now practised all over the world this fun way of low-firing pottery is now available in kit form from Ceramic Arts Qld.
Students and/or teachers can experience the entire process of making, decorating, glazing & firing their handmade pottery. Not only is this a creative pursuit, but it also touches on the sciences and social sciences in many varied forms from geology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, archaeology, to name but a few.
Experienced potters from Ceramic Arts Queensland will tutor and supervise as required through the various stages of making and firing, incorporating cross-curricular components as desired. CAQ can collaborate with educators or course organisers to meet curriculum outcomes.
The making and decorating stages are usually spread over 2-3 weeks culminating in the firing event. If schools and clubs can do the making and bisque firing independently, then CAQ will handle the firing.
Small transportable gas kilns are easy to fire to a temperature of 1000⁰C taking approximately 30 minutes at which time the ware is lifted from the hot kiln glistening and glowing. It is then immersed in a smoke bin for a few minutes before emerging with stunning colours and never-to-be-repeated iridescent highlights.
For a little more effort and a better understanding of the firing process, a brick kiln can be stacked and fired with wood on site. Quick to fire and even more spectacular than gas this version gives students a visual lesson in the practical aspects of firing and how heat increases with gentle stoking.
The chemical and physical changes that happen to clay as it’s heated to become ceramic are fascinating and can take the learning experience into other realms of science.
Further information by emailing Ceramic Arts Qld at:
The cost can be tailored to suit your needs. The Basic Programme: $1,000 plus GST.
The spark that ignited an explosion in the studio potters’ movement of the early 60s has not been identified. That fire burned brightly for a few decades and then smouldered for another two.
That was an era of DYI, and many potters then as now were looking for economical ways to fire their work. Wood was a natural option. And there were examples of woodfire in Queensland, in small clay-based businesses not necessarily orientated to the arts.
Other reference points were the UK, the USA, and Japan, where wood firing has been a tradition for thousands of years.
This exhibition pays tribute to the artist-potter fraternity emerging at the time, who engaged in woodfire not only for its perceived economies but more so for the unique effects that were genuinely appreciated for enhancing their wares.
Milton Moon said that Carl McConnell was the first potter to seriously embark on wood-firing in Queensland. He acquired kiln plans from the US and these provided the initial knowledge for him, and Milton, to get started with kiln building. Milton Moon was possibly the first to build a catenary-design kiln in Australia and recognised and exploited the rugged impact of fire on his surfaces.
He was also one of the first “studio potters” to present his pieces to the Brisbane public as art-forms in their own right. Carl’s pottery was different though; well skilled in his approach he made functional ware of outstanding quality and strength. These two potters, with their separate directions had an enormous influence on the next tier of students originating from the Brisbane training schools.
Neither of these potters continued with regular woodfiring for more than a few years, but their enthusiasm for its value as an integral part of an idealistic potter’s life was infectious. Milton Moon, in the late seventies was the first to build an Anagama kiln in South Australia and also employed wood with his gas-burning kilns.
Fortunately a number of their students have carried the torch to this day, whilst others in this show acquired knowledge elsewhere and sometimes from each other. They include: Arthur & Carol Rosser, Ian Currie, Kevin Grealy, Albert Verschuuren, Rick Wood, Steve Bishopric, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, Len Cook, Peter Thompson, and Heaton Pittendreigh.
Woodfiring is generally regarded as a ritual for purists as every aspect of the process is physically challenging, is time consuming, and is without any guarantees of success. Not only may gems be few and far between their appeal to the general gallery audience was and still is limited, so not lightly entered into when trying to earn a living.
All these factors influence the decision to produce these unique and beautiful objects in this way, and thankfully a few dedicated potters still persist in subjecting their vessels to flame from the most original and sustainable of fuels, wood. Invariably and fortuitously connections exist between such potters, and the upcoming International Woodfirers’ Conference in late June at Cooroy in SE Queensland will be an opportunity to gather and share the passion for this medium.
This exhibition is part of the “Smoke on the Water” event and will open in the Holy Nativity Church Hall, cnr. Miva Street and Tewantin Road, from Wednesday 28th June until the conference ends on the 1st July, with the Official Opening by Owen Rye at 12.30pm Thursday 29th. Following the conference the show will move to the Metcalfe Gallery, Brisbane Institute of Art, Windsor. Opening by Rowley Drysdale on Friday 7th July continuing until Wednesday 19th July.
Dianne Peach studied ceramics at the Central Technical College in Brisbane, then set up "The Pottery Shop" at Upper Mt Gravatt and began teaching in 1966. She established a new studio, "Bellbird Pottery", on Mt Nebo Road, Upper Kedron, during the 80s, and moved again to her home stuidio at Newmarket where she practiced for nearly 30 years. Now resident on the Sunshine Coast she is making a range of one-off pieces by wheel, hand and cast methods and teaches regularly at Brisbane Institute of Art.
Dianne Peach was introduced to pottery in the mid 60s and became part of the second wave of studio potters making high quality functional and decorative ware in the rapidly expanding Australian craft movement.
Experienced in many methods of hand-building and casting, as well as being a master thrower, she works with a wide selection of clay types and firing conditions creating exceptionally well crafted unique and innovative one-off pieces.
Dianne's current work is bold and visually arresting, and is now more aptly described as sculptural rather than functional vessel making.
Dianne has held nine solo exhibitions, and participated in numerous group shows in Australia as well as exhibiting in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, England, and China where her work has been acquired.
She is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, most State Galleries and many regional public and private collections.
Currently her work can be acquired through Skepsi Galleries, Melbourne and Cooks Hill Galleries, Newcastle.
Co-curricular activities include 2+9+4 years on the Board of Ceramic Arts Queensland, (formerly Fusions and Queensland Potters’ Association), 3 years on the Crafts Board of the Australia Council, and numerous engagements for teaching, reviewing, judging and advocacy. In 2004 she was named Queensland's first "Ceramic Icon" by Crafts Queensland.Main image: “A Sentence of Teapots” 2014 Photo: Richard Stringer