It's Owl-o-ween in the studio this week!
Some birds just have more character than others, and owls are certainly among our feathered friends with personality galore.
When I'm etching owls on a piece, the design really does take on a life of its own. Each owl has his/her own character. When several are etched on a piece, even the space in between the birds feels like its carrying a conversation on the wind.
The process of making an etched piece begins with forming, either on the wheel or slab-built from "sheets" of clay that I hand-form. After the clay is stiffened up a bit, I come to it and alter or trim to the finished form.
The next stage is decorating and is done with the piece is "leather-hard," or what I describe to people as a hard block on parmesan cheese. At this stage, I can cut through the clay without creating dust.
And then the fun begins, etching through the black underglaze to the white clay underneath. It's much like creating a linocut or rubber stamp. The process of what you remove is as important as the black left intact.
I love everything about it. Except it takes so damn long. In between times of etching, the piece needs to be covered in plastic so it won't dry out to much. Once the piece is done, its left on my studio rack until completely dry – we call it "bone dry." The object is to eliminate the possibility of any moisture still in the clay to cause an explosion in the kiln. Depending upon the size of the piece and the temperature in the studio, this can take several weeks or several days. After some disasters when trying to rush this, I have learned the hard way to give the piece its time. I also fire large pieces with a two-to four- hour "warm-up," letting it slowly get cozy in the kiln before amping up the temperature.
My bisque firing, not including the "warm-up" will take approximately 13 hours, and then another 24 hours to cool off enough to unload safely.
Then the work of final glazing begins. It's one of my least favorite parts of the process. But, with a great music playlist, I just try to stay calm and dance my way through it. When the kiln is loaded and switched on, its celebration time around here.
And, hopefully, all treats – not tricks – when kiln-opening time comes two days later.