I hope you’re having a wonderful week! We’re gearing up for our Thanksgiving break here at Luther, but things are already beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Twinkly lights are now decorating the evergreen trees outside, and we got our first snow yesterday. People have been making snow angels and having snowball fights – and continuing to wear shorts and eat ice cream despite the extreme cold.
I, for one, have been busy at work on my final project for my World Pottery class. For the assignment, I am creating one vessel and several bowls to emulate the artistic style of Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico. The vessel I am attempting to replicate is an “olla,” a traditional water jug, hand-built by stacking coils, or rolls, of clay on top of one another and smoothing them together. For today’s post, I am going to show you the process of building my olla! I’m certainly no expert, but I thought you might be interested in seeing what I’ve been up to.
To start, I built a base for my pot – basically a bowl. To create the bottom, I swirled a clay coil into a spiral and smoothed it into a circle. From there, I started adding coils for height, “slipping and scoring” before adding each new coil. By adding water (slipping) and roughening the clay with a serrated tool (scoring), you help the new coil to bind to the one below it.
After the base was created, I let my piece “set,” or wait, for awhile. This allows the work to solidify a little, so it can hold the weight of the next coils without losing its shape. I let the vessel set after every one or two coils added.
Once the pot was complete, it was time to add slip designs. We’ve learned two basic ways of decorating our work in class – slip work and glazing. Glazing is done after a piece has been fired, or baked, in a kiln; the glazes include glass particles to give the piece a smooth, glossy texture. Slip, on the other hand, is colored clay, so it comes mostly in earthy tones – black, white, red, and brown. You paint a piece with slip before you fire it, so the clays you used to build and decorate the work can become integrated.
For my olla, I added a base coat of white clay to the outside of the vessel and a coat or red clay to the inside. Next, I etched my design into the surface of the clay so that I would know where to paint. Then it was time to use the slip!
I added the red slip first; then I moved to the black. Painting the design took many hours. Erasing is difficult – you have to scratch off mistakes – so being precise is important. I spent all day working on the slip designs today. But I’m really happy with the results!
Here is the finished product:
I still have to decorate my bowls, but I’m happy with what I got done today! And it has been fun having a piece of the sunny Southwest with me in snowy Decorah.
If you’re interested in other art classes at Luther, you should definitely check out the art department’s website! There are so many classes to choose from!
Have a terrific week!