Words and Images from Ed Felker

Ceramics Experiment

I’ve been working with ceramic artist and instructor Amy Manson on translating some of my carved blocks into ceramic tiles. And even though I’m just starting to experiment, and working with clay is totally new to me so my results are pretty rough, I thought I’d share what I’m doing. And since I started a new project from scratch just as sort of a test, I’ll walk you through the whole process…

I started with a 4″x5″ linoleum block, and even though I personally get much better results if I take more time at this phase, I didn’t. A rough sketch of my image, reversed, from an old photo I have of Winnie as a puppy jumping off the ground toward the camera.

I carved away the background, very loosely, leaving lots of ridges and shapes that will show up in the clay.

Then I did some more subtle carving for the actual dog, I was curious just how small a depression could be and still show up. Very small!

Then, as Amy showed me in her studio and made it look easy, I covered a board with canvas as a non-stick work surface, got two slats and a dowel, rolling the dowel over the clay until it spreads to the thickness of the slats. I mentioned Amy made it look easy. I found the clay stuck to the dowel and I couldn’t get a nice even slab. So I basically got stuck on Step One.

But I had gone this far, so what the hell. I pressed the block into the clay and tried to apply even pressure. But the variation in thickness showed in some areas that didn’t imprint. Also, the sticky clay didn’t cleanly separate from the block, so there’s an area that’s just kind of a mess. I’m going to buy some different clay.

I also don’t remember what tool Amy showed me to use to cut the slab when I’m done. Did I mention I’m not a very good student? So anyway, this was done sloppily too, with the wrong tool. But there you have it, a clay tile.

At Amy’s studio, we made a few tiles from existing blocks, and then tried some different glaze combinations. This is my favorite, might be hard to see but the image is me shielding a puppy from the rain with an umbrella.

And here is a tile made from the Rose River Brown block I recently made prints from. I like some aspects of this, particularly the texture and that amber color. The rest of the background needs something more, but like I said, I’m just getting started with this experiment. I hope to have something cool to report soon about it, so please keep in touch!


3 responses

  1. hmmm. Silicone spray might help with the clay release; ya know, like Show Sheen for horses? I seem to vaguely recall from my short affair with Sculpy that there is some product or another that eases the release.

    This is an interesting, sorta complicated process. I can’t even imagine what trouble you could get up to with a 3D printer. 😉

    January 27, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    • We do have Show Sheen. I use it to get burrs out of Winnie’s coat, a little spray and they comb right out!

      It is kind of complicated but, and I should have added this to my post, my motivation is that I LOVE the carving aspect, but very much dislike the making of the prints. And, when I’m done, I enjoy the three dimensional block much more than I do the two dimensional impressions. So the idea of capturing the texture of the carving in clay is appealing.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm

  2. Very neat stuff. Maybe you should just do some carvings into clay tiles itself and then fire them? There is a clay that paul rhymer uses that is more wax based… I wonder if this would work better as it’s pretty darn stiff when it is cold… but at the same time that stuff is meant to be carved and melted off for bronze. I love to sculpt just have not made the time for it. Good stuff

    January 28, 2012 at 7:02 pm

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