Glaze Tests

April 13, 2009

I got my first batch of glazed teeth out of the cone 10 reduction kiln last week and it was a complete disaster.  I’ve been too depressed by the loss to write much or even go to studio (plus I worked 6 days in a row at the bakery so that put a damper on progress as well), so I guess I’ll show some of my initial glaze tests to prepare for telling the depressing glaze kiln story.  I did these before I had any cast teeth to test glazes on, so I just used some abandoned pottery (there’s lots hanging around the studio) to try out some of the studio glazes since they are all completely unfamiliar to me.  For the most part, I stuck with glazes that were white, yellow or some variation of the two.  I threw in a couple that I was just curious about, like a blood red copper glaze and a carbon trap and made a matrix to try every combination of the 10 or 11 glazes so that I could see how they interacted when overlapped.  Basically I dipped each plate or bowl in one glaze, then painted on a layer of each of the 1o other glazes, counter-clockwise so I would be able to figure out which was which when they came out of the kiln.  Here’s some photos, highlighting some of my favorite effects from each sample.

A porcelain block with all the samples overlapping an ice blue celadon

A porcelain block with all the samples overlapping an ice blue celadon

The top right glaze has been duplicated on a tooth--it is one of the few that survived the disaster kiln

The top right glaze has been duplicated on a tooth--it is one of the few that survived the disaster kiln--here it is on stoneware, not porcelain

This is also one of the few glazes replicated on a tooth that survived the disaster kiln--here it is on one of the porcelain shards from Post-Processualism

This is also one of the few glazes replicated on a tooth that survived the disaster kiln--here it is on one of the porcelain shards from Post-Processualism

Hard to see what's going on, but I like a lot of it!  The far right glaze was successfully duplicated but had to be chiseled out of the kiln in pieces...

Hard to see what's going on, but I like a lot of it! The far right glaze was successfully duplicated but had to be chiseled out of the kiln in pieces...

Love this glaze--have yet to duplicated it...

Love this glaze--have yet to duplicate it...

Some blood reds... not sure yet if they're appropriate for this piece, but there's definitely lots of potential for future pieces...

Some blood reds... not sure yet if they're appropriate for this piece, but there's definitely lots of potential for future pieces...

Next time I’ll either show some images from the glaze disaster kiln, or finally give a slip-casting/mold-making demo…

Teeth Stories

April 2, 2009

I was going to write about casting next (as that’s the most logical step after a mold-making entry), but then it occured to me that I never documented my glaze tests, which are pretty significant, or that maybe I should do a step-by-step entry on mold-making to really show what’s involved/how to do it, and now I’ve launched TeethStories so I feel the need to write about that… sigh… so much to do, so little time.  Teeth Stories it is…

X-rays of my teeth, snagged from my last visit with the dentist.  They told me I need a porcelain crown...

X-rays of my teeth, snagged from my last visit with the dentist. They told me I need a porcelain crown...

Working on this project in a communal studio means I get a lot of people asking questions.  Are you the one making all those teeth?  Is that a tooth!?  Why teeth?  What’s the association?  I always explain in as minimal a way as I can manage–mumbling something about dreams and teeth–and I almost always get a response that involves the telling of a teeth story.  Sometimes lengthy, sometimes brief, but for whatever reason, people can’t help but start relating their own teeth experiences.  Well, I guess that’s not entirely true.  There are those who hear the teeth/dreamcatcher thing and sort of cringe and want nothing to do with it.  But at this point, I take that as a sign of being reminded of a tooth story they’d rather not think about.  In any event, I’ve been sort of astounded by the number of teeth stories that are being relayed to me.  Sometimes it’s a very personal story, sometimes it’s their friends’ story, or a “I know someone who…” kind of story.  Either way, they’ve been incredibly fascinating.  I’m finding that teeth have a very humanizing quality about them.  Everyone has them and everyone has had to grapple with them in some way.  The trauma of losing your teeth as a child seems to stick with people in a subconscious psychological way, and if that doesn’t do it, the trauma of going to the dentist does.  But not all the stories are of the traumatic type.  Some are actually quite beautiful; stories of joy, trust and pleasure are also very common.  Teeth seem to have a hold on everyone’s psyche in one way or another, and in speaking with some of the other “studio youngsters” (the younger members of the studio who are out of school, but not at the “practicing professional” level yet), it became apparent that these stories needed to be documented in some way.

Thus, Teeth Stories is born.  Teeth Stories is about people relating to one another through this commonality we all share, teeth.  By submitting a tooth story, people have the opportunity to participate in a bit of modern day storytelling and sharing.  Because teeth seem to hold a very visceral place in everyones’ minds, I think teeth stories could be incredibly cathartic.  Both the act of creating a submission and reading those of others might be a small step in understanding some of the anxieties we seem to share about teeth.  I hope the response to the online version of Teeth Stories is as strong as the response I’ve received in the studio in person.  I’ve been harboring some dreams of publishing Teeth Stories as a physical book, but I might be getting a bit ahead of myself.  For now, I’m just hoping a lot of responses will pour in.  So if you have a tooth story, share it!  E-mail your story to teethstories@gmail.com and encourage friends, family or co-workers to send their stories in as well.  Maybe through teeth stories we can all understand each other a little better…!

Nightmare Teeth

April 1, 2009

Cast Porcelain Teeth

Cast Porcelain Teeth

As usual, the blog is about a month behind where I actually am in studio, so let’s start catching up a bit!  I guess it’s time to finally reveal something about the big spring project that I’ve been hinting at.  It’s about teeth!  Shocking, I know.  I’m working on a large scale sculpture/installation based on nightmares about teeth.  You know, that super common one everyone seems to have where all their teeth fall out in a number of gruesome ways.  Personally, mine are always slightly different.  Sometimes it starts with one wiggly tooth that you push back and forth with your tongue, sometimes it starts with a tough piece of toast.  Sometimes they fall out with little trouble, sometimes they crumble, and sometimes they pour out in a seemingly infinite wave.  Regardless of the means, the end result is always the same:  I’ve lost all my teeth and am completely mortified and horrified.

After researching a little about the supposed psychological origins of this dream (add to all this the fact that I grind  my teeth in my sleep as well) and discovering that it is THE most commonly shared dream among… well… humans, it occured to me that a sculptural response was necessary.  For whatever reason, the idea of a dreamcatcher for teeth popped into my head and has haunted me for about a year now.  Versions of what this “dreamcatcher” might look like, how it might function, where it might live have been floating around in my head for months.  I spent some time just researching teeth on their own (and the various diseases and viruses that plague them) and since have become completely fascinated by these bizarre bones/organs. 

From the beginning, I knew it would be porcelain, given the fact that the most accurate dentures are made of porcelain, as well as its permanence.  This idea of teeth as permanent (and yet we have to work so hard to keep them!) stuck in my head and what better means to signal this idea than the permanence of porcelain.  I also wanted them to be slipcast and therefore hollow.  This would make them incredibly fragile (and maybe even some in the sculpture would be broken open, revealing their instability as functional objects?), signaling our ideas about the perfection of teeth and what lenths we’ll go to in order to keep them perfect.  The rest I’m sort of making up as I go.  There have been thoughts about velvet gums, leather cord, and a big luxurious bed with a hand-sewn duvet cover… those are still up in the air.  In the meantime, I’ve begun working on the teeth themselves by creating some “miniature” versions for testing glazes, firing techniques and hanging/display techniques.  I call them “miniature” because they are smaller scale than what the final pieces will be (close to the size of your head?), but they are much larger than life size–about the size of the palm of my hand.

I made some teeth models just from my imagination and began the mold-making process

I made some teeth models just from my imagination and began the mold-making process--about to pour the 3rd part of a 4-part mold

A finished 4-part mold, that produces 2 teeth

A finished 4-part mold, that produces 2 teeth

Prepping the slip--probably one of my all-time favorite parts of the slip-casting process

Prepping the slip--probably one of my all-time favorite parts of the slip-casting process

Opening the mold after it's first cast

Opening the mold after its first cast

A pair of finished cast teeth, ready for the kiln

A pair of finished cast teeth, ready for the kiln

Part I:  Test Teeth Mold-Making!

Next time, Part II:  Casting, casting, casting!

Since I don’t have a title for this project yet, let’s just call it… Dreamcatcher for now…

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