Ceramics: Week 1

01-08 & 01-10

For our inaugural week in ceramics, day 1 was just a “go over the syllabus” day, but the quick introduction to the projects was enough to help start the brainstorming process.

Project one is meant to be inspired by the short story Apologia that is about noticing things in this world that others might just glance over. I find the questions Brian wanted us to answer after reading the story interesting, as I was immediately thinking how we were all supposed to gather inspiration from the same story without making several versions of the same project. But his questions were more about what we respect, admire, and marvel at. This line of questioning was a bit clearer and it garnered mixed immediate responses from my brain.

When it comes to someone I admire, the first person I immediately thought of was Frida Kahlo. I have always wanted to a make a project in her honor, but I’m still not quite sure how related to the short story we’re actually supposed to be here. When it comes to something I marvel at, I immediately thought of both space and dollhouses. I had ideas to use those in a project from last semester so those are definitely a possibility.

Ultimately I decided to go with my answer to the “What is something that you wish people respected more?” question. My answer: nature. Specifically trees. We constantly destroy our environment, literally cutting down the trees that give us our life-giving oxygen. So I went into Sketchbook and sketched up a few designs based on the tree of life. I decided to go with making small porcelain vessels on the wheel, painting them with black slip, and using the sgraffito method to draw my trees on them. I’m gonna have to do some experimenting to see how small I can really get with these trees since I do want small vessels, but we shall see.

On the 10th, after showing Brian my sketches I surprisingly was allowed to go ahead and start throwing on the wheel. I hadn’t anticipated doing so that day, but I was glad that I got to do so regardless. Luckily, the girl I share shelves with now, Emma, has some left over porcelain clay from last semester that her and I are gonna be sharing at the beginning here. My first impressions throwing with the porcelain was that it was incredibly smooth and satisfying as hell.

When I first sat on the wheel, I quickly realized that my bad habit of accidentally throwing “on the hump” was back. I just might be out of practice due to the break, but the more I looked at those pieces the more I kind of liked the ‘chalice’ look of them. Perhaps that could be a good design for these pieces, who knows? Either way, I could just trim that away if I decide against it. Overall, I’m stoked to be working with porcelain and I’m both excited and nervous to start honing in my sgraffito skills.

P.S. I was really hoping we wouldn’t have to do this blog shit again.

apologia project sketch 1
my preliminary sketches.
apologia project sketch 3
another sketch that didn’t make the cut.

let's do this

-A. Brackens.

Published 01/12/19 05:21:05

Ceramics: Week 2

1-15 & 1-17

For this week, on Tuesday I went ahead and sat behind that wheel the entire class. I nearly forgot just how soothing throwing on the wheel can be, especially with the porcelain plus my jazz music in my ears. On Thursday, my pieces were finally dried enough that I felt comfortable painting them with slip. I bought a bottle of Speedball black slip and covered just the outside of my pieces with it. I was immediately very glad that I bought that slip instead of just using the black slip that the studio has; the speedball one is much thicker and richer in color.

It wasn’t until after I had left class Thursday though, that I remembered two things. 1. I had planned to have company over the weekend. 2. The weather was going to be killer over the weekend as well. So in a slight panic, I came into the studio after work on Friday and immediately knew that if I didn’t wrap my pieces up perfectly they were going to be way too dried out to sgraffito by Tuesday. But I had already painted the slip on them so just spraying them was a problem. I slightly considered just spraying them anyways and just repainting them, but Mandi came through for me with a stellar plan.

Mandi had the idea to put my pieces on small bats inside of a plastic bag that was then put inside my locker outside of the class room. We left 2 wet sponges inside of the bag in order to keep the environment went, and Mandi even went balls deep and sprayed the locker and outside of the bag anyways. Her final idea was to wrap the door in a plastic bag to make sure there was a good seal, and frankly she is a genius. I thanked her by accidentally hitting her in the head with the locker door that will not stay open on its own for the life of anything, but luckily she forgave me. Hopefully, my pieces will stay at leather hard enough for me to do what I need to do. Let’s hope!



-A. Brackens

Published 1/18/19 08:39:29

Ceramics: Week 3

1/22 & 1/24

Mandi for president 2020 because my pieces were at the absolute perfect dryness for sgraffito yay! I had purposefully made a separate “textile” piece that was very small so I used that to test out some tools from my kit to decide which I wanted to use. I’m going to only put clear glaze on the outside of it and fire it before all of my other pieces so that I can gauge out they’re going to look. Once I had chosen the tool that I thought made the best lines, a narrow wooden stick I got to work.

I cut out my sketch from the light weight card stock I had them on. Then, I wet the paper down so it would stick to the piece and I even remembered I had some pins usually used in sewing that I thought to use to pin the paper down to the piece since the curvature of the piece was causing a problem. First off, I went over my lines with a rounded, metal tool that just indented the clay a little bit. Then I peeled the paper off and kept glancing at it as I went in with my wooden tool and got to the hard part. Besides the white noise, feckless stuff Brian has us do in class, which took about 45 mins out of our work time, carving into one vessels took me the entire 3-hour class time. I spent a good chunk cleaning up the carved lines and going back through with a small, wet, rubber tip tool to clean it up even more. Overall, I am quite pleased with my first attempt!

Unfortunately on Thursday, I did not have such luck. It seems like the more I worked, the worse my stuff was looking. Whenever I was tracing my images onto the surface of my vessels, I kept getting confused on whether I was going to carve the actual image or the inverse of the image. So I ended up with 2 pieces I really just wanted to completely redo. I got a hole in the bottom of one vessel that I didn’t want to be there, so I quickly threw another one similar to it. But when I tried to re-throw the others my work kept breaking on the wheel and soon enough I was simply too frustrated to continue. I worked for 4 hours after class on Thursday, but was still not satisfied with the work I did that day. And it all culminated with me leaving the studio to find a parking ticket on my car, even though I had already bought my permit and just hadn’t gotten it in the mail yet. What a way to end the week.

my perfectly executed, just-of-it-today plan.
my first attempt at tracing my image onto the surface of a vessel.
the very first attempt.
the next three attempts. i don’t wanna talk about it.

-A. Brackens

Published 1/25/19 05:58:56

Ceramics: Week 4

1/29 & 1/31

So I was still recovering from either a cold or the flu on Tuesday, so I actually didn’t go to class on Tuesday. I foolishly thought that since I knew I’d only need one class period (plus my extra hours) to finish my project, that I would be fine time wise on Thursday. But unfortunately we spent most of our Thursday class in a written critique as well as introducing the glaze project. Since we did the critique at the very beginning of class, most of my feedback just had to do with things I already knew I needed to fix, since I wasn’t done with my project yet. And as someone who doesn’t particularly like working with glazes, I’m not too excited to take 3 weeks off just to talk about glazes I will definitely never use again once this project is over.

Once all of the arbitrary things were over, I was finally let go and was able to work after class on my actual project. I had at least 2 more pieces to carve, 3 if I decided to use that separate piece I threw last week. I decided to boot out that one terrible carving job and make my project consists of 5 pieces instead of 7. My pieces were a lot drier than last week, but surprisingly I found them easier to carve than last week. I did have to reslip a couple of them from where trying to keep them wet had messed up the slip, but that didn’t take too long.

Published 01/31/19 05:49:40

Ceramics: Week 5

2/5 & 2/7

My terrible luck continued this week by giving me an ear infection and the stomach flu at the same time, so I managed to rack up my second missed day in the studio even though we’re only on week 5. Great. As far as I know, Brian did his first glaze lecture on fluxes, glassformers, stabilizers, and opacifiers. I’ll have to get those notes from someone else. I feel like this “project” will be the most standard-school, note-taking weeks I’ll ever have in ceramics.

Thursday, I finally was strong enough to get back to classes, and today was the first day of ceramics so far that I haven’t put on my apron or touched clay, except for the first day. Brian introduced us to the intimidating site glazy.org and showed us some actually chemical formulas of glazes, things I haven’t seen since the disaster that was sophomore chemistry class. Afterwards, he took about the rest of that half of class demoing our fusion textiles, as well as a line blend he did. During most of it, we all were trying to write down exactly which fusion tests we had been assigned from a massive chart that had been printed out. I worried these decisions were made when I was sick and I wasn’t on the list, but thankfully someone miraculously remembered to put me on there.

Once he let us go to do our fusion tests, it took a lot longer than he had hoped. But I thought it took a normal amount of time, considering the entire class had to share like 3 copies of the materials and most of us were just waiting twiddling our thumbs until something was made available. For my fusion blends, I was assigned ky stone, kyanite, nickle oxide, and PVC clay. I have no idea what any of these things are, but I thought the deep black of the nickle oxide was impressive. I had been wondering what all of these totes full of powders were even used for since I never, ever saw anyone touch them and I was glad I finally got to find out. It does seem a little space-consuming to keep so many materials there that are only used for one single project, but still the individual materials were quite interesting to mess with.

Since I didn’t get to make my line test textiles Tuesday when I was sick, I’ll have to come in on Saturday to make those. Hopefully they’ll get into the kiln and I’ll be able to do my line blend on Tuesday with everyone else. For my unique line blend glaze, I was immediately drawn to the very first glaze we saw when we opened up glazy.org, a light pink glaze called June Perry Pink. Once I looked deeper though, I found out that the glaze itself is an extremely light pink, but that the darker flashes of pink on the test pieces were created by leaving a textile thickly covered in chrome right next to the piece in the kiln so it would flash off of it and cast that pink on it. We unfortunately can’t do that as it would flash onto multiple pieces in the kiln, but Brian did have another idea to get that pink glaze that I want. He think it’ll be an interesting idea to use the dry mix of the pink mason stain in my glaze as my variable I’m testing. I checked to make sure we have enough dry mix of the pink mason stain, and since we do I think I’ll go with that. I’ll probably use 1% intervals unless Brian thinks that 2% intervals will do a bit better. Let’s hope I’ll finally get a good pink glaze, otherwise it’s back to the slips for me!

the intimidating chart.
brian’s line test demo results.

-A. Brackens

Published 02/08/19 11:19:40

Ceramics: Week 6

2/12 & 2/14

For this week, I finally got around to doing my actual line blend with my variation on the June Perry Pink glaze from glazy.org. It took quite a while longer than I thought it would, but I’m fairly happy with the results. I think I expected more variation between the tiles, but I like them regardless. I think my favorite value is the darkest shade of them, although I do also like the 4 from the beginning as well. Also, we’re starting our triaxial blends next week, so I consulted with Brian to add my variables to a bright purple matte glaze. I’m quite excited to do that!

the result of my line blend.

-A. Brackens

Published 02/15/19 09:30:45

Ceramics: Week 7

2/19 & 2/21

For this week, we all bumped elbows, but eventually got our triaxial blends done. It was kind of fun, but overall an actual 3-hour ordeal that wore me out. I decided to use cobalt oxide, copper oxide, and magnesium as my variables into my bright purple matte glaze. It was a gruesome process, but one that I’m ultimately excited to see the results of. Also, in class on Thursday, we finally got to see the results of those fusion test we did with the dry materials. It was quite interesting to see how those materials reacted, or didn’t react at all, to the heat of the kiln.

Thankfully, it looks like we’ll be getting back to using actual clay in our ceramics class as we were introduced to the tools for the apocalypse project on Thursday as well. Everyone seems excited about using flameware, but I kind of more partial to the idea of creating water jugs and jars for this project. I also want to make some larger bowls, but I’m not sure if Brian will have those be included. I mean we would need bowls to eat out of in the wasteland, but we shall see. I am definitely excited to get back to throwing on the wheel, especially since this project needs me to learn how to throw larger pieces with-ever thing I decide to make.

the unfired results of the triaxial blend test.
the table full of fusion test tiles.
a glorious edit of Brian.

-A. Brackens

Published 02/22/19 09:24:17

Ceramics: Week 8

2/26 & 2/28

On Tuesday, I got my triaxial blend off of the finished shelf and was just kind of “eh” with the results. They weren’t the worst I’ve seen in the class as I did have some nice blues that I liked, but there definitely aren’t any purple hues in there at all. But thankfully, I was able to start throwing for the apocalypse project. I’ve been wanting to throw bigger bowls, and thankfully Brian said I could do some of those. I did want to make set of perhaps 4 of those, 4 water jugs, and 4 jars so hopefully that will work out in the end. I was miraculously was able to throw 4 larger bowls in one class period, something I did not anticipate. Hopefully this means that I’m gradually getting better on the wheel, but right now I’m praying that they don’t crack at all before they’re finished. One bowl I’m crossing my fingers hoping the form of it doesn’t make it crack, but I’m drying them slowly to hopefully stop this from happening. Next week, I’m gonna trim the on the wheel and paint them with slip before starting on throwing anything else. My mug project was brutal mostly because I was adamant (for some reason) to have my entire project put onto the bisque shelf all at one time, making the timing for trimming and painting very troublesome to time and work around. This time, I’m doing it piece-mail so that I don’t kill myself.

On Thursday, instead of class we had a woman named Lindsay come to class to do a demo workshop in class. I was apprehensive at first, but since I never had seen an artist workshop like that I was also interested. I was super sad to find out that she had already done all of her throwing on the wheel for the earlier classes so our class only got to see her make rims, pull handles, and trim some mugs. I felt like she should have made a bowl from start to finish, rim and all, in each class rather than leave our class with the boring bits. Overall, she was super sweet and actually had some good tips so I was definitely glad that I attended.

On a slight other note, after class Brian had all of us go upstairs to the Barr Gallery in order to see some student’s exhibitions in there and I was actually blown away. I was uncomfortable with the crowd, but the art itself was stunning. I particularly loved the paintings that a student had up in the gallery, those were absolutely incredible. They were those art pieces that are so good it makes someone like me with no artist ability sad inside knowing I’ll never measure up to that level of artistry. I’ve added some photos I took on my phone at the end if only just for myself to be able to look at again.

a pre-throwing shot before i got my hands dirty.
one of the bowls Lindsay threw on the wheel.
Lindsay pulling a handle for a mug.






Published 03/01/19 10:38:56

Ceramics: Week 9

3/5 & 3/7

On Tuesday, we took about half the class looking through everyone’s triaxial and line blend textiles. I kind of liked my line blend, the triaxial I’m indifferent about about, but there wasn’t much feedback given on my textiles. But I did go towards the end so maybe everyone was as tired as I was by then. Afterwards, I slipped and trimmed the 4 bowls that I threw last time. They were a little too wet to trim, something I have a bad habit of doing, but I think I got it done just fine. I used a kind of blush pink slip on these pieces this time around, so I hope those come out of the kiln next week looking nice.

Thursday, I went back to the wheel and threw 4 water drinking jars. They’re kind of oddly shaped, so I wish I had snapped a pic of them while they were fresh, but I was more worried about drying time on Thursday. I need those pieces to be just leather hard when I get back into class Tuesday, and trying to figure out the best way to wrap them up so they won’t be too dry or too wet is a difficult part of ceramics no one likes. Right now, I’m just crossing my fingers they’re not too dry since my design kind of depends on them being leather hard.

For the design of these, I didn’t want to go simple like the bowls, I want some intricate designs on the outside of them. I have 2 different shades of blue slip that I want to incorporate onto each vessel, and then I’m gonna do some more sgraffito practice and carve through the slip. I did the same thing on my tree vessels for the last project so I’m hoping my skills at it have gotten a bit better since last time. Unfortunately, I still have to mix up and do one more glaze test before this damned glaze project is over, but hopefully it’ll be relatively painless (especially compared to the triaxial blend).

my triaxial blend results, with my line blend in the background.
several different textiles laid out in class.
hannah’s textiles; these are my absolute favorites out of everyone’s by far.
the only other triaxial blend i truly enjoyed and would want to use personally.

Published 03/08/19 10:10:58

Ceramics Week 10

3/12 & 3/14

On Tuesday, I was bummed to see that the biggest bowl I had ever thrown had been destroyed. The entire foot on it and busted off in the kiln. Either way, I spent the class time trimming those water drinking jugs, including carving some lines around the sides of the jugs for decoration. The pieces were a little too dry to be trimmed, but I kind of had no choice. I still haven’t figured out how to wrap up pieces perfectly to get them at the dryness I want. It’s a magic I don’t have. Thankfully the slip I have is thicker than the ones in the studio so I was able to paint 2 different shades of blue slip on them. Once I was done with that, I had some small quantities of thinned out slip I had been using so instead of just pouring it out, I marbled them together and poured it into the white inside of my broken bowl. Turns out it’s a test vessel now.

On Thursday, I started by throwing a replacement bowl for the one that broke, and then I attempted to throw a large water jug with a spout. That was far less successful, and lopsided, but considering I tried for 10 minutes to center it with no success I’m going to accept it’s flaws. It was theoretically made during the apocalypse anyways, no one would care if it’s perfect when they’re trying to survive. Afterwards, I moved to the glaze room and cut the clear glaze over my bowls from last week, including the broken one. I had to take the rest of the time to mix up the 2 small batches of glaze for my line textiles, but those were luckily mostly painless.

Next week, I’m hoping that the method I used to wrap up my pieces works for keeping them leather hard. We shall see.

the tragic foot of my broken pot. i find it ironic my signature and date are still mostly there.
the result of turning the broken vessel into a test vessel.
my trimmed and slipped water drinking jugs.

Published 03/15/19 12:56:45

Ceramics: Week 11

3/19 & 3/21

So uh I have barely any memory of what I did in classes the week before spring break, because it was the last week before spring break and everyone was hanging on by a thread, nor do I think I have my weeks right anymore so I’m winging this one. I’m pretty sure I was at the urgent care Tuesday and couldn’t go to class, making it my 5th one so Brian please don’t fail me I like this class, I’m just depressed as hell and keep having to go to doctors and stuff about it yay for misery.

But on Thursday we had yet another artist workshop so I had to sneak away and get my final large water jug and the replacement bowl for the one that broke both manually trimmed and slipped since I knew I wouldn’t be able to do so during spring break. I decided to take the fact that the final water jug was much larger and I put not only one contrasting lines of slip on it, but I also did some simple sgraffito on the surface. Nothing too fancy since the reference photos of old water jugs I’ve been looking at are nothing fancy; they were more for survival after all. I did like the first half of the artist workshop don’t get me wrong, he was informative and social, but I’m not social so when he wanted us all to paddle his special hand-tearing-up clay me and my migraine had to run to the glaze room to work.

Published 04/01/19 05:19:20

Ceramics: Week 12

4/2 & 4/4

On Tuesday, it felt good to get back behind the wheel even though I’m still reeling from having to go back to classes. I only had about 15-16 pounds of that porcelain clay left and since the wetware cutoff is Tuesday, I decided to go ahead and use up all that I had left. I threw my planned 2 cylinders that I want to let get to bone dry so that I can test out my fancy new diamond tools sgraffito tool that I got. Other than that, I improvised a little and threw 4 mug shapes since I’ve been wanting more mugs and I think a mug with some sgraffito decoration would be wonderful to have. I just gotta make sure those don’t dry out too much before I can get the handles on them Thursday. Also, last semester when I made mugs they all were too small and the handles were even smaller. So I’m definitely going to try to avoid that problem again; I’ve already thrown much larger vessels in anticipation for the shrinkage.

Besides that, next week I plan to be done with all wet work thankfully and I’ll just be working with my sgraffito and perhaps some slip design. We shall see.

P.S. Brian, if we were supposed to do a blog post for the week of spring break for some ungodly reason, I was out of town the entire time and didn’t get to work sorry.

the studio on tuesday.

Published 04/03/19 09:48:19

Ceramics: Week 13

4/9 & 4/11

Tuesday, I was glad to see the pieces I wanted to work with today we’re still nice and plastic, even though the ones in the windowsill I hoped would be bone dry by now were literally still nearly just as plastic. There was trapped condensation inside the bag even though I didn’t even wrap them up tightly at all, but who knows. Today was also the last day to work with wet clay so I was literally surrounded by people’s freshly thrown pieces all around me. I had finally decided on the theme of: ‘out of the darkness and into the light’, for this project that I then decided to go ahead and make 2 different sections of piece for it as well.

Anyways, today on my 4 drinking vessels I covered 2 in dark blue and 2 in light blue slip to start off. I then took a soaked paintbrush and took off some of the slip in streaks in order to marble it, which didn’t look as quite as pretty as I hoped it would when I saw it in my head, but I still liked it. My idea for these particular vessels needed me to do the sgraffito work while they were still plastic, but the other 2 cylinders I threw require me to wait until they’re bone dry to do it. Which is partially the point; a kind of experiment I threw together to see which way I prefer to do it. I know people usually use leather-hard clay, which is nice to work with, but that’s what these experiments are for!

After the slip dried, I went ahead and marked up the vessels individually with the theme of this half of my project; scars. I wanted these pieces to remain plastic so that I could carve what appears to be scars into their surface before smoothing over them. I hope that these finished pieces will look as if the vessels have scars covered in scar tissue, ones that have healed over but are still ultimately there, so let’s pray. I went with a organized pattern of scars on one vessel since I’ve seen some examples of people doing it that way, but I also did another with far more haphazard scarring with no rhyme or reason. One vessel was carved to actually look like veins, different vein (pun not intended) but still a similar world, and final vessel has hundreds of circular scars with small rings around them. That last one is for a friend of mine who has burn scars from lit matches on his skin. I know that the scars theme doesn’t really come across with that particular one so I’m hoping that having to explain it in the final critique won’t take away anything from it. I covered the inside of them all with black slip with a few red drops randomly placed to symbolize shed blood. I thought briefly about either painting the vessels red or putting red inside the sgraffito to make the symbolism clearer, but I thought that would be too direct and not subtle at all so I decided against that idea.

Thursday, I just went ahead and smoothed out and beveled the bottom edge of my pieces since they were too wet to do so on Tuesday. Then, I covered my now bone dry cylinders in black slip, although I kept a blank white section towards the top rim of each of them. I was going to go ahead and do my sgraffito on them, but I fricken forgot my templates at home so I had to come back after work on Friday to finish that.

Ultimately, I decided on my original idea of carving some minimalist drawings of nude women on them. A friend of mine has started referring to my overall 2-part final project as the “scars and sex” project so I have inadvertently started calling it that as well. I thought about using the taller vessel to carve nude male figures on, using the shorter one for the woman drawings, but I felt like my sketches of men weren’t as clear as the ones of woman so I’m just gonna go with women on them. I got a half day off from work since I was surprised to hear that the last regular bisque kiln was getting fired Friday afternoon so thank goodness because it took me like 6 hours to do these vessels.

I did my usual routine of cutting out my paper templates, wetting them, sticking them to the vessels, pining them down with straight pins, using the needle tool to barely trace over my sketch before taking the template off and carving into them with my new diamond tool sgraffito thing my uncle got me. I then put a little black slip into the carved lines that were only on the non-slipped, white part of the vessels. This is where the ‘dark to light’ theme comes in play with these pieces, and I’ve taken a more literal stance on it with this one. I quite love these pieces in particular and I’m pretty sure that they’re my favorite ones so far I’ve ever made. Let’s hope Brian agrees.

match burns and organized scar inspired vessels.
vein and haphazard scar inspired vessels.
‘blood drops’ on the inside of each vessel.


Published 04/15/19 8:22:10

Ceramics: Week 14

4/16 & 4/18

Tuesday we all crowded into the glaze room to finish all of our pieces. I finished quite early so I spent the rest of class loading the big gas kiln with Brian, Sydney, and Bridgette. I had never loaded a kiln before so that was a new experience. It’s basically just a big ole puzzle. A dusty puzzle, but a puzzle regardless. I’m still kind of terrified that the clear glaze is going to ruin my new favorite reasons, but I dipped them in the glaze about as fast as possible so hopefully it’ll be okay. Afterwards, I checked out Mandi’s chaotic, but impressive SpaceLab show.

Thursday was everyone’s least favorite day of ceramics: cleanup day. We all just put up our hair and rolled up our sleeves and did manual labor for free. Fun. But afterwards, we got to go upstairs and see Leigh’s show at the Barr Gallery, as well as some wonderful paintings all about motherhood. There were also some super realistic looking paintings of corner bar type buildings that were impressive as hell so those were nice to see.

Next week is just the final crits, although several of us are salty as hell that the first of them are on “Dead Tuesday” when literally no one is going to be on campus. But at this point we’re all just watching grades and taking finals, so lets hope Brian doesn’t fail my depressed ass for missing like 5 days due to my zero will to live, but hey this is the last blog post so hell yeah brotheeeeeeeerrrrs!!! *finger guns*

my entire final glazed.


trey’s work that puts everyone else’s to shame.


Published 04/19/19 09:30:24