The Fall And Rise of the Ceramic Letterforms

Oh yes, it’s about time I got back into this. I rolled out a couple of 20mm thick slabs of krank (gritty) clay the day before to allow them a bit of time to cure and become handlable, before tracing out and cutting two lower case ‘k’s’ and a batch of strips about 50mm wide.

I had decided to make this letterform in the same way as I had the previous ones, but be more experimental with the finishing and glazing. The first stage is to score all of the edges where the strips and the letters meet and then liberally coat with slip – a more liquified version of the same clay.

Each strip is positioned and trimmed to size, removing any excess slip and smoothing out the joins.

This process continues until the ‘walls’ are raised and then the ‘lid’ goes on in the sam way. Sorry for the quality of some of these images but I was using the workshop camera which is a bit knocked about now.

As I was smoothing the joins and straightening the edges I added some black slip – a more decorative version of the slip used to stick everything together – and merged it in with a serrated kidney and various other tools.

At the last point I decided to add a little tension and trim off the part of the stem so that the letterform would be able to sit back on it’s haunches.

I knew that I was being optimistic with the stress on the very thin join, but had hoped that if I was careful… But alas, no. The whole letterform was just too fragile to move, let alone finish, so another direction had to be taken. Before the structure could break and damage either side I carefully cut the stem off:

leaving this typographic ‘relic’ behind. I’ll take this a little further.

But what of the stem? Well I just couldn’t stop myself slicing once I’d started…

And then a mood of remorse descended and I began to rebuild it…

To become FRANKENSTEM  (pause for laughter.)

I coated some of the sides with white slip as I tidied this up, making sure to get some of the edges and corners to stay sharp.

At this point, the clay and slip is still a little too wet so I’ll leave it to dry more overnight and finish off any last details when it is a little firmer.


3 thoughts on “The Fall And Rise of the Ceramic Letterforms

  1. Hello Richard, I confess to being a bit of a lard heard when it comes to clay. This is not a discipline that I am very knowledgeable about, but find it incredibly interesting – especially given that in my ‘day job’ I am largely digital – I am not used to this kind of planning ahead, but it is something I am coming around to as I experiment. I rely upon a colleague for my ongoing advice, but have to admit that I usually go to him with fairly specific requests and he advises me the best he can. This is a good thing to do if you are going to act upon everything you originally intend! This was something else – I have been recommended to use paperclay ever since I was spotted cutting this up!

    I will try it next time – I like the idea of tackling inherent weak spots in letterforms in these heavy 3D forms. Until then, I will take my own advice (that I give to my students) and continue to see where a failure might go – after all, what is learned here might help solve another problem to come!

    Thanks for the advice!

  2. I think where you’ve got to is much more interesting than just a ‘k’. It makes a link with Italian futurism (letterform in movement) with a fantastic heavy gritty texture. I’d love to see it light grey and streaked with weather link the South Bank Centre’s minature dynamic relation. I like this a lot. T

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