Some months ago I made this wall tile of a sleeping green man and ever since then it has sitting in my studio waiting to be glazed and brought to life. I have to admit that it's probably taken so long because I've done very little work on this scale and was a little nervous about being able to translate the picture in my head into reality. A special chemistry occurs when you glaze fire a piece of ceramic and it doesn't always produce the result you were expecting. With beads this is not really a problem but with a piece such as this that took so long to create it can make or break the finished piece. But there comes a time when you just have to take a deep breath and dive in and I'm sharing that process with you today.
This tile will be be wall mounted so the back won't be seen but since it was a little bit messy for my liking I used a green underglaze to tidy it up a bit. Underglaze doesn't melt in the way glaze does so I would still be able to prop it on its back to fire it.
In my minds eye I saw my green man as having a foliage of a mottled green with some leaves picked out in a darker green for contrast. I also wanted to pick out the veining and try to give some depth to his features, maybe giving the impression of bark around the eyebrows. To achieve this I settled on using two oxide washes and two glazes.
Oxide washes create a staining effect which can either be used alone or layered with glazes to alter the effect of the glaze. To begin with I used a Rutile wash (which creates an ochre finish) to pick out some of the veining on some of the leaves. Once the wash was dry I wiped it back form the surface areas leaving it just in the recessed veins.
Then I went for an Iron oxide (which gives a dark brown finish) on the remaining leaves and around the facial features and again wiped it back form the surface. I actually like the finish this wash gave at this stage so I'm thinking I might make another of these and just use washes on it - a bit like a sepia version.
Next comes the glaze proper. The majority of glazes in their wet form bare very little resemblance to their finished colours with many of them being a shade of red which is why you need to have a clear idea in your head of what you want to achieve. It certainly won't look that way during the process of glazing but that's what makes it so exciting when you open the kiln to see the transformation.
I used a crushed crystal glaze appropriately called 'speckled forest' for the central area. This type of glaze contains crystals which melt and flow during firing to produce lovely colour and pattern effects. If you look closely you can see these crystals in the uneven texture of this glaze.
The perimeter leaves I glazed with a smooth dark green glaze - again appropriately called 'Forest pine'. I also used this glaze to pick out and enhance the eyebrows.
So, once he had been left to dry fully it was time to (hopefully) make the magic happen and put him in the kiln. I only takes about three hours to fire this type of clay but I have a very heavily insulated kiln which takes an awfully long time to cool down so it was a bit of a nail biting wait until it was cool enough to take a peek. When I did my first reaction was phew - he's still in one piece and my second reaction was he has a spot right on the end of his nose!
But once he was was out of the kiln and cooled down fully (glaze colours can continue to change as the glaze cools fully) I decided I was pretty happy with the result. The spot on his nose is one of the crystals and doesn't impact the finished look - trees after all are not blemish free. I love the speckled effect and the contrast of the glazes and I got the bark effect I was looking for around the eyebrows.
All in all, a pretty successful project which I plan to revisit in the future...green is after all my favourite colour!