The original “Tree of Life” dinner set was inspired by my love of nature and my good friend, Jennifer. This set has not only been very fun to make, but also quite popular. With this set I had only been using black slip, which creates an image that is blackish-blue and white. A few weeks ago I was asked by a customer, through my Etsy Shop, if I could make a set in spring green. I liked the idea so much I immediately mixed up a few new shades of green. I love this kind of inspirational collaboration with our customers, and the creations that come from it! So, from that seed of inspiration grew the “Tree of Life” in spring green. Now I’ll give you an insider’s look into how these pieces are created.
For each plate I start with a 3lb ball of clay. For pieces that I’m going to carve I like “Love Stone” mixed by Alligator Clay, in Louisianian. It has almost no grog, so it’s smooth to throw and very easy to carve.
First, I must get the clay centered on the wheel. This is the most important part and I equate it to tuning an instrument. Just like if your instrument is not tuned properly you cannot play beautiful music, if your clay is not centered you cannot make beautiful pots.
I center the clay low and then begin to open down. Once it is open and beginning to look like a plate, I use a flat rib to compress the bottom. This technique insures that the eating surface is nice and flat. It also compresses the clay and helps to ensure that the bottom does not crack while drying.
Next, I pull up the wall. This will eventually become the edge of the plate.
The final step in the throwing process is to create the rim of the plate. I pull the wall out and then down to get my final plate shape and voila!
Before I remove the plate from the wheel I apply the first coat of colored slip. I like to do this while the piece is still on the wheel so I can spin it while applying the slip. I find that this method gives me a nice and even coat.
Now that all four plates are made I need to let them dry slowly until they become leather hard.
Once they have dried to a leather hard I can begin to design them. I create the tree image on the surface of each piece using a carving process called Sgraffito. I like to sketch my design on the piece with pencil first, though. The pencil is great to figure out where I want to place the image. Then, I can easily remove any marks I don’t want with a damp sponge. Also, any excess graphite will burn out in the kiln when the piece is bisque fired.
Now that I have sketched my design I can finally start carving, my favorite part!
Once the carving is finished I load the piece in the bisque kiln to ^06 for the first firing . For the final step, I apply a clear coat of glaze and glaze fire the piece to ^6. After the final firing, this is our finished product:
Now this plate is done and ready for meals with friends, family and more!
You can find these plates and more of Mercedes’ creations on her Etsy shop www.etsy.com/shop/fullcirclegalleryfwb.