Friday, 28 August 2015

Calamity ware - wow!

Many months ago I started down the winding rabbit hole that is blue on white ceramics. I have yet to complete many countries worth of documentation (Turkey up next!) and I am still collecting reference images. I'm close to 400 right now with very few repeats. One of my bosses showed me a kickstarter that I just HAD to get involved in (here). I'm not earning much at the moment, but I couldn't resist pledging for this project. THIS IS SO AWESOME!

Don Moyer, the genius behind calamityware, has recreated the 'traditional' blue willow print with a twist (or two). Previous incarnations have featured things like pirate ships or giant robots within the more traditional setting. The plate I have pledged for involves what appears to be a kraken feasting on innocent locals. To date he has crowd funded 6 plates with another in process and an 8th planned for October. They are as follows:

SERIES 1: On-Glaze Plates
Calamityware Plate 1: Flying Monkeys
Calamityware Plate 2: Giant Robot
Calamityware Plate 3: Voracious Sea Monster
Calamityware Plate 4: UFO Invasion
SERIES 2: In-Glaze Plates
Calamityware Plate 5: Pirates in the Neighborhood
Calamityware Plate 6: Rambunctious Volcano
Calamityware Plate 7: Tentacles! (Funding on Kickstarter until September 10)
Calamityware Plate 8: Vortex of Doom (Coming in October 2015)

So cool, so awesome. I think I need to find something medieval to do this to!!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Ceramic 50 - Star Wars Maiolica for Dangerboy

For my final AS50 project I decided I'd finally finish a project that I thought about 4 years ago when I met Dangerboy for the first time. DB is the son of Lucas' knight. He seemed to be a rather shy boy but came out of his shell when Lucas was around. He was really into Star Wars at the time and I felt bad about taking his friend away from Atlantia. (His parents and whole campsite were also pretty wonderful to me). At the time I really didn't have the skills to make the item I wanted to but I kept the idea in the back of my head for ages. Though I was hesitant, I thought it was the perfect project to push my skills that little bit harder and decided to make it my 50th project. (Feel like you've missed a few? That's okay, I haven't posted them yet because they are gifts and still pending delivery!).

Inspiration plates:

Dish 1: 1525, Deruta, V&A Museum, C.2191-1910 Dish 2: 1500, Deruta, V&A Museum 6666-1860

Dish 1 was the main inspiration for this piece. I found it's simplistic colour pallet quite appealing and I quite like the grotesques between the medallions. The shape is also closer to the bisque I had available. Dish 2 requires a thin rim and the proportions of the items I have aren't quite right. I like the dark shading around the portraits in Dish 2 as it highlights the faces better. I also liked the central roundel as it looked a bit like Sir Cuan's heraldry.

I started by roughtly sketching my ideas to get an idea of how everything would sit. I then realised that it'd be impossible for me to freehand characters that I know nothing about so I had to do a lot of Star Wars research. Dangerboy is part of the new generation so a plate featuring Leia probably wouldn't be appropriate. I tried to pick strong characters one of which might be his favourite (there was no way I'd put Jar Jar Binks on this plate!). I ended up settling on R2D2 (as the character in every film), Yoda (because), Vadar and the Bounty Hunter. I then trolled the internet to find appropriate images of each of them. I collected a folder worth then resized them so they'd all be the same height. I opened them in photoshop, turned them greyscale and reduced the number of tones. Adjusting them from 3 tones to 15 helped emphasise the areas which needed shading and the direction it should fade. The final images I chose are below.

Bounty Hunter Darth Vader

R2D2 Yoda

Once I'd selected the images and worked out the best way of shading them, I 100% cheated and traced them off the screen of my computer. I ended up drawing them each three or four times before making an attempt at transfering the outline to the plate using the old-fashioned pencil rubbed back of paper method. I mastered this trick making cups (which I'll post about later) Once I had the outlines, I painted the majority of the plate in the background colour, yellow. I also drew in Yabba the Hut's head as the grotesque and added sort of dolphins and a thistle (Dangerboy's mothers device) because all the Star Wars worm type characters didn't look right or sit well. I then outlined the four medallions and painted in the strong solid lines on each of the characters.

I thought long and hard about the thistle things. I felt they were rather plain compared to the detail in the medallions. I decided to be a little tricky and put Star Wars symbols in each one. Fans will know what they are but off the top of my head, the rebel alliance and the sith are in there. Finally I finished the outlines, the thistles and dolphin things (they should have been Atlantian seahorses now I'm thinking about it a month later, ah well). It was time to do the shading!

To shade the figures, I diluted the blue glaze with water in a 1 to 4 ratio as shown to be most effective in my Krae Glas Baronial Platter experiments last year. I then used a sponge to dab water onto the target area to dampen it without smudging the existing glaze. The Angel and Matt plate showed that damp surfaces allow the brush and glaze to spread further and smoother leaving a better shadow.

It seems to have mostly worked out that the light source of the characters is the top right side (ish). This wasn't something that I considered until after the fact, it just turned out that way from the photos I selected. If I do this again I'll have to think about these small details to ensure cohesiveness of the design.
The next step was the small details, I shaded the back of the medallions in with yellow to replicate the shading I liked in Dish 2. I know cartoonists often use the angle of background colour to emphasise a message or symbol. I just shaded in the left side. I should have tied the yellow shading to the angle of the light (next time). I also added a minute amount of red to the design. Yoda and Darth Vadar are nicely mono-chromatic however R2D2 needed a red light (?) and the bounty hunter has a red patch on his armour. I thought this would tie in nicely to the red I'd need to use to make Cuan and Padreign's devices.
I outlined the central roundel and the shield. I sketched in half of each device and added a chief that symbolises 'Oldest Son'. I had to make a call on Padreign's device. It's supposed to be half black with gold thistles. As I wasn't and wouldn't be using black anywhere else I went with a pastel blue instead of having a big black blob in the middle of the plate. This is when I made my big mistake on this one. I forgot to fill in the crown around the dogs next on Cuan's device. As a result, this ended up being white instead of red. I was kicking myself when I noticed after it'd been fired!

I learned many things to make this project happen; how to evenly paint three layers without leaving thin or thick patches, how to clean up lumpy lines, how to vary the thickness of lines to balance out design elements, how to transfer images, how to find the right medieval inspiration for a project, how to shade with glaze, how to use Photoshop to emphasize shaded areas and how to apply glaze without having thin white lines between colours. While I am not a master of this art yet, I am happy to say that for my 50th project I have produced something I will always be proud of and it has inspired me to continue making things like this.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Ceramic 46 - Amor vincit Omnia

 Dish featuring Man in Armour, Louvre Museum

This project was started for two reasons. First, I wanted to give a gift to my friends Angel and Matt to celebrate their first wedding anniversary (I wasn't able to attend the wedding). The secondary reason is I'm building up to Project 50 and I needed some practice with shading and human features. So I thought I'd achieve two goals with one serving platter and make them a 16th century style mailoica dish.

I started this project by trying to find plates that featured a couple. There are many plates from Deruta which feature a single female surrounded by a thick decorative border (1). For the most part the central image is circular but there are a few square ones as well (2). Some plates don't have a border, instead they generally depict complicated allegorical scenes (3). I did find one that appeared to have a couple making out and I decided it wasn't the right vibe for this project (4). Couples tend to appear on ewers (5) and drug jars more often than plates. This may be because the circular nature of the plate restricts the layout and can result in strange foreshortening.


Plates created in the early 16th century tend to feature blue and yellow colours. Dark reds and turquoises were introduced in the mid to late 16th century. Portraits tend to be monotone with a secondary colour added to the garments or head wear. Given my habitual use of blue recently, I decided to use a dark red and a dark gold similar to those created in the mid-16th century (6).


For decoration I was mostly inspired by the plate pictured at the top of this post. I have it in my Italian Ceramics Pinterest collection but haven't been able to find out the museum number. I like it's monotone portrait and blank scroll pattern. I used the acanthus leaf from the Man in Armour dish, and then replicated a common geometric fill pattern that appears on a number of dishes (7).

I spent a long time trolling facebook trying to find a good picture of the two of them as a couple however every single picture had odd shade or head angle on one of them. I decided to combine two pictures instead.

As you can see in the above image, I've tried to use shading where appropriate. There is more shading than can be seen here. It will be revealed when this gets fired. I'm not sure if the faint shading will work and I really hope Angels lips become more realistic once fired! 

Success! I'm really glad much of the shading came out well and I love the arch pattern fill.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Ceramic 45 - Foxy drinking bowl for Brooke

Dish, OC.157-1946, Fitz Museum.  

I had a small palm sized bowl that I had bought to experiment with and it's been sitting on my craft desk for a while. Inspiration struck when I was pondering Pennsic and all the people I enjoy hanging out with and I realised I hadn't indulged in the tim-tam port slam recently. The tiny bowl will make the perfect port bowl and who better to make it for than Brooke? It's a pity I didn't have it ready for Great Northern War because she put a lot of work into that event. Ah well, I'll take it to Pennsic and we shall drink and make merry.

Bowl, C.53-1998, Fitz Museum.
I decided to use red again as it'll go with her other bowl. This time I did find a fox on a plate but it's on there with a mess of other animals and that would just be too busy in such a tiny bowl. I decided to make the bowl sort of Saltanabad-ish and copied the motifs on the spiky bowl below. I then painted a small Kitsune style fox in the base of the bowl for her to find once she finishes the port.