Ceramics > Slab Sculptures

Introduction
This project introduces students to new materials, tools, and techniques. As you practice slab techniques, pay attention to any fleeting thoughts that come as you work and jot them down. This project should not only develop your skills but also be the beginning of a sketchbook for future pieces. Skills and ideas are intertwined-- the more you realize that, the richer the experience you will have.

Project Overview
-- Practice the slab building method. Make a few forms and experiment.
-- Once you’ve constructed an object, experiment with reductive processes such as trimming and carving as well as additive processes of adding sculptural elements to your form.
-- Create 2 ceramic vases or sculptures with shaped flat slab faces-- we are not focusing on cylindrical or square forms-- create something organic and irregular.
-- The two vases or sculptures can relate to one another (as a pair) or be two completely different projects-- your choice.
Create a series of sketches of ideas for this project.
-- Both works need to be at least 10” in one direction after firing. -- Remember, clay shrinks as it dries and during the firing process. -- This clay shrinkage rate is about 13% so make sure your form is 12” or larger before loading it into the kiln to achieve the desired height
-- Draw into the slabs to create imagery. Reference the “Ceramic Slab Paintings (Links to an external site.)” presentation for inspiration.
-- Explore a variety of glaze colors and application techniques.

Checkpoint 1: Project Proposal
-- Create a series of drawings and diagrams in your sketchbook of ideas for this project
-- Find 5+ ceramic art examples that inspire you. Add images of the artworks.
-- Write a 1-2 paragraph proposal describing what you plan to create

Checkpoint 2: Bisque Ready
-- Complete and take photos of at least half of the forms for this project.
-- These forms need to be bone dry and ready for bisque firing.
-- These need to be bone dry, on the kiln cart, and ready to fire.
-- For incomplete forms, take photos of your progress.
-- Write a 1-2 paragraph reflection about the process so far, what surprised you, what you learned, and what else needs to be done for the project.

Checkpoint 3: Glaze Ready
-- Paint glaze onto each of your forms so they are ready for the kiln
-- Write a 1-2 paragraph reflection about the process so far.
-- What colors did you use?
-- What did you experiment with?
-- What surprised you?

Reductive Process Tips
-- Reductive processes require patience, because you’ll need to learn to wait for the clay to reach the right state before you start trimming or carving.
-- Trimming is most often used to describe the removal of clay to create feet on cups, bowls, and other functional pieces. When trimming a foot on a pot, you must consider the visual weight of your piece and of the foot you want to create. How much visual lift do you want to give your piece? And how much of the bottom of the pot should touch the surface of the table?
-- Carving is the word potters use to describe the process of removing pieces of clay for decorative or functional purposes. Sometimes potters carve straight on the surface of a piece, and sometimes they carve straight through a piece. Many potters use carving to enhance their pot’s surface in tandem with their glazes, creating ridges or valleys where glaze breaks and pools. You can carve into the exterior or interior of a pot and carve deeply or more shallowly. Your carving can even be filled later with colored slip, as in the decorative mishima technique.

Additive Process Tips
-- Make sure that the clay you’re adding to your pot is in a very similar state to your pot. If you add very soft clay to clay that’s on the dry side of leather hard, you increase the chance of cracking as the pieces dry at different rates. Scoring well will help ensure a secure connection between attachments.
-- Score aggressively and use slip or water when attaching pieces.
Make multiple pieces, such as knobs or feet, in case you ruin one while trying to attach it. You can also make a few variations in different sizes if you’re unsure which will look best on your piece.
-- For large attachments, you may need to consider a support system to hold the attachment in place as it dries: this is called an armature. Traditionally armatures are used to build sculptures, holding wet, heavy clay in place. When working on small pieces, you can improvise an armature. Stacked sponges or wadded-up newspaper (with some masking tape to hold it in place) make for a good makeshift support. Just be sure to remove your supports before firing.

Slab Paintings & Surface Design Inspiration
-- Polly Apfelbaum
-- Sam Falls
-- Kevin McNamee-Tweed
-- Andrea Clark
-- Rose English
-- Dorian Dean


Slab Construction Inspiration
-- Madeline Donahue
-- Rudy Autio
-- Heidi Tarver