Art Updates: Firing clay pots in a Charcoal BBQ /Pit firing

Finally my architectural fireplace is completed and will be installed this week.  I have mixed feelings relief and happy that it is finished (((((finally))))) and the stress of a project of this size and complexity is over — but also saddness as it no longer belongs to me.. I will post pictures of it after the installation. 

Summer is a great time to get out the bbq or go to the beach for a bonfire…but instead of roasting marshmallows I will be cooking some simple clay projects just for fun.  

I just recently read from the ceramics monthly subscription that you can low fire clay in a charcoal bbq. My husband refuses to get a used charcoal bbq as he says he doesn’t want to remove it to the dump once I’ve finished my science experiment so I have decided to try another method and take my pots to a friends beach to be pit fired.  I highly recommend the free subscription from www.ceramicartsdaily.org . Here is a couple of excerpts from the site:  a great video on getting great results for pit firing and the info on charcoal bbq firing.

 http://ceramicartsdaily.org/firing-techniques/pit-firing-video-a-guide-to-gathering-fuels-for-the-best-results-in-a-pit-firing/

And here is the information for bbq firing excerpt from ceramic arts daily by Sumi von Dassow  :

Fig.1 Lift out the cooking grid, spread out the coals and put the preheated pots on the coals. Fig.1 Lift out the cooking grid, spread out the coals and put the preheated pots on the coals. 
I used a 22½-inch round grill, achieving a variety of effects with several kinds of clay and surface finishes. In order to replicate the look of Native American pottery fired in outdoor bonfires, I fired pinch pots and small wheel-thrown pots made from micaceous clay. This clay incorporates small particles of mica in addition to grog, which makes it beautiful as well as very resistant to heat shock. In New Mexico it’s traditionally used to make flame-ware for cooking directly on a fire or on the stove-top. I also tried a variety of smoke-firing techniques on pots made from smooth stoneware clay that was burnished either with a stone or using terra sigillata.
Fig.2 Cover the grill but leave the cover cocked to allow for air flow. Fig.2 Cover the grill but leave the cover cocked to allow for air flow. 
 Grilling Greenware

To fire greenware on the grill, make pots with walls that are about 3/8-inch thick throughout—no fat bottoms or thin rims—and dry them thoroughly before attempting to fire them. You don’t need to use micaceous clay, but use a clay which is resistant to thermal shock such as raku clay, groggy stoneware, or paperclay. 
Fig.3 Surround taller pots with wood scraps. Use newspaper to encourage the wood to burn. Fig.3 Surround taller pots with wood scraps. Use newspaper to encourage the wood to burn. 
Make sure the grill is clean, removing any ashes or partially burned coals in the bottom, then get it going just as you would for cooking, pouring lighter fluid over mounded charcoal and lighting it. Note: Wear gloves and protective eye wear whenever handling pots around the grill, from placing them onto the grid to taking them out of the coals after the firing. As the coals gradually begin to smolder, preheat the pots on the cooking grid above them. 
Fig.4 To raise the temperature, use a metal fan to blow air into the partially opened lid. Fig.4 To raise the temperature, use a metal fan to blow air into the partially opened lid. 

  

Fig.5 Remove the hot pot from the kiln and place horse hairs on it to create squiggly black lines. Fig.5 Remove the hot pot from the kiln and place horse hairs on it to create squiggly black lines. 
After 15 minutes or when the coals are turning gray at the edges, quickly and carefully move the pots, remove the cooking grid, spread the coals out and place the warmed pots directly in the hot coals (figure 1). Spread the coals out as you would for cooking, and nestle each pot into the coals. Cover the grill to retain heat, but leave the cover cocked for better air flow (figure 2). Be careful not to rest the hot edge of the lid on the plastic handle of the grill! Out of curiosity, I put a pyrometer inside one of the pots in this firing, and it registered as high as 1300°F, or approximately cone 018. After 30 minutes or so, your pots can be removed. Test them by tapping them to see if they ring, or scratching them with your fingernail. If your pot rings when you tap it and you can’t scratch it easily, it’s fired. Of course the clay won’t be fully vitrified and your pots won’t hold water, but the finished pots won’t disintegrate in water as greenware would. Coals alone reach a temperature of at least 1100°F, and will be enough to fire small pots. For pots above two or three inches tall, or to increase the firing temperature, you might want to pile wood scraps around them to ensure an even firing temperature from the top to the bottom of the piece (figure 3). To increase the heat even more, you can try blowing air into the grill with a fan (figure 4), though it’s possible that doing this repeatedly could shorten the life of the grill, particularly of the charcoal grate. Adding wood to the fire will make it smoke more and consequently the pots will come out with more smoke-markings.
Fig.6 Wheel-thrown micaceous clay, fired green in horsehair decoration. Fig.6 Wheel-thrown micaceous clay, fired green in horsehair decoration. 
Alternative Surfaces

For a beautiful decorative effect, place horse hairs (or other animal or human hair) on the pot immediately after removing it from the fire (figure 5). When working with this technique, remove the pot using tongs, and place it on a piece of warmed soft brick to avoid cracks from thermal shock. The hairs will burn and leave squiggly black marks on the pot (figure 6). Have the hairs ready and work fast—you may only have a few seconds before the pot cools down too much.
Fig.7 This sphere has designs drawn with a gold leaf pen and lines made using copper foil tape. Fig.7 This sphere has designs drawn with a gold leaf pen and lines made using copper foil tape. 
For other alternative firing effects, try burnishing your pots with a stone or applying terra sigillata. Depending on the type of clay you are using, you might want to bisque fire them in an electric kiln and use the grill for decorative effects. I create patterns on pots with copper foil tape (intended for stained glass work), gold leaf pens (figure 7), or masking tape (figure 8). Decorated pots can then be wrapped with a double layer of aluminum foil and placed either directly on the hot coals or on the cooking grid for 30 minutes (figure 9). I placed these tape decorated pieces on the cooking grid instead of in the coals because aluminum foil disintegrates when placed directly on the coals, which can allow smoke to blacken the pot too much. Since the grill can’t produce enough heat to burn off the adhesive on the copper foil tape, this needs to be scraped off after the firing.
Fig.8 This pot was bisque-fired to cone 010, masked with tape, and brushed with terra sig. Fig.8 This pot was bisque-fired to cone 010, masked with tape, and brushed with terra sig. 
I’ve found that different brands of masking tape can have very different effects-—some burn quite quickly and may leave your pot completely black if left on the grill for the full 30 minutes, while other brands have a great deal of sticking power, provide a strong resist and need to be scraped off after firing. The white stoneware piece (figure 10) was brushed with terra sigillata, bisque fired to cone 010, decorated with masking tape, wrapped in a double layer of aluminum foil and fired in the grill.
Fig.9 Place foil-wrapped, tape-decorated pots on the cooking grid rather than on the coals as the foil disintegrates in high heat. Fig.9 Place foil-wrapped, tape-decorated pots on the cooking grid rather than on the coals as the foil disintegrates in high heat. 
One more beautiful effect you can easily achieve firing in your grill is the rich glossy black of burnished and smoke-fired Pueblo Indian pottery. For best results, burnish a smooth red stoneware clay with a stone. If you want to bisque-fire it in an electric kiln first, fire it only to cone 018 to retain the burnish. To blacken it in the grill, wrap it in newspaper and then aluminum foil and place it in the coals. For a deeper black, place it directly in the coals and surround it with wood scraps.
Fig.10 A white stoneware lidded box with masking tape resist decoration after a smoke firing in a Weber grill. Fig.10 A white stoneware lidded box with masking tape resist decoration after a smoke firing in a Weber grill. 
When the wood is burning merrily, cover the grill, shut the air valve on the grill cover and close the cleaning valve on the underside. To protect the burnished surface from getting scratched or marked by the fuel, you can follow the same general steps but start by placing the pot in a coffee can or cookie tin that has holes pierced in the sides. Nestle it into some wood shavings at the bottom of the can, place the can into the coals (figure 11), and cover the can with aluminum foil or a piece of kiln shelf (figure 12). This way, smoke can surround the pot but the pot won’t be in direct contact with burning wood or coals. After 30 to 45 minutes, when the grill has stopped smoking, the pot can be removed. If the pot wasn’t bisque-fired beforehand in an electric kiln, you’ll need to carefully preheat it and fire it directly in the coals to get it hot enough to vitrify—but you’ll probably get the richest black color this way (figure 13).
Fig.11 Place a burnished pot inside a perforated coffee can prior to firing to create an even, glossy black surface. Fig.11 Place a burnished pot inside a perforated coffee can prior to firing to create an even, glossy black surface. 
I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface in exploring the possibilities offered by this simple piece of equipment. Playing with fire in your barbecue grill makes for an easy and fun project you can enjoy by yourself or with your family—so break out the clay, get some charcoal, and fire away!
Fig.12 Surround the coffee can with wood scraps to create more heat and smoke. Cover the opening with a piece of kiln shelf. Fig.12 Surround the coffee can with wood scraps to create more heat and smoke. Cover the opening with a piece of kiln shelf. 
Clays used

Micaceous clay is available from: Coyote Clay www.coyoteclay.com/clay.html
or New Mexico Clay www.nmclay.com

You can also buy powdered mica and add it to your own clay body.
Red clay for burnishing: Navajo Wheel from Industrial Minerals Company www.clayimco.com 
 
 
 
 

 

Fig.13 A red stoneware, stone burnished pot, bisque-fired to cone 018, placed inside a perforated coffee can and fired in a Weber grill. Fig.13 A red stoneware, stone burnished pot, bisque-fired to cone 018, placed inside a perforated coffee can and fired in a Weber grill. 
Sumi von Dassow is a frequent contributor to PMI, the author of the best selling book Low-firing and Burnishing as well as the producer of the new DVD Pit Firing & Burnishing. For more information, go to www.herwheel.com. Her book and DVD are available at http://ceramicartsdaily.org/bookstore.
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Encaustic painting

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Purchased @ the local thrift store

For the past couple of days I have been painting with encaustic as a medium. I was asked to do an owl in realism on a piece of glass for a stain glass window for the designer and good friend Marjorie Brice.  I approached her with the idea of creating it in encaustic as it has the look of a stain glass window when painted. To my surprise She was totally up for the experiment so I will be documenting my project here. It has been a worthwhile journey of research for the past month. Finally I decided it was time to actually attempt the medium. What happened over the past week was quite thrilling for me – I get excited over paint  -its a weird obsession. What gets me about encaustic is the fact that if I can master this ancient artform I can incorporate all my artforms into one medium. I can sculpt, paint and draw realistically with encaustic. It can be as colorful or as plain as you want it to be. You can texture it add relief, sculpt, collage anything into it, make it 3d, 2d abstract or realistic figurative . In my mind encaustic is more versatile than any other medium. You can paint on glass, wood, just about anything. I wouldn’t paint on canvas though as it needs a hard substrate as canvas is too flexible for this medium. Some artists do use canvas though so you may not necessarily need to rule it out if it is solution to a certain project. After I completed my YOUTUBE research on encaustics I happened to be looking in the local newspaper which I never read and I never read the free section either but by obvious direction from the universe my eyes glanced at the paper and I saw an ad for free tempered glass shelving. I immediately called because I was thinking glass would possibly be a beautiful substrate for my encaustic experiments. I always go from most difficult to easy – go all or go home. Anyway funny thing the guy who called first ‘ first come first serve’ never showed up and I went and picked up a small pickup truck filled with glass. I couldnt believe it ! here was enough glass canvas to last a year AND it was free ahh the universe is amazing *note my husband wasnt as excited about it as I was. Artists are amazing at recycling. The owner of the glass said it must of been meant for me as he had a lot of interest but noone actually showed up. After that I decided it was time to go thrift store shopping for my encaustic supplies. I picked up an iron (flat metal with no holes and small) and a pancake griddle to heat the wax paint cakes. next I needed to actually make the paint. I heated my wax in an old crock pot and added the damar resin crystals a ratio of 8parts wax to approx 1 part resin. (for the glass painting I will be adding more resin).

Resin crystals and metal tins

Resin crystals and metal tins

Next time I will be heating my wax in a pan on the pancake griddle as I had trouble getting the damar resin to melt – it melts at 200 degrees and the wax at 150 -I think I need to complete some more research . There is no temperature gage on the crock pot so it was not working too well– live and learn. Once the mixture is heated together pour into muffin containers and add oil paint or schmeincke pastels (excellent pigment for encaustics I am told) or pigment powders. I added some oil paint **tip: leave over night on a papertowel to remove some of the oil and  ‘voila’ paint.

I used a cheese cutter worked great

I used a cheese cutter for the wax -worked great

I had some porcelain relief tiles that were fired and unpainted downstairs that would work great for my first encaustic project. You can paint on unpainted ceramic- go figure?  I invited my artist friend Sandy Terry over to help me christin my new thrift store buys and she painted on a wooden panel while I worked on my relief tiles and a small paperclay cameo. I was really frustrated but Sandy absolutely loved it. Working a textured free form medium over a hard surface with relief was more than I had bargained for. But in the end I think me and the encaustic came to a mutual agreement. for my first attempt I am happy and excited about the challenge this medium will bring into my art.

Projects old and new

My new project is on the back burner. It isn’t working out the way I had hoped. I am letting it sit for a few days while I wait for a creative link in my brain to leak out something that will save this painting. For now I am working on a drawing and practicing my skills in watercolor and have new insights as to the wonderful learning opportunities in this medium.
I am also working on an owl commission that will go into a stained glass window. I will post pictures of this work as I complete it. I am in a constant battle for which medium to work in as I find my niche.

Zelli.co.uk

The Prince of Swans

My figure is on its way to london england I hope it enjoys the trip – it will travel farther than I have this year. I would love to go to england a place I have never seen but have an eternal attachment to.

My Family History

As an artist your talent and creative ability comes from somewhere. We are all unique and different but as much as our genetics doesn’t have anything to do with who we are it can also have very much to do with who we are. In researching my family history I was not only surprised but amazed at the some of the similiarities in their artwork and mine. I love to do portraiture, cameo’s, sculpture, drawing and figurative.

Cameo by Angela Pistrucci

Bettina Pistrucci Portrait Cameo by Angela Pistrucci

 The artists in my background were figurative realists in both painting and sculpture. Most notable ancestors are Benedetto Pistrucci a sculptor that worked in the Royal British Mint, his brother Phillipe Pistrucci a printmaker closely associated with Dante Gabrielle Rosetti ( He is known for his painting of Dante’s sister Christina Rosetti -a poet), my great great grandfather  E.J. Cobbett was a member of the Royal British artists and William Cobbett (famous  for  his writing and member of England’s parliament  mid 1800’s). I am not saying that I have arrived but to say the least I am proud of my heritage and am influenced everyday by the legacy left by my ancestors. Trust me somedays it feels like a lot to live up to. 

Benedetto Pistrucci (May 29, 1783 – September 16, 1855) was a talented engraver of gemstones, cameos, coins and medals.

Pistrucci’s St. George design

Search Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons has media related to: Benedetto Pistrucci

Born in Italy, he moved to London in 1815 and was employed at the Royal Mint as an engraver, where his most famous work is his portrayal of St. George & the Dragon used on British gold sovereigns and crowns from 1817 to the present day. He also engraved the dies for many other coins, medals, and medallions, including the Waterloo Medal, which took him over thirty years to complete.

He refused to copy the work of any other artist or engraver, and insisted that all his work was his own original work. Because of his Italian origin, he was not officially recognised as the chief engraver at the Royal Mint, and there were rivalries with other engravers including the Wyon family.

To immortalize the successful Waterloo campaign, the Duke of Wellington suggested that a couple of special medals be prepared. From a July 11, 1815, letter from Master of the Mint W.W. Pole to the president of the Royal Academy:

I have been commanded to strike two Medals at the Royal Mint in commemoration of the battles of Les Quatre Bras and Waterloo; One, in gold, of the largest size, to embrace the exploits of the allied army under the Duke of Wellington the Prince of Orange and the Duke of Brunswick, and of the Prussian Army under Field Marshal Blucher. This Medal will probably be given to each of the sovereigns in alliance with the Prince Regent, to their ministers and generals.”

Medallists were petitioned to submit designs for the medal. Pistrucci’s design was selected over a design by John Flaxman, which had been recommended by the Royal Academy. However, due to an internal strife at the Royal Mint between Pistrucci, Pole, and Wyon regarding the position of chief engraver, work on the medal got off to a slow start. Ongoing personality conflicts within the Royal Mint, salary disputes, a heavy workload, and the utter complexities of the proposed design were all contributing factors as to why it took Pistrucci 33 years to complete his masterpiece. In 1849 the dies were reportedly finished, but only in terms of design execution. Although the dies were created in four pieces to assist in their hardening, it seems that nobody was willing to take the risk of damaging Pistrucci’s work that was three decades in the making. Unfortunately, by this time all of the intended recipients of the medal were deceased, with the exception of Wellington. Gutta-percha impressions and electrotypes were finally created. Pistrucci was finally able to see his magnum opus in medal form. He died a few years later, in 1855. See: Heritage Auction Galleries, Sept 16 2008 auction of electrotype medal, copyright acknowledged.
Pistrucci is buried in Virginia Water, Surrey, England at Christ Church. He has a prominent gravestone which cites his title as Her Majesty’s “Chief Medallist”. His grave is situated at the front of the Church under a tree.File:Waterloo medal.jpg

E.J. Cobbett :PAG79663024 PaintingXPorcupineGazetteGeneric17972

Porcupines Gazette by William Cobbett – The ‘ blog of the 18th century!!!! ‘

A work in Progress

This is my next painting project.

Be the One
Be the One

Currently working on this painting – not sure of whether it will be oil or acrylic or mixed media yet. hmmm. anyway I will be calling it ‘ come dance with me’ or ‘Be the one’ from a poem I wrote. I will be posting my progress as I am very excited about an artistic idea I have for this painting and you will have to come back and check if you want to unravel the mystery of how this painting will turn out.sketch for new paintingsketch for painting