The tricks of the trade
Usually I make abstract sculptural ceramics, but occasionally I take a side road at making bowls. Not that these bowls can be used to put something in, because I always tend to make objects, but the starting point is better known to others than my abstract work.
The creativity of others, for instance someone like Escher, inspires me and I hope I can be an inspiration for people as well.
The techniques I will describe here are tips I got several years ago. There is so much possible with clay! It keeps amazing me. And it keeps me real enthusiastic about ceramics.
If you try new things, a new way of working or a new technique, you will not have instant result. Well, most of the times. But try and don’t give up and you will surprise yourself. I know I did.
(Drawings, bowl and photographs are mine © Hannie Mommers)
Designing and sketching
I always start with a drawing
Computer sketch of two variations of the bowl
I am more of a designer than an artist. Meaning I sketch and draw before I make anything. Other artists are more intuitive and start right away. Both ways of working are fine, I guess. I feel happiest when I make a plan on forehand.
Sketching can be by hand or by computer. For these lizard-bowls I sketched the lizard by hand, scanned it and made the layout by computer.
Is imitation a form of flattery?
Inspiration is everywhere
Browse through books, visit websites
I found the inspiration for my bowls in a book about Escher.
There is a lot of talk in my profession about imitation and inspiration. I do not believe in plain imitation. If you do not know what you’re doing, even something that is an exact replica will have no soul.
But start with imitating and try to give it your own twist and you will discover new paths.
Reptiles – M.C. Escher
Three pieces of linoleum
The linocut – Preparing
My idea was to use embossing that went from flat to higher parts. I cut three pieces of lino. In one I cut only the outlines (1), the next piece had more texture (2) and the latter had recessed portions (3).
With these linopieces I can press in the clay like a stamp.
My lino cutter of choice
I have my set since I attended the Academy of Visual Arts. So it must be 40 years old. Most of the time when I want to suggest a tool, it has been changed. This one rightfully hasn’t, as you can see. And why should it, it’s a marvelous set and with proper care, it’ll last for ages.
A lot of my tools have a blue marking of tape. That way they don’t get lost if I attend a workshop!
Combined with little hand built parts
In bowl A I used one stamped part of lino (1), one of lino (2) and 4 of lino (3). The dish is made in a mold, making it easy to draw guidelines with pencil and positioning the stamped parts. When they are positioned the way I want, I can finish the rest of the platter. The plaster mold extracts moisture from the clay, so it dries. As soon as the form has shrunk loose, I can finish the back.
This is one of the four stamps with lino (3)
Three of the four stamped parts of lino (3) were altered after assembling. Either a little tail is peeking out of the surface or the body is thickened. Or the head is lifted up completely. That is why these vessels can’t be used as bowls, the protruding parts would break by the first apple that was thrown into them.
Experiment, improving each time
Bowl B has more resemblance to Escher’s drawing
In Bowl (B) I used the same stamps as in (A) and added drawings. These lizards don’t walk round behind each other, but vanish off in a spiral with the last one leaving a shadow behind.
Stencils and colored slibs
Supplemented by sgraffito and glaze
Several techniques are used for the background
The background of Bowl (A) is decorated with leaves. If you want to make something like this, try to think in layers.
The bowl is made of white clay. Before the first firing I added an ochre layer of slib.
I cut leaves from paper (newspaper is ideal, because it’s thin and absorbs water) and while the clay is still moist I press them gently on the surface. If it won’t stick you can ‘paint’ them with water, just make sure it doesn’t get too wet.
The next layer I added was the green one. After drying the paper leafs can be peeled off.
The leaf veins are scratched, making them white. It’s a technique I call sgraffito, but I am not sure that is an English word as well?
After the first firing I have added more slibs as shadows. And glazed some of the leaves, leaving the others with a matte finish. I love the contrast between shiny and matt.