The pottery of Pueblo Indians in Santa Cara, New Mexico, formed the inspiration of my present work. The Pueblo Indians are forming their pots out of locally digged clay, than applying and polishing an egobe. The pots are fired in a field kiln to approximately 1290°F.
Damaged pots are rejected and only the good ones are considered to be worked up. The pot is still soft enough to scratch a pattern in the engobe. The patterns they use, often have a special meaning which depends of the purpose of the pot. To harden the pot it is varnished.
The repetition of the geometric patterns is causes a tranquility that touched me deeply. That is why I tried to translate the Pueblo scratch technique into porcelain and the modern electric firing techniques.
My pots are thrown on the potter's wheel out of porcelain. A home made black engobe is applied to the porcelain and then polished.
Often is the whole pot covered with engobe. This gives black pots with white scratched drawings. The geometric patterns or birds are scratched by hand into the engobe, without a mold or fixed pattern. My favorite tool is a nail.
The vases are mostly poured into a mold of plaster. When the porcelain is leather hard a small piece is covered and polished with engobe while the edge is carved in a matching pattern. This way the vases are white with black birds and black and white wings.
All the work is fired only once at 2300°F in an electric kiln. All sgraffito pots and vases have their own unique patterns: round or square geometric patterns, friendly or aggressive birds or peaceful swans and cranes. The pots vary in diameter from 5 to 12 inches (8-30 cm) and height from 2 to 3,5 inches (8-14 cm)
The acquaintance with silver clay was of course the big challenge to combine both materials: birds flying with a scratched and a silver wing!
The porcelain pot is made the way described above and fired at. The silver clay is formed on the pot or vase and given a texture. The silver is fired on the pot at 1650°F. After firing the silver is polished and the pot is ready.
Raku is often fired at 2300°F. Because silver clay also is fired at 2300°F, a combination raku and silver clay is obvious.
This technique is really a genuine challenge, worth while trying. At 2300°F the raku glaze has to flow while the silver has to sinter properly. The melting temperature of silver is about 1740°F and a raku kiln has big differences in temperature inside...
A very accurate firing is a prerequisite! You can read all about it in PMC Technic, edited by Tim McCreight or in my Dutch book Zilverklei.
» Take a look at the ceramics showcase...