Wee Cottage Lane Christmas

Wee Cottage Lane  Christmas
by Laura Pallatin of LaBelle Mariposa

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Large, Splashy, Classy Ceramic Flowers

Flowers inspire me. Whether painting on canvas, walls, or my car, I love recreating what nature offers so freely enabling me to enjoy them when they are not in season. My creations don't fade or shatter, either. Therefore, it is natural that I would want to create flowers in ceramic as that is my material of choice most days recently. Making flowers the same size as their real counterparts has been fun. I've been making those for jewelry and display. Even making tiny versions is pretty cool and I enjoy wearing my tiny, nickel sized roses as pendants and earrings. But, I must admit, when it comes to art... I like making things BIG!! 

I just love exploding tiny things and exploring what all the parts are that make them so special. My recent flower experiments the orchid and pansy posted below are examples of this. 

In order to make these pieces, I prefer to have a real flower in my hands first. I do sacrifice one flower of each kind to take apart and look at all the components individually. I also photograph them so that I have a permanent record of the elements so I can refer back if I want to make more later. 

A large ceramic pansy with it's tiny counterpart in the upper left corner

My process for creating these big flowers is something that I noodled out with my imagination and I am not suggesting that it is "the" way to do it. A big part of the fun of creating for me is what I call the noodling process. It is when I have an idea of something I'd like to make and spend time imagining how I will execute my idea. Having the real flower to take apart is important for me because I make all of the parts of the flower, even the ones you can't see when it is finished. All of the petals are there, tucked under the petals that you can see. This is important for me. 

First things first, I needed to come up with a way for my flowers to be mounted do a wall, or have a flat spot so they can be displayed on a tabletop or in a book case. I chose to use a simple disk made out of clay with two holes punched into it for this purpose. I use a bit of tissue paper or cut up straw to hold the section by the holes open while the piece dries. I drew an arrow on this photo of a pansy so you can see where the spacer goes. I also use this base as a great place to add info like my signature and the year. You can also see from the back that all of the petals are there in their entirety as mentioned above. 

To make the actual flower, I start by identifying how many petals are in the flower, which ones are the same size and shape, and then how they overlap and go together to make the final flower. In the example of the pansy, there are five petals. the two on top are one shape, the two on the sides another, and finally the large petal at the bottom. I start with two balls of clay and make them about the same size. I tuck one under a damp cloth so it doesn't dry out while I sculpt the first petal and start pinching and pulling and squeezing the clay until I get the shape I want. As with all ceramics, I scrape grooves into my base and carefully attach the first petal being careful not to squash the spacer so that the piece can be hung when it is finished. Once I'm finished with the fist pair, I make two more balls of clay that are the same size and what I feel will work well for the second set of petals. Again, I tuck one ball under a damp cloth and sculpt the next two. Some pansies have the second set on top of the largest petal while other flowers have the larger bottom petal on top. Therefore, I vary the big ones to match the tiny inspirations flower. I use bits of tissue paper to separate the petals to make sure the finished piece is three dimensional.  

Work in progress of large ceramic pansy

I want to add that I really like to see the work of an artist in the finished piece. Therefore, I do not smooth out all of my finger marks on my flowers. Your work should reflect your aesthetic, so this is a place where you can decide what you want your finished work to look like. 

Each flower sits and dries for quite a while before it can go into the kiln for its first firing. In the Sacramento summers I can get stuff into my kiln within days. In the rainy summer months, the drying process can take weeks. Never put anything into a kiln that is not completely dry. If you are dying to see the results of firing, try leaving your piece in your kitchen oven overnight on the lowest setting. If you put your work in with even a little bit of moisture it will explode. I don't mean crack or even break, I mean explode. Any adjacent pieces will be broken, too and it can damage your kiln. 

Here are a couple of my flowers pictured together. I just love the orchid because they are so tiny and delicate that making a giant one was super fun! Also, you can see all the amazing details! 

I made the orchid using the same process as described above. The hardest part of the orchid was the center piece, but I've gotten that figured out now and am planning to make many more. There are so many amazing orchids available! One I'm attracted to is the monkey orchid. We'll see if that one shows up in the collection, too.

Magnolias were a natural addition to this line because they are already so large and splashy. These flowers are not actually a much larger versions of the original because my kiln is not that big and I don't know how an upsized magnolia would even support its own weight if hung on a wall. There are a variety of sizes and colors of Mangolias. Some smaller than the ones I've made and some even larger! They are all lovely, though and I'm smitten with their old Southern charm. 

A small collection of handmade ceramic magnolia blossom 

Handmade ceramic Magnolia Bloosom

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