Art: Ceramic Boxes

Ceramic Boxes

I recently found myself in a clay-building mood, and clay boxes just happened to be on my lesson plan list. I figured, what better way to cure my artsy urge than to kill two birds with one stone and create an example for my next lesson. I decided to make a set of three, the same shape and size, but with different decorating techniques. For a moment I considered listing customizable ceramic boxes on Etsy. Potential customers could request different initials and flowers to decorate their boxes, and they could be cute wedding-related gifts. However, after making these three I was over-constructing with clay for a while. I guess I am still searching for my Etsy niche, I need something I have fun making, and won’t get sick of!

The simplest of the three is the “W” box. I used white clay as a base and pressed a piece of patterned rubber into the still-damp clay before I put it together. Once it was pieced together I cut out a W letter, pressed the patterned rubber into it, and scored and slipped it onto the box.

To emphasize the pattern I decided to loosely paint brown glaze on the box, then rub it of with a sponge. This left the glaze in the recessed areas of the pattern, but removed it from the raised areas. I repeated this process with blue glaze, then painted the W and interior with Tawny and blue glaze. The end result wasn’t what I expected, but it was a happy accident. I didn’t entirely wipe the glaze off of the raised areas, and the glaze ended up staining the white clay a pinkish color.

This box is slightly more complex than the last, with the hand-built flower on top. To create this piece I took burlap and lace, and pressed them into the damp clay before I constructed it. Once the box was pieced together I created a flower by layering flattened pieces of clay. I used the same glazing technique as the “W” box, rubbing the glaze off after it was applied, but I added a thin layer of celadon glaze on top of the partially wiped away brown glaze. I used a coral color glaze to paint the flower and I painted the inside with celadon.

This box combines the flower-building and letter-cutting techniques into one. Like the other boxes, I pressed burlap and lace onto the damp clay and used a dark brown glaze to emphasize the pattern. I clear-glazed it, painted the interior with coral, and painted the “P” and hydrangeas with celadon glaze.

This is a fun project to do on your own, if you have access to clay and a kiln, or with students in an art class. I often teach box building because it covers template and slab-building techniques. For design inspiration I have my students think of something they want to protect, tangible or intangible. They must create the shape and design to reflect that object. This is a lesson I will be teaching before the end of the semester, I hope to photograph the process and post the lesson in my “art lessons” section. If you are interested in seeing it, keep checking back!

I hope you liked today’s post about my recent ceramic box-building day. These three are available for purchase on my Etsy shop here. Thanks for stopping by and helping be spread the word about my blog!

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