New porcelain, gold and pearls jewelry series
I’m excited to announce a new limited series in porcelain, precious metals and pearls!
For this year’s European trip, I had a pleasure of learning to work in porcelain, with a ceramics artist of many years. Her studio is full of wonders, works exhibited and newly made, and a fount of knowledge. As always, thank you dear friend and teacher, Tanja.
Porcelain is an amazing new material for me. It can be thin like paper and wonderfully malleable, but when it’s fired, it’s strong and it has a beautiful texture and ring to it. I’ve decided to let the material itself guide me into a more freeform style, to truly experience the nature of it.
To get thin sheets to work with, I poured the liquid porcelain clay onto plaster flats which soak up the excess fluid. Timing is everything! Too long, and the sheets become too brittle to curve, too short and they’re sticky and don’t hold the shape. I also learned that the reworked clay (reused pieces melted in water again) becomes more crumbly, as drying on plaster takes out the electrolytes and the finest particles needed to retain plasticity. Then, I separated small pieces for the pendants and shaped them in the way they wanted to be shaped, all the while trying to listed to the material and let the porcelain itself guide me.
After drying for a day or so, the first firing of my porcelain pendants is at a slightly lower temperature. The kiln takes a day to cool off, and it’s hard to wait, but the slow cooling is necessary – otherwise, the clay will crack! I worked with bone white porcelain, and the darker sable brown (added pigment), which I thought would look great with gold leaf & pearls. But, when they come out the first time, all pieces look so light… Another thing I learned is that a ceramic artist has to learn to see the finished work in their mind’s eye, because the road to what it’s going to look like at the end is long and not for the impatient. Creating jewelry from precious metals, pearls and gemstones brings instant gratification in comparison.
Then, I used the transparent glaze on the back of the pendants so they won’t “catch” on clothing and to add strength to these delicate pieces; and had glazed parts of the fronts here and there for effect as well. Glossy high temperature glazes such as these are basically a glass mixture. Once applied, they dry into a fine powdery layer that can be damaged by looking at it too hard. The first image below is the “rough draft” glaze, which I carefully smoothed out for the final version. Gently gliding over it with your fingers works the best for small pieces like this, but watch out for the fingerprints!
The last firing has to be the hottest, at 2264F (1,240C) or so for the porcelain, which requires the highest temperatures of all clay to become that magically strong, yet light, beautiful material. Another day of waiting for it to cool off… But when it finally came out of kiln, it’s everything I wanted! The darker porcelain developed its color in full, and all of it was impressively strong for something so thin and light! (Eh, a few super thin pieces did break when I tested them all. I am still learning – but better now than later, that’s why I tested each pendant, after all.)
All made it back to the USA in good shape, and I’m back in my studio, adding the gold and silver leaf and trying to decide which pearls would work the best for each piece. When there is more than one perfect choice, I’ll offer a selection of pearls for you to choose from and finish the jewelry piece just for you. I’m looking forward to you being a part of my process, and can’t wait for these to make it to my Etsy shop! Stay tuned.