A few weeks ago I was asked by a gal to make a coffee mug with a carved hummingbird on it as a tribute to her mother who loved hummingbirds. At first I was reluctant because in the past I had trouble with the final clear coat, but my love for sgraffito carving and a new challenge was too much for me to pass up and I accepted the order.
Instead of making just one mug, though, I decided I would make six… just in case!
Mugs have to be made in steps. First the body is thrown on the potters wheel. For these mugs I needed a nice white clay because of the carving. After allowing the mug to stiffen up enough for me to handle it without getting my finger prints all over it I make and attach the handles. As you can see in this photo I am letting the handles set up for jus a few minutes so they don’t flop down when I attach them.
After attaching the handles and letting the pieces sit up for a bit I applied black underglaze to the outside of each piece. Three coats on each mug. I use Amaco Velvet Jet Black but hope to start making my own underglaze soon.
Once the glaze dries enough, I start carving it away to reveal whatever design is waiting in the background!
So you see, there is a bit of waiting between each step, plenty of time to go play on Facebook!
The order was for a hummingbird so I started there and drew up a few hummingbirds in my sketch pad at just the right size which I then transferred onto the mug. The flowers I would pretty much free hand with a pencil directly on the glaze. Flowers are easy, since pretty much anything goes! Then I start carving away, watching little pieces of black fall off the mug and the design emerge.
Then I let everything dry really well. During the summer these babies dry pretty quick because it’s so blasted hot outside. I always turn the A/C down when I leave for the evening so the studio gets pretty warm.
The pieces are then fired for the first time. This firing, called bisque firing, cooks the clay just enough to make it less fragile, yet porous, like a brick, so that I can glaze it. The inside is glazed first with a color and then the outside is glazed in clear which really makes the black, black!
What I love most about this technique is because you can actually feel the carved image, there is this wonderful textural feel about it. Plus, I love high contrast things and the jet black glaze and white clay are striking. When I carve the background I try to give it a feeling of movement.
So you see, there is a lot to do to make these mugs but it’s something I adore doing. Spending my days throwing, attaching handles, glazing, creating and carving, with country music in the background is therapy for me, it’s a joy.
If you would like to see what I have available visit Yellow Cottage Pottery, my web store