Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rain Delay, Millefiori, and a T-square

I woke in the middle of the night on Monday thinking, t-square. I spent all that time laboriously levelling the cinderblocks and soft bricks on the top plane but forgot to square the sides. Stupid stupid stupid; but not as stupid as getting ten rows up and noticing that the kiln is askew. 
So I went and bought a t-square, which I am dying to use, but it's raining again. I'm not made of sugar (sweet as I may be) but even under the shelter, kilnbuilding in the rain is no fun; and it is supposed to clear up later.
So I am doing something else in the meantime. While demonstrating contrasting inlaid clay for my Monday night class, I had a flashback to a millefiori technique I used to teach to summer camp kids, back when I taught at the Bloomington Art Center, in Minnesota. (Hi Sue! Miss you!) I am exploring this technique a little more this morning, and if I haven't said so already, this is why I love teaching: it pushes me to try new things, and remember and change up old things.
I start with two short coils of contrasting clay, and flatten them out. Brush a little (a very little) vinegar on one surface, and then lay one on top of the other. The bottom one will be the outer color of your millefiori slices. Starting on one short end, roll the two up into a spiral; then roll the spiral like a coil to make it wider and narrower.
At this point you can cut slices from the cane, with a flexible metal rib not a fettling knife (thinner blade, less distortion.) I like my canes square, so I tap and paddle the bi-colored coils square before I cut them.
You can use the resulting spiral slices in many ways; for the dessert plate above, I lay the slices on a 1/4 slab, and then gently rolled in both directions. I didn't flatten them out completely, but left the appliques just a hair higher than the surface of the slab.


Sue Pariseau Pottery said...

Very cool plate/platter. Love the millefiori work. Glad to hear you though of the T Square before it was too late. It's raining here too. Hope things dry out soon. Be well.

heidi haugen: days with clay said...

i stacked and restacked the walls several times over due to 'askew' and 'square' and 'level' issues. how are your fingertips doing? carry on :)

Lori Watts said...

Heidi -- My earlier experiences with kiln building made me a great believer in having the right equipment, right down to a great pair of lightweight leather gloves. Otherwise I'd be in bad shape.