Fossil Mugs Part 1

As I mentioned in my final tea bowls installment, I've been working on a group of mugs with a fossil theme. Although I'm an art historian by profession, when I'm visiting a museum for pure fun, I'm just as inclined to visit a natural history museum as I am an art-based institution. It's a nice change of pace from what I work with on a daily basis, and there's something about seeing giant dinosaur skeletons that brings out my inner seven-year old. I may have exchanged my dreams of paleontology for art history many years ago, but I still enjoy reading about dinosaurs and visiting their remains in museums. They're the closest thing I've ever encountered to dragons and all those other fantastic creatures of myth and legend, so they can't help but stimulate my imagination.

With all the traveling I've been doing recently, I've also got plenty of dinosaur sketches from visits I've made to natural history museums, such as BYU's institution and the Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. I'd started out sketching skulls only, but I've found that the entire skeleton wraps around the shape of the mug more effectively, so I'll be sketching more complete skeletons in the future.
I wanted to make more mugs with this latest batch, but clay has a way of deciding its own future as a functional object. One of the cylinders I made had an edge that was too high on the rim, so I pinched the ends of it together to make a pitcher. Rather than pull a handle for this piece, I braided two coils together to make a handle with a strong sense of texture:

Not all my fossils are dinosaurs, either. I enjoy drawing trilobites as well:

To finish your functional ceramics (or at least, glazed pieces), you have to fire them twice. The first firing hardens the clay, while the second secures the glaze to the surface. Prior to the first firing, the clay, even when dry, is so fragile that it can shatter if too much pressure is applied to it. Needless to say, I'm always relieved when they come out of the kiln looking like this:

Glazing fossil mugs is not unlike preparing an etched plate for printing. First, I run black underglaze into the fossil drawings and wipe off the excess with a sponge. The remaining underglaze fills into the outlines of the skeletons, helping the lines stand out against the clay.

Next, I take my green wax resist and paint in all the skeletons by hand. It takes me about 10 minutes to fill in a skeleton, but I paint pretty quickly once I have a particular process or procedure down. The process reminds me somewhat of the plaster jackets paleontologists used to cover dinosaur skeletons to ensure their safety during transport.

Once the skeletons have been prepped it's time to glaze them. This time I restricted myself to one color, floating blue, but this glaze has such a great sense of variety and texture that you really don't need anything else. The glaze slides off the wax resist, leaving the skeletons visible and exposed.

Now the pieces are ready for their second firing. Check in next week to see how they turned out!