As the subtitle of my blog points out, most of the things I make use fabric. And if not fabric, I work with other supple items like yarn, paper, ribbon, etc. To mix things up, last month a friend and I went to paint pottery. You know the kind of place ─ shelves of manufactured bisqueware waiting for people to add their personal touch via ceramic paint. What’s nice about painting this pottery is that unlike pottery you make yourself (or should I say, unlike pottery I make), you start with a perfect canvas. And before you begin you know exactly what shape and size it’ll be. The items are usually functional and when you’re done they are truly one of a kind.
While a blank canvas can be intimidating, this time I wasn’t paralysed with indecision. First I chose my object. I decided to decorate an oversize mug because the mug I have at work doesn’t hold nearly enough tea. Then, before I even sat down to consider design options, I saw a stencil of roses on a vine and right away I knew what I wanted to do: a ring of flowers and leaves near the lip of the cup. Not feeling particularly funky, I used predictable but pretty colours. The spring green is a shade I love, and then I chose a pink to go with it.
The shop’s fired colour swatches were not as bold or intense as the paint on my finished mug. Thinking the floral pattern might get lost or look washed out against white, I painted the background dove grey. I’m not sure I’d to that again, in part because I think the pink and green would have looked great on white, plus the glazed white is so clean and appealing. The handle was originally going to have more vine and roses but I didn’t have enough time to paint another 4 inches of pattern. That turned out to be a good thing because I love the solid splash of colour sticking out from the side of the mug.
Staff at the shop told us that to get opaque colour we’d have to apply 3 coats of paint. You can see that the colour in the detail work is more opaque than the grey wash that covers the rest of the mug (click on any photo for a larger image) even though I applied 3 coats everywhere. The difference is that on the large area I unknowingly applied thin layers of paint, whereas for the detail section I used a smaller brush that pretty much deposited little blobs of colour with each pass.
After 3 layers of paint and 2.5 hours of effort the mug was fired and ready to be picked up 4 days later. Finally, I inaugurated the mug with a cup of herbal tea. My review of the mug as a functional object is that it’s lightweight, comfortable to hold, and so large that I can’t see over or around it when I drink. My review of the mug as an object of art is that I love the look of it and have a small feeling of satisfaction every time I look at it.