GAIL RUSSELL  FINE  ART  PORCELAIN  STUDIO/GALLERY
     
PROCESS & INFLUENCES
 
PROCESS
 
            

Most of my work is thrown on an electric potter's wheel, in porcelain, which I was immediately drawn to as an undergraduate art student at the University of Evansville.  I continue to use it for most of my work, my favorite being Standard Ceramic Supply's # 257 porcelain, a very white, workable, and responsive body, and recommend it highly.

 

Depending on the complexity of the form, some pieces may take a week or more to complete.  This would include preparing the porcelain, throwing, drying, trimming, and assembling of parts, and further drying to the bone dry state, when a piece is finally ready for firing.  Forms requiring the assemblage of several parts include sprigged pieces (i.e. my leaves and acorns), teapots, casseroles, compotes, hand-built pieces, and anything requiring a handle.

Pieces are bisque fired in an electric kiln to cone 06, taking about 8 hours.  When cool, and unloaded from the kiln the following day, each piece is then brushed with wax to keep it free of glaze,

where necessary, during the glazing process. This includes feet or bottoms of pots, and lips and lids, as well as sometimes using wax resist as a decorative process.  If a piece requires lining of a glaze different than the outer surface, it will be lined one day, with the outside being glazed and decorated the following day.  Some of the glaze designs I have developed require several layers of glaze, oxides,   more glaze, and sometimes even plant materials, which burn out during the firing to produce a small amount or trail of ash, creating a special dot or line on the final piece.  Hence, some glazing processes have become more and more complicated, and I find it takes longer and longer to glaze a load of pots, but I love the process!

 

Following glazing, the pots are loaded into my gas fired kiln, and fired to cone 10 (about 2300 degrees F.), in a reducing (oxygen-starved) atmosphere.  Firing usually takes about 11 ½  hours, with adjustments being made all during the process to control the temperature and atmosphere needed to achieve the desired glaze colors and textures.  The cooling process takes 40 to 50 hours, depending on the load.  When finally cooled and unloaded from the kiln, each piece is inspected, and the bare clay parts of each piece (feet, lips, lids) are hand sanded to produce a smooth surface that will not scratch a fine tabletop.  Pieces are then packed and shipped, or displayed for sale in the Peachblow Gallery.

 

I hope each owner of one of my pots finds enjoyment in it, be it visual, spiritual, culinary, artistic – preferably a combination of all of the above.


INFLUENCES

Influences on my work are wide and varied.  I feel the strongest historical influences are the classic, beautiful lines and glazes of Asian ceramics.   I have worked and experimented with celadon, ash, shino, and copper red glazes since undergraduate school, and they continue to be my favorites.   But each load of pots includes new glaze tests, so my palette is ever evolving and growing, though subtly. 

 

One of my favorite forms to work in has always been the bowl.  The dual concept of openness, as well as containment, has always been fascinating to me.  Is the form low, open and inviting, or higher, more enclosed, austere, perhaps less strictly functional, or even more sculptural?

As for any artist, many outside interests tend to find their way into my work.. An avid gardener, I love working with a variety of vase forms, to suit the needs and various growing habits of different flowers and foliage.  A beekeeper for 18 years, this interest is evident in some of my sprigging work, as well as the occasional drawn or textured honeycomb design.  I have worked with the decorative technique of sprigging for over 30 years.  All of my sprig molds are  handmade, either carved by hand or impressed from a variety of found objects (antique lace, floral patterns on antique silver, real nuts or seeds, etc.), and altered to fit my needs.

 

One of my most-favored motifs, for about 20 years, has been the acorn.  I came to this idea from several directions.  Creating handles has always presented a challenge for me.  A historical influence for handles are the turn-of-the-century tureens with fanciful, unusual nature-inspired handles.  What steered me toward the acorn finial/handle, was the fact that my former property was, on and 1866 map, called “Burr Oak Farm”.  I learned, from the burr oak trees I planted years ago, that they produce quite large and very textured top acorns – perfect for handles!  The acorns I produce are wheel thrown, one-of-a-kind, and are finished and detailed by hand.  Each is individual in form and color, as in nature.  Since developing the acorn finials, I have begun to produce a wider variety of lidded forms, with several other motifs, including pinecones, filigree types inspired by silver tureens,  and a Japanese-inspired, lobed knob. 
   
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