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 I recommend it highly.

 

   Depending on the complexity of the form, some pieces may take a week or more to complete before firing.  This includes 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, or any additional parts.

 

   Pieces are first bisque fired in an electric kiln to cone 06 (1850 degrees F), taking about 8 hours.  When cool, and unloaded from the kiln the following day, each piece is then brushed with wax where necessary, to keep an area free of glaze 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 with 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 reduction (oxygen-deprived) atmosphere. The best example of oxidation vs. reduction is that a copper red glaze fired in oxidation will yield a variation of a green color, whereas fired in reduction will, if the formula and glaze application are right,  and the firing is exact, will yield a variation of red. A glaze firing usually takes about 12 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 sections of each piece (feet, lips, lids) are hand sanded to produce a smooth surface.  Pieces are then packed and shipped, or displayed for sale in the Peachblow Gallery.

 

                              I hope each owner of one of my pots finds total 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 forms and glazes of Asian ceramics.   I have worked and experimented with the classic 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, and even more sculptural?  Vases of all shapes and sizes, to display fresh blooms and foliage from my garden and property, have also always been a favored form.

    

     

   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.  Floral and bird glaze designs often find their way onto my pieces.  A beekeeper for over 30 years, this interest is evident in some of my sprigging work (bees), as well as the occasional drawn or textured honeycomb design.  I have worked with the decorative technique of sprigging - applied, raised designs - 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 25 years now, has been the acorn.  I came to this idea from several directions.  Creating handles has always presented a challenge for me.  An historical influence for handles for me 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-capped acorns – perfect for handles! The acorns I produce are 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.
  As a long time birder, my newer bird finials have become a special favorite as well.
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