Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity 2021
“Weaving with Ceramics“
Senior, Bachelor of Fine Arts
Ever since I was little, I was obsessed with plaid. Eventually I was able to take a weaving class and began to understand plaid on another level. I would weave and watch it slowly come together thread by thread, becoming more defined with each pass. With this knowledge I am able to finally create concise plaid patterns, as before I had felt they always lacked something. It occurred to me that I can paint these plaids and I have been thrilled to begin experiencing them on a larger and more complex scale. There are many rules that go into weaving a plaid. It is more than just squares and intersections of color. While I am definitely a person that loves rules, I have begun to discover that some rules have to be broken to actually make a painting function correctly. I have begun to push boundaries. I try to see what rules can be broken or shifted. Overtime I am learning how to take plaid patterns and make them my own. I have taken a set collection of guidelines and made a new creation. I continue to search and try to find the perfect place between structure, freedom, and control.
For this research grant I am studying ceramics, color pigments, and attempting to create weavings with clay. I completed research to test materials, processes, and preparation. I was able to complete my original plan but discovered that the process was not ideal and tried other methods of creation. My body of work is widely inspired by plaid so my intention in weaving was to create plaids. So, when I was confronted with the fact that it was not working as intended, I searched for other ways to create plaid with ceramics. The first step was to test the actual process of weaving with clay. I worked with regular clay for these tests. I would roll it out into long strands, or coils. I would then take these and carefully bend them over and under each other creating the pattern. I tried different thickness of the coils. The thicker coils were less likely to break, but to have a pattern show up later once they are colored I would need to work on a very large scale. Thinner coils created more intricate work and were more pleasing to the eye. I also tested the actual pattern of weaving as well. The common weaving pattern is one over, one under, and so on. I tested this as well as ones where it would be two over, two under, and another with three. The regular one took the longest, but was very structurally sound. The weaving with three over, three under was very quick and easy to do, but it wasn’t as strong and was impossible to move while wet. Thankfully two over, two under was the perfect in-between. With this in mind I moved on to testing making these coils out of colored clay. The next step was to perfect the mixture needed to color the clay. To create this clay we mixed mason stains and casting slip. Mason stains are very similar to pure pigment and casting slip is a form of liquid clay. The reason we used casting slip was because mason stains are very dry and it would make regular clay much too dry to work with. I made several testing batches to see how much mason stain to casting slip I would need. Mixing the two resulted in colored liquid that would need to dry some to be workable. For this I would pour it out onto a slab of plaster that would slowly help it to dry so that I could reach the correct amount of moisture. After this then it would finally be workable and I could move on to building. The next part proved to be the most difficult. While the mixture used was now workable it was still difficult to handle. The first two woven pieces I did fell apart entirely. The problem was that when the coils were too dry they would crack and break, when they were two wet they would simply fall apart if manipulated too much. I struggled with this immensely but was able to get at least one piece done like this. The next few that I did I tried thicker coils hoping that they wouldn’t fall apart. They were much easier to work with, but would often crack during the drying process. I believe since some colors need more stain than others that they dried at different rates. So when on a large scale they would crack. Discovering that my plan wasn’t going to work I began to think of other ways to show plaid with clay. The mason stains still allowed me a lot of variety and control of color, more than I would get if working with glaze. I decided to instead create small tiles, that I would put side by side to make the pattern. I tried two different approaches. The first was to simply take the two colors and mix the clay evenly where they intersected. The other was to only partially mix the clay, creating a marbled effect. I also played around with places the tiles edge to edge or to have them spaced out. Overall while I was not able to create as originally intended I was still able to explore my body of work further and in a new way and make many discoveries. I plan to continue this work and see how many ways I can incorporate plaid into ceramics.
What Do You Think?
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Alyssa, your project is beautiful! These photos definitely make me want to see more. I love to see how you were able to make light variations to the shades.
Alyssa, you’ve taken something that is incredibly complex and managed to make it look simple and satisfying – I think this is always a hallmark of mastery. I’ve enjoyed your paintings so much in the past and am excited to see this new direction for your research and art.
Alyssa, It is so nice to see the results of the project. I heard you talk about it often as you were working on the tests and it is great to see the final work.
Wow!! This takes some immense skill! I loved seeing every individual glaze come together as one. Not only have you weaved the ceramics together, but the colors as well!
So fun to see the outcomes to your ceramic exploration based on your ideas in your work.