Banner: Porcelain Grace, Meryl Ruth, Fine Art

 

 MARCH HARE MADNESS, A CERAMIC TEAPOT


A ceramic teapot in the form of the March Hare in royal garments, partially encased in the Mad Hatter's pocket watch.
  • This fanciful and whimsical teapot is fashioned in the form of the March Hare dressed in the royal garb of the Knave of Hearts, partially encased in a pocket watch of the Mad Hatter. The teapot's imagery incorporates displaced elements of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."
  • The work is  hand-built and wheel thrown of stoneware clay with silk-screened clockface.
  • White underglaze is applied to the clock face, rolled flat and cut to a round 9" slab using a tagboard template. One side of the slab is silk-screened with Roman numerals and a seconds section in black glaze. Allowed to partially dry, the back of the decorated slab is rewetted to make it safely flexible without harm to the decorated face, and bent into a convex form to resemble the face of a pocket watch. A similar process is used to make and decorate another round " slab decorated with the image of a tea party, etched and incised in place. Its back is then also rewetted to make the edges flexible so they can be bent to form the convex backing of the pocket watch.
  • The two faces are permanently joined by score and slip method to form the body and main compartment of the teapot. The joined seam is reenforced with a clay coil, adding a decorative touch to the watch casing.
  • Rear rabbit paws and cotton-tail are sculpted and affixed in place.
  • A lid is formed by sculpting a block of clay in the shape of the rabbit's head.
  • The handle is made of extruded clay.
  • A number of spouts are wheel-thrown and altered in different shapes and sizes to provide one that will ultimately be used as proportionally optimal to serve as the horn.
  • Another series of different winding stems is also wheel-thrown and carved with knurls.
  • The placement of the spout involves careful consideration of the necessity to compensate for the torque forces that will come to bear during kiln firing. That torque will distort the spout's placement based on the clay's "memory" of its form before it was exposed to the wheel.
  • The Elizabethan collar is made by lace draping method using lace dipped in clay slip. The sleeves are hand-built of thin clay slabs. The front paws are sculpted and appended.
  • Construction sequence:
    • First bisque firing is done to cone 04 after underglazing.
    • Clear glaze is applied to the clock face surface and eyes, air-brushed onto lace draping, and hand-painted on all surfaces, except lid (rabbit's head), paws and tail.
    • Hour and minute hands are painted on face wit h underglazes. Refired to cone 6.
    • Handle, damaged in firing, is reattached. Process yielded a better composition. Nonetheless, the asking price was reduced accordingly.
    • Gold luster applied to handle, spout (horn), back and outer rim of the watch.
    • Mother of pearl luster added to clock face. Fired again to cone 018.
    • Red variegated leaf is added to back surface of the pocket watch, covering the etching that no longer showed well because of insufficient contrast between black and gold.
    • Overglazes added as cold finishes, plus metallic finish and clear porcelain glaze to hare's face, paws, tail and costume.
  • Displayed at Teapots and Textiles, Meryl Ruth's Solo Show, Maine Fiberarts, Topsham, ME, 2017.
  • Date: 2013.
  • Size: 19.0" x 16.5" x 6.0".
  • Sold to Maryland collector of "Alice in Wonderland" teapots and memorabilia,
    member of the Lewis Carroll Society. Drawing sold separately.

ENLARGED VIEWS

 

 

Enlarged view.

 

 

Enlarged view.

 

 

Enlarged view.

 


CREATIVE PROCESS

 

 

 

A teapot formed of the March Hare in royal garb partially encased in a pocket watch, a preliminary sketch.   

 

  • A preliminary colored drawing of the proposed teapot representing a farcically twisted composition of elements from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," showing the March Hare dressed in the royal garb of the Knave of Hearts and partially encased in the pocket watch worn by the Mad Hatter. Drawing sold.

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Round template-cut clay slabs are silk-screened with clockface images.    

 

  • To begin construction on this ceramic work, two flat stoneware clay slabs are rolled out and cut to 9" rounds using a tagboard template. They are allowed to partly dry to between the greenware state and the leather-hard state. One side of each slab is painted uniformly with white underglaze. Images of a clockface numerals are then silk-screened in black underglaze onto the white face. Another round clay slab is decorated by etching and incising with an image of two rabbits at tea. The undecorated sides of both slabs are rewetted, applying wet paper towels, to soften the slabs again. This process permits me to bend the flat slab slightly to resemble the convex glass face and the metal backing of a pocket watch. It is this innovative technique that facilitates manipulating flat silk-screened clay slabs into nonplanar form without damaging the image.

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Constuction underway. The two clockfaces are joined and reenforced with a clay coil. The partially sculpted legs and cotton-tail are appended in place. The lid of the incompletely sculpted head is shown lying separately and in place atop the neck piece.

The rabbit's head serves as the teapot's lid.

 

  • The modified watchface and backing slabs are joined and secured with a clay coil to create the body of the teapot.
  • Partially sculpted paws and cotton-tail are appended in place, as shown.
  • The separate lid, composed on the rabbit's head, here incompletely sculpted, is shown before it is inserted into the opening atop the elongated neck of the work.
  • The neck structure is deliberately made long to accommodate the fanciful faux lace Elizabethan collar that will be placed there later.

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A series different of spouts is wheel thrown; one is to be selected for appending to the body of the teapot.

  • A series of clay spout forms is made by wheel-throwing and altering. Each differs in size and shape.
  • One of them is selected to be optimally proportional from the artistic perspective to serve at the knave's horn.

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The chosen spout is permanently affixed in place.

  • The chosen spout is affixed in place by score and slip method.
  • Additional fine details are now applied to finish sculpting of head, paws and tail.

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Details are added to the rabbit's head (teapot's lid).

 

  • Detailed texturing of the rabbit's head form and fur is achieved with sculpting and incising.

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A series of diferent winding stems for the pocketwatch are made.

 

  • A series of pocket watch winding stem knobs are made in different sizes, with the intention of using the one that is proportionately appropriate for the teapot design.
  • They are wheel thrown and carved to add roughed-out structural details. 
  • The one selected as most fitting to affix to the teapot body is further decorated with carved knurls.

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Structural components are added, including handle and winding stem.

 

  • The teapot's handle is made of extruded clay. and attached to the body of the work. The handle is made larger than had first been intended for purposes of mimicking that aspect of a pocket watch, yet still adhering to the overall design and balance of the piece.
  • Similarly, the knurled winding knob, chosen as the best of the series made for this purpose, is appended in place.

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Collar formed of lace drapingusing slip soaked lace.

 

  • Using the lace draping technique (previously detailed), I formed an Elizabethan stand-up collar around the March Hare's neck. The collar consists of real cotton lace dipped in clay slip. The lace will burn away during the first kiln firing, leaving the delicate clay faux lace in place.
  • Clear glaze is applied by air-brushing to reenforce this very fragile structure and give it greater strength to prevent damage. The process is particularly lengthy and time consuming.
  • Puffy costume shoulders are added as well. This is the initial approach to building the sleeves of the rabbit's royal garment. The front paws are also crafted.

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Paw and sleeve are added on front and back of teapot.

 

  • The costume's sleeves are hand-built with very thin slabs of clay, altered to resemble folds of cloth. A tiny bit of lace draping, dipped in clay slip, forms the cuffs to match the collar.
  • The front paws are sculpted and appended in place.
  • An enlarged close-up view is shown to demonstrate the left front  paw and sleeve in greater detail.

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Coloration begins with underglazes.

 

  • Coloration begins in the greenware state with application of underglazes. I usually begin decorative glazing later after the first bisque firing when ceramic works are less fragile. However, given the delicacy of the areas in and around the lace draped collar and cuff, I recognized that they would be exceedingly fragile until fired. After firing, when the cotton lace has burned away, there will only be a very thin, vulnerable layer of clay remaining. It will be air-brushed with clear glaze to impart strength and then fired to cone 6.

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More coloration and minute and hour hands added.

  • After the first firing to cone 6, more decorative coloring is done using underglazes. Multiple coats of white underglaze have to be applied to effectively cover the areas of faux fur.
  • The clock hand design and construction is begun. They are intended to incorporate the heart theme patterns that will be placed elsewhere on the surface areas.
  • Additional details are added to the rabbit's face, including eyes, earsand snout, all in underglazes.
  • Great care must be taken to avoid damage when working around the collar and cuffs where the delicate lace drapings are located. To ensure safety, the teapot has to be propped up to relieve any potentially harmful pressure on these areas. This precaution is important even though the collar and cuffs are somewhat less vulnerable than before firing. Air-brushing clear glaze on the collar and cuffsfurther enhances their strength, although they remain fragile and at risk if mishandled.
  • I intended the flag that was to fly below the horn to be made of fabric, combining the two media for the first time, but given the small size of the work this did not prove feasible.

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Enlarged view of clockface showing hands fixed at 6 o'clock, tea time.

 

  • An enlarged view of the clockface is shown here to demonstrate the newly added hour and minute hands incorporating heart-shaped designs.
  • Note that the watch is fixed as 6:00 o'clock. This complies with the Mad Hatter's contention that Time has punished him by eternally standing still at 6:00, that is, tea time, thereby forcing him and his cohorts to indulge in tea time all day long. The last kiln firing is done to cone 018.

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Completed work illustrated from three perspectives.

 

 

  • Cold finishes complete the work. Design enhancements include overglazes, red variegated leaf, as well as gold, metallic, mother of pearl and clear porcelain lusters.

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