Banner: Porcelain Grace, Meryl Ruth, Fine Art

 

  RA-TA-TAT TEA, A CERAMIC TEAPOT


Teapot in form of a branched, decayed tree trunk being attacked by a pileated woodpecker.
  • This stoneware teapot is designed to capture the image of a pileated woodpecker actively drumming on a decayed tree trunk in its search for insects for feeding. This beautiful, but noisy, bird is a denizen of the forested lakeside area in which I live.
  • The branched tree trunk is made by press mold from rubber latex molds created for this purpose. The trunk is the teapot's body. The branch is the spout. The faux wood surfaces are distressed to give the impression of decayed wood.
  • The lid is slip cast. A rubber mold was made from a real tree branch; wet clay press mold was created and modified to make the swirl in the lid. This was done to emulate the crest of the bird. Subsequenlty, the lid was colored by underglazes to match the red crest or pileated form.
  • Similar red coloration was added to the end of the spout, thereby repeating the motif throughout the work.
  • The woodpecker is made from solid block of stoneware, hollowed, and fixed in place by score and slip method. The details of the bird are sculpted and carved.
  • Extensive coloration is done with underglazes and China paints to provide an artistic interpretative perspective on this colorful woodpecker and the contrastingly decadent tree trunk that is home to its insect food supply.
  • Red feathers applied to the bird's crest at completion.
  • Construction sequence:
    • Hand-built with press mold forms for the tree, slip cast for the lid, and sculptured. stoneware clay for the bird, hollowed for functionality. Features of the decayed wood and of the bird are carved into the surfaces.
    • Fired initially to cone 5/6.
    • Underglazed in bisque state.
    • Refired to cone 018.
    • Layers of China paint applied.
    • Refired after each China paint layer to cone 018.
  • Featured in American Craft Today, Bascom Center for Visual Arts, Highland, NC, 2012.
  • Shown at Center for Maine Contemporary Art Biennial Exhibition, Rockport, ME, 2014
  • Date: 2012.
  • Measurements: 16.5" x 13.0" x 3.0".
  • Available for purchase. Price: $900.

 

 


ENLARGED VIEWS

 

Enlarged view.

 

Enlarged view.

 

Enlarged view.

 


CREATIVE PROCESS

 

First images of tree trunk upon which the pileated woodpecker will be mounted.

  • The first step is construction of the clay structure of the tree trunk, with appropriate evidence of decay, for a new stoneware teapot upon which a pileated woodpecker wil be mounted.
  • The trunk of the tree will form the teapot body. It is created by press mold from rubber latex mold which were previously cast.
  • The woodpecker, when added, will serve as the teapot handle.

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Experiment for developing model for tree branch.

 

  • Before proceeding with this project, I experimented with creating a decaying "branch" for the tree trunk.
  • This stoneware clay model is press mold and sculpted, as shown. It is fired to cone 04.
  • Black glaze is then painted on and wiped off to expose the texture of the bark.
  • Although not used in the work, this exercise proved worthwhile for guiding me in the process of glazing Ra-ta-tat Tea.

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Side branch is added to serve as the teapot's spout.

  •  A side branch is made by press mold using a rubber latex mold that had been cast earlier. It is added to the main tree trunk by score and slip method.
  • The side branch will serve as the teapot's spout.
  • A woodpecker will be sculpted from stoneware clay and attached to the opposite side of the trunk as a handle for the teapot.

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Pileated woodpecker is sculpted from a block of clay and hollowed out before being applied to the tree trunk as a spout for the teapot.

  • The pileated woodpecker is sculpted in rough form from a solid block of stoneware clay.
  • It is then hollowed out and appended to the tree trunk (the teapot body) by score and slip method, where it will serve as the teapot's handle.
  • Further extensive sculpting and carving will now be done to show the detailed characteristics of the bird.
  • In addition,  a lid will be designed and made by slip casting to complete the sculptural phase of the construction, all before the first kiln firing.

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Details sculpted and carved.

  • In this intermediary state, essential details are being added to the work by sculpting and carving, focusing especially on the distinctive characteristics of the woodpecker.
  • The teapot lid is yet to be made. It is contemplated that it will be formed by slip casting.
  • When sculptural details of bird and lid are completed, the work will be ready for kiln firing and then for the application of decorative embellishments.

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Lid added and more details carved into trunk and bird.

  • Lid for the teapot is slip cast from a predesigned latex mold and altered by curling to fit the top of the main tree trunk.
  • More details are added to lid, tree trunk and woodpecker by incising and carving.

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Glazing begins for coloration.

 

  • Coloration begins by applying glazes to the surfaces of the bird, the tree trunk (teapot body), the branch (spout) and the lid.
  • Replication of red tints of color on both lid and spout are intended to reflect the woodpecker's crest, adding to the work's vivid design.

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Additional glazing for more design details.

 

  • Additional underglazing is done to provide more design details to the woodpecker, the tree trunk, the spout branch and the lid.

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Glazing completed before refiring.

 

  • The first layering of underglaze is now completed. At this point, the work is ready to be refired to cone 5/6.

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China paint embellishments completed.

 

  • Layers of China paints enhance coloration and details of the work.
  • The teapot is kiln fired repetitively to cone 018 after each China paint layer is completed.
  • Red feathers are attached at crest to finish the work.

 

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