Welcome to my blog and thanks for reading. I post as often as I can listing upcoming events, interesting projects I am working on and some tips or two on using my favourite material - clay! If there is something you would like me to blog about, please send me a note. Please visit my website for more images of my work and an updated listing of events and happenings - http://www.taralynnefranco.com/

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A little vacation, moving onto the next stages of life and back to school and work

Our 2nd annual trip to Awenda Provincial Park was fantastic with the Cash/Franco, Sainsbury/Wolfe, and Sneyd/Bone families once again having a memorable time filled with many moments of laughter and fun. Kids really do say the most interesting things - our favourite of the trip was 3 year old Oscar asking Kristin where her "daddy" was going, referring to Robert. It was a bit quiet on our campsite at night without Ceilidh and Bronwyn ... a sign that they are growing up with Ceil working part-time and Bronwyn spending the time packing up for residence at McMaster University. We spent 3 gorgeous afternoons at the beach - the shores of Georgian Bay. With our new camera we took a ton of photos with some really great shots of the kids both in their natural states and hamming it up, particularly Jacob who has become quite a character. And today, I have just returned from moving Bronwyn into her dorm room at McMaster where she is entering first year Health Sciences. She is going to have a great time. . . Now it is time for me to get down to some serious work finishing up the tile and preparing for this coming weekend's Locke Street Festival. Until next time.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Read the Label

Friday .... unloaded the 04 firing to somewhat better results than the cone 6. The first layer had my colour tests of the Duncan 'Cover Coat' glazes. My first reaction was "wow, these are really matte glazes, how odd". I had the same matte result for the "grey" glazes on the black clay and white earthenware. It is always hindsight that reminds you of the things you could have done in your testing that would have yielded even more information. In this case, that perhaps putting a stroke of clear glaze over the colours would have given an indication of how they stand up to overlapping etc. This was even more true when I returned to the studio to examine the bottles of 'glaze'. Turns out, they are not glaze at all. In very fine printing at the bottom it says opaque underglaze. Oops, no wonder. When I further read the back it said to brush three coats on and then cover with a clear coat. More oops. So, now I have a variety of colours of underglazes which is totally fine as I don't have coloured glazes in my studio. My students will like these too. Now I need to test how they stand up in Cone 6. Further layers into the firing my image transfer tests were revealed. The image was clearer! So, it looks like the final firing of my tile will be 04 afterall. In the photo you can see I brushed on some diluted rutile and red iron oxide on and grey underglaze. The rutile gave the image an aged paper look which might work for my final piece. I slipped in a couple of other tests where I laser printed images onto special decal paper I bought at a model car/train/airplane store very close to home. Artists who have experimented with decal transfers recommended getting it from beldecal.com however I was concerned about timing since it needs to be purchased and shipped from the United States, so I thought I would try this out - and it worked!
I put the transfers onto already fully glazed and fired cone 6 cups and fired them in the 04. Again the result was faded, so I might try doing this at a lower temperature such as 012 as other artists have done. In the late afternoon I took a trip into Dundas to take some clay pressings to give me some different textures for my tile. One of my stops was Grove Ceremony where a memorial is built and a number of the Bertrams are buried. As I bent down to clean off some of the stones laid in the ground so I could read them, there were a number of times where I heard something over my shoulder and felt a presence. I think the Bertrams like that I am interested in their family history and am recognizing it in this way and were were visiting me in this sacred place to let me know so. I have started to feel like their history and lives have become a part of me. It is something unexpected in this process but very special. My clay molds are drying and my next steps are firing these molds, maybe another round of tests of the grey glazes while I commence making the frames of the tile pieces.
But, there will be a slight pause while Robert and I head up to Awenda Provincial Park for 4 glorious days of camping with my friends Kristin and Sue and their families - our 2nd annual trip together. This photo of Ceil and I on a rock on the beach at sunset probably 3 years ago, just gives that sense of peace we have there. I'll post more when I return.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The results

Wednesday ... results day .... I peeked into the kiln in the morning to some disappointment seeing that what had been crisp iron images transferred onto the clay in the bisque, turned into a much faded version. I grabbed a hot tile as my "show and tell" and headed to the Dundas Museum and Archives to spend the day immersing myself once again in the the archival documents and artifacts of the Bertram family. My new friends at the museum were thrilled with my test tile that had a faint but recognizable image of an old advertisement for Canada Tool Works. Perhaps a faded image might be okay for the purposes of this tile. The idea behind archiving is to preserve our past, however sometimes the documents themselves fade away despite all the careful preserving and sometimes by the time the archives receive them, they have already degraded .... something to consider. It is hard sometimes when you have an idea of what something is going to look like and then it is different. I then spent the day re-photographing a myriad of documents, photos and artifacts including this charming photo of the Bertram "boys" lined up by height.
I just loved going through and reading all of the old hand written invoices dating as early as 1871. I could have spent hours reading these things. I came home and unloaded the rest of the kiln. The results were disappointing, particularly what were supposed to be grey test tiles for the frame of the final tile which were a terrible blue colour. There were some interesting results including the low fire grey glazes on the black clay (fired to cone 6) which gave some interesting textured surfaces in a pale yellow, pale blue and pale peach that would make interesting surfaces on decorative pieces (see below). .So now I am waiting for the 04 firing to cool and see if the image transfers at a lower temperature remained darker. So far I have been able to peek in the kiln but the top shelf has test tiles with all the Duncan coloured glazes I purchased which to my surprise are matte. But, there appears to be a few nice grey ones, so my final tile just may very well be all low fire perhaps with some porcelain thrown in for good measure.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Image Transfer onto Clay

Opening a kiln continues to be like Christmas to me. Even when it is an ordinary firing I usually sneak in a little test or something a little different that keeps me interested. This morning I opened the kiln to see the first results of my 08 bisque firing of some image transfer tests I am doing for my Hands on History tile. My first glance into the kiln was of the test tiles with the inkjet transfers on them. All that is left is some clay and talc residue from the paper. The result were better as the lower layers of the kiln were revealed. Here are all the tiles out on my table. I tested 3 white clays, PSH 400 (an 04 white earthenware)on the far left, PSH 910 (porcelaneous cone 6) in the center, and Laguna Frost (cone 6 porcelain)on the right. I printed the images in 4 ways - on an HP inkjet at home, on a laser printer and a photocopier at Robert's work,and on a photocopier at the Big Bear near my house. The key to photo transfer is iron in the toner or the ink for the printer or photocopier. This is the case if you use regular paper on a printer or special decal paper. As can be seen from the photo there was a range from no image to a darkish red image left. The darkest image was on the tests where I used the laser printed images. The ink jet and the photocopier from Robert's work left no image. The photocopier at the corner store left a pale peach-coloured mark. I was elated to find images on some of the tiles as it can be difficult to find a printer or photocopier with iron in it. The photo on left shows the most interesting tile that came out of the firing. The paper with the image still on it remained intact but smaller. Both examples show how clearly the text is - at least at this stage. For all of these tests, I used images/photos that I would actually use for the final tile. The image on the far left is of one of the annual ribbons that the Bertrams and their staff wore at company picnics. The other is of an advertisement for their first business - Canada Tool Works. Images with text had to be flipped mirror image in Photoshop to read correctly as the paper with the image is applied face down onto the wet clay and rolled vigorously with a rolling pin to adhere it. I put the 04 tiles asside and set up tests for the cone 6 tiles that had an image left on them. My good friend Jane from Sheridan recommended the use of Duncan Concepts Clear Coat Ice Grey in a diluted format to lightly coat the images for the Cone 6 Firing.
I also tested a full-strength and a diluted format of my own cone 6 clear glaze Val Cushings Clear to see how it worked. What you are trying to avoid is having the iron eaten up by the glaze, hence the diluted format. For some of the tiles I diluted commercial underglazes to watercolour consistency and painted them first, followed by a coating of the ice grey. In this image I used chartreuse on the left and honey on the right. I kept detailed notes indicating what I did with the different test tiles. I then loaded them all up and they are firing as I write. This bisque also included the "black" clay tests I talked about in my previous blog for the "frame" of the final tile. The black clay - PSH 540i - turned a deep purple colour at 08. For this Cone 6 firing I tested various commercial gray glazes on top of this clay as well as on blank Laguna Frost and PSH 910 tiles. I also tried my clear and the ice grey glaze on the PSH 910 tiles that had the grey underglaze on them. And so on and so on .... Stay tuned for the results ....

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A day of clay mixing

After a busy year of making I was out of my very special chocolate brown earthenware clay and it was that time again to spend the day mixing up a new batch. After ordering the materials a day in advance, my day began yesterday when I set out about 6am to head to Brantford to pick up my "secret" ingredient for the clay. I then spent a few hours running around with the twins at the park while my sister was at an appointment and finally headed to PSH to pick up the dry materials at about 10am. And then the fun began.

I start with about 400 lbs of dry materials - primarily clays - red art, ball clay and so on. Added to that is about 120 lbs of other materials including colourants, grog and organic matter. This is dry mixed in the industrial mixer. Many of the materials come in 50 lb bags so it is a lot of lifting - from the car to a cart and into the mixer. While I am weighing the materials, my dry reclaim I have saved over the year is slaked down in water and added once all the dry ingredients are in and have been dry mixed thoroughly. > Water is then added slowly while the mixer is running. Once it seems like the proper consistancy has been achieved, the mixer runs for about a half and hour or more switching between the forward and the backward position. This isn't a time for rest ... while this is happening, I am putting the dry materials I didn't use back in the car and preparing for bagging of the materials. I continuously check the clay and add water if required. The clay is mixed wetter than I think I need it as the clay particles continue to absorb water even after it is bagged.

Then it is time to bag. I love the clay when it is freshly mixed - this is the best part of the process. It is very aromatic, a beautiful chocolate colour and has the most wonderful consistency. This is even more tiring than loading the mixer especially near the end when you are scraping the last bits. By this time I need to really pump myself up as it is quite a job. Bags are filled and stacked onto a cart. Before loading the car I clean the mixer and the mixing room. In all I made 27 bags of clay - likely around 20 - 25 lbs a bag - Phew!! They go into the van and then into the studio. Another year of clay begins ....

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hands on History - Let the Testing Begin

While spending the summer at outdoor art venues thoughout Ontario, my mind and my sketchbook have been filling with ideas on how my vision for my tile for "Hands on History" was to be realized. I am one of 8 artists selected to create a ceramic "tile" influenced and inspired by the holdings of the Archives of Ontario. After conducting research at the Dundas Museum and Archives, I decided to select a number of archival documents and artifacts from the Bertram family to use as an an inspiration for this piece that will be on permanent installation at the Archives at York University. The history of this family is etched into the history of the Dundas and this idea of etching is an important metaphor that I will incorporate into the final design. In these photos I am testing out clays and slips to make the frame of the tile that will resemble a Hollinger box - a special archival box used to store papers, maps and small items. I am already seeing how this creative testing will find its way into my regular work .... stay tuned.

My first blog

Encouraged by fellow blogger, amazing artist and good friend Lesley McInally (www.lesleymcinally.blogspot.com), I am entering the world of blogging. I hope you enjoy the ride.