Thank you for taking a minute out of your busy day, to see how I spend part of mine, as a ceramic artist. Today, I’ll be featuring my Polynesian coconut mugs with hand carved designs, inspired by the Marquesas Islands.
There’s different kinds of clay that I use for different pieces, depending on the look I want to achieve. For my coconuts, I use Black Mountain, which is a cone 10 clay, made by Aardvaarks.
The clay comes in 25 pound bags. As you can see in the picture, I cut the clay into 1.25 lb blocks, on a wedging board. Wedging is the process of kneading the clay, making it free of air bubbles and giving it a new structure, since it’s been sitting in the same position, for weeks, possibly months, in the bag.
After wedging, I’m ready to throw the coconut forms on the wheel. Not to get into too much detail, but here’s a few general steps. First, I have to center the clay, then, pull the clay up, while checking my wall thickness, as I bring the clay higher, and eventually outward. I use calipers to check my height and width, but not too closely. I want pieces to look handmade, not like they’re out of a cookie cutter.
When I’m happy with the coconut form, I use a wire tool to cut the bottom of the coconut from the wheel, and slide it onto a wooden board, where I let it dry, to a “leather hard,” stage.
At this point, I put the coconut back on the wheel, but upside down. It needs to be centered and secured with clay, because I’ll be trimming a foot in the bottom, as it rotates on the wheel.
Now, I start to make it look like a coconut. I use wire to carve the coconut texture and a v-shaped carving tool, to carve the Polynesian designs. I don’t use stamps or stencils. Every piece is individually carved by hand.
To be safe, I let the clay dry slowly over a 4-5 day period. This helps prevent cracking, but can also by trying on the patience, when you want to get things moving forward.
When they’re dry, they go in an electric kiln, for a cone 05 firing.
After that, it’s time for glazing. Remember how this clay is called Black Mountain, well, it fires a perfect brown, that looks just like coconut husk, so I don’t glaze the outside of these.
As you can see, the inside gets two layers of a gloss white glaze.
After cleaning up any spilled glaze on the pieces, they’re fired at a cone 10 reduction firing (in a gas kiln).
Ideally, they’ll come out perfectly, but at cone 10, these pieces are being fired at 2350 degrees F, and sometimes, the glaze runs off the lip. In that unfortunate case, about 40% of the time, I have to re-glaze and re-fire, those pieces.
Nevertheless, I have a lot of fun making these and the concept has evolved into several other coconut items, that I do in similar fashion.
- Lidded coconut mugs with 3-dot naval straw holes
- Small and medium lidded coconut jars. Various purpose: salt, sugar, candy, matches, serving deserts, like, coconut crème brulee or coconut pana cotta.
- Hanging coconut planters
- Hanging coconut bird feeders
Please browse the rest of my blog, or checkout my on-line store, to see what’s available. I can be reached at email@example.com.
Again, thank you very much for supporting my work and stopping by to see how I spend part of my time, as a ceramic artist.
Aloha, I’m Michael Shigeru Sbicca, and Jungle Modern Ceramics, is my small ceramics business, in Pasadena, CA.
All my wares are handmade from scratch or hand altered slip casts of my designs, inspired by original Oceanic art pieces, tribal cultures, modernism, or anything else you might find in the jungle.
In a perfect world, I get to create beautiful sculptures by day, and eat, drink, & enjoy good company, by night. Okole maluna!
Thank you for supporting my small business and independent artists alike.
Mahalo and aloha!