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ceramic technique

Interview with Max Cheprack, Clay extrusion - Techniques, May 2012

TECHNIQUES, May 2012: Max Cheprack

/ Read more articles in Ceramics Now - Issue Two

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are studying Industrial Design at the Holon Institute of Technology, Israel, and recently you underwent a research project on clay extrusion. What are its concepts? Tell us about the technical process.

Max Cheprack
: The extruding clay project started in the third year of my studies, for B.design in industrial design, when I first met the manual extruder in ceramics course. After learning various techniques in the field of ceramic design, I was fascinated by the option to create clay objects using replication. The Semi-industrial process of extruding clay enables the creation of precise and complex objects easily and quickly. Extrusion allows me to design the inside of the object, something that the rest of the techniques do not allow. Extruding technology allows to produce a closed and complex object, and therefore very strong. This allows the expansion of production beyond the products we know today. In addition, this technology brings new aesthetic to the ceramic field.

As an Industrial designer who is interested in manufacturing technologies, I moved away from the dies that come with the manual extruder Kit, and I began to assemble a set of basic dies with complex shapes. Later, I have built an extruder which works on pneumatic piston, in order to free both of my hands. This allows me to make variety of manipulations on the objects like bending and cutting.
In order to explore the limits of this technology, I decided to make a stool. The stool is a challenging product for extruding clay process because it is a relatively big product, which must be strong enough to bear persons weight, and should be able to connect with other materials.

My inspiration is taken from a local element of the Middle East - Mashrabiya. Though the project ended as part of my design studies, for me he is a starting point to new possibilities in ceramic design.

Max Cheprack Ceramics - Clay extrusion

Max Cheprack, Chairs made with the extruding machine

What was the most difficult part in creating the necessary tools for the project? Did you get any help?

The hardest part in this project was to understand the size relation between the size of the die and the amount of power that needed to push the clay. First I played with the manual extruder that we have in our workshop and then I made different dies to check how complex things can be. After realizing clearly how things are working I wanted to make the next step towards an extruder that will free both my hands to make manipulations on the objects while it is being extruded. I consulted with an engineer who just gave me a headache with schemes numbers and stuff that I couldn’t understand, so I decided to use a pneumatic piston as my base for the machine and after many trails with different pistons and die sizes I made one small extruder and one big extruder.

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  • Extruding Clay by Max Cheprack, student at the Holon Institute of Technology in Israel

    "My research examined the extrusion process in a new material - clay. For this purpose, I built two pneumatic extruders (for two different die sizes) that push clay through the die. The semi-industrial process enabled me to manipulate the material, with never-before-seen precision and complexity. My research led to the creation of various objects that illustrate the many possibilities of this technology. Finally, I chose to express the result of my research process in a new design for a stool. The final result is inspired by the material culture of the Middle East so as to express time and place. The research opens up new possibilities in ceramic design and shows great promise as a method of production and design."

    Max Cheprack on Etsy and Behance.

  • Interview with Shamai Gibsh - Ceramic Technique, September 2011

    Interview with Israeli ceramic artist Shamai Gibsh - Ceramic Technique, September 2011

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    → The interview with Shamai Gibsh is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One, Winter 2011-2012.

    Ceramics Now Magazine
    : What was the starting point in your investigation with Saggar firing and Terra Sigillata painting?

    Shamai Gibsh: Terra sigillata painting intrigued my imagination when I was a teenager.  At first, I saw Venetian vases decorated with black and white figures and later with color painting, as part of the history and heritage of the eastern Mediterranean board. Years later, when I was already a ceramic artists, I researched terra sigillata and the rediscovery of it in the 20th century, and started to apply it to my work. I tend not to use glazes in my work, except for exterior mural work. Thus, the use of terra sigillata over the last 15 years enabled me to reach a non shiny and a very appealing color palate, and when fired within saggar vessels in the presence of organic materials or smoked firing, appears to have exiting results. I fire within a saggar, which is an enclosed clay vessel that holds the specific organic material, to get the desired results. Over the years I have used many forms of organic materials like saw dust, salt Marché, pine needles, various seeds and fruits. These days, I mainly use pine needles collected from two forests; one in the Carmel mountains and the other one close to my studio.

    Installation “Stelae 2011”, 235x213x55 cm. Stoneware, Terra sigillata, Saggar firing.


    Tell us more about the process of constructing your works. Does it take much time, do you have to make many preparations?

    The manual part of my work: wheel throwing, hand building murals and sculpting occupy a large part of my time. However, these come after an idea has been formed following considerable thoughts, planning and designing. Naturally, I am influenced by my roots, the immediate cultural and social environment and by the exposure to anything that touches us as human beings. Therefore, yes, it is a lengthy process.

    My preference of the use of sagaar firing also contributes to the prolonged preparatory phase in my work. Bone-dried vessels, made out of white stoneware clay, are covered with three layers of terra sigillata, occasionally decorated with copper cuttings and bisque fired to cone 06. Metal soluble are also used for decoration, and the objects are inserted into clay vessels (saggars) which are just a bit larger than the fired object, and filled up with organic materials, mostly pine needles, pretreated with different oxides. I fire in reduction to around 1000C.

    Preparation of murals varies. At times terra sigilata is applied in different layers on a plaster board in a reverse pattern, followed by a thin layer of liquid clay. When in a leather-hard state, the board is lifted and cut into tiles, bisque fired and only than saggar fired. In other instances, tiles are painted with terra sigiillata, applied with layers of various copper cutting and even painted with oxides and metal solubles, bisque fired and saggar fired.

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  • Interview with Jim Kraft - Ceramic Technique, June-July 2011

    Interview with ceramic artist Jim Kraft - Ceramic Technique, June-July 2011

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    Ceramics Now Magazine
    : What was the starting point in your investigation (research) with earthenware clay?

    Jim Kraft: When I set up my studio I bought an electric kiln which satisfied  my needs as I was interested in making objects that were not meant to be functional or to be displayed outdoors.  I did not want to cover the clay with a glaze, I wanted the earthen colors of the clay to be prominent.

    In what techniques do you usually work and what materials do you use?

    My work is solely hand-built. I roll  25# slabs of clay by hand. I use a clay extruder to make my coils .I imbed dry colorants in both the slabs and the coils. I throw dry colorants on the ware boards as I roll the slabs, the moist clay picks up the dry materials.  Depending on what series I’m working on I build the vessel forms using cut up or torn slab pieces and twisted off sections of coils. I use earthenware clay in either a buff or a red color.  After the piece is bisqued I brush on a black/brown slip, I let that dry and the next day I wipe it off.  It stays in the cracks and crevasses.  Then I brush on a clear glaze.  I let that dry and wipe it off the next day.  I leave enough to give it life but not shine.  I want the surface of the clay to absorb light not reflect it. This is a building up of the surface, layering, as you might do in print making or painting. Then I fire it a final time.

    Cord 5 - View Jim Kraft’s works

    What is your present project, what’s its history and how do you make the pieces? Tell us more about the process.

    Currently I’m building vessel forms using short torn pieces of clay coils and stacking them, like cord wood.  The end of each torn piece faces the viewer.  It’s like building with wine bottle corks or cigar butts, but end up looking more like natural, organic objects such as bird nests, bee hives or tree stumps.  The trick is finding the place where they don’t look like any of those things but allude to any and all of them. However I always want them to read as vessel forms, something that contains.

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  • Interview with Margrieta Jeltema - Ceramic Technique, May 2011

    Interview with Italian ceramic artist Margrieta Jeltema - Ceramic Technique, May 2011

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    Ceramics Now Magazine
    : What was the starting point in your investigation with paperclay?

    Margrieta Jeltema: Some years ago, when I had finished some jewelry pieces using porcelain together with paper, a  friend suggested to translate the paper part in porcelain as well. I tried and failed but my mistakes turned out rather nice in their own way. They encouraged me to explore this path…
    Now observing earlier pieces it seems the idea of folding was already there.

    I think any research in art is not just a technical one. Yes I wanted my porcelain to resemble paper but most of all I wanted it to have a life of its own.
    My porcelain objects have grown to be flowers, they are wishes or a song. They belong to a different world, follow different rules, not those accepted by the pragmatic world of utility, they truly belong to the “world of beauty and imagination*”.

    The technical skills with paper-thin ceramics have their origin in beliefs about the nature of art. Objects made by human beings belong to the realm of art when seen as aesthetically pleasing.
    Seeing something as a work of art or looking at it are not the same. Looking has a beginning and end. Seeing however is an achievement – it has no beginning, no stretch of time, it is the realization that we are confronted with something different. The work of art is not confined in a cave of individuality. It participates in an essential way in our everyday communication. From the act of seeing emerges our ability to understand a message.
    The beautiful object has an intention; the intention of sharing, of telling a story and exploring our world of imagination.

    Message, story, communication, these are the words which describe my previous occupation with writing, using paper, making books with etchings.
    I was held captured by these sheets of paper on which I could try to communicate with others.
    My Loveletters and my Ode to Monet go back to my obsession with paper carrying stories to those prepared to look, to understand and hopefully, to enjoy them.

    Folded loveletter - View her works

    Ceramics Now Magazine:  Do you find working with porcelain hard, especially if you try to make it look like paper?

    Margrieta Jeltema: Working with porcelain is really easy if you get a bit used to its terrible shrinking, its proneness to distortion, it’s tendency to collapse and its ability to ‘remember’!…
    But there are also many advantages over other clays. It is easy to join dried pieces together or repair a piece before baking, it is easy to glaze using a brush (saving on amounts of glaze) as most unevenness will disappear in the high temperatures and of course usually colors look nice and bright on the white body.
    What I find really difficult is the handling of the folded Loveletters when they are only bisque fired and still extremely fragile. Because I want to glaze them only on the backside I have to turn them someway. Eventually I solved this using a piece of light foam polystyrene with which I can turn the letter like a omelet on a lid (some cooking experience helps a lot in ceramics).

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  • Interview with John Shirley - Ceramic Technique, April 2011

    Interview with South African ceramic artist John Shirley - Ceramic Technique - Soluble Salts, April 2011

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    Ceramics Now Magazine
    : In what technique do you usually work and what materials do you use?

    John Shirley: I currently work in a bone china body which I produce from locally available materials. I have always been drawn to translucent bodies and the one I am currently making is more translucent than any I have used previously. Being bone china it is also whiter then any body I have previously used as the bone ash in the body acts as a bleach on any traces of iron in the body. The work is cast in moulds which I make using Paperplaster. This method uses less plaster than conventional mould making methods and results in much lighter moulds which are far easier to handle. The pieces are bisque fired to 1080oC and then sanded to achieve an extremely smooth surface which I decorate with wax resist and solutions of various soluble salts before the final firing to 1250oC in an electric kiln.

    Ceramics Now Magazine: What is the starting point in your investigation (research) with soluble salts?

    I have always been intrigued with soluble salts ever since first seeing the work of Arne Åse. A local ceramic supplier had some cobalt chloride that had been on the shelves for some time and presented it to me. So began the tests with solubles and I am hooked to this day. I have tested a number of the salts in different solutions and in different layers. For some effects I fire between layers to achieve specific effects. Some of the salts are not available locally, and I work mainly with different strengths of Cobalt, Ferric and Nickel Chloride and Potassium Dichromate solutions.

    Salts of Cobalt and chrome on bone china - View his works

    What did you learn from working with different materials?

    I am fascinated by the chemical aspect of the ceramic process, and much of my work has been informed by this. I have previously worked extensively with crystalline glazes and creating reduction effects in electric firings. I think technical challenges are what keep me going and there is always something to investigate. I find that for me it is essential to focus on one thing at a time and at present I am occupied with the effects of layering the salt solutions.

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