Sunday, September 23, 2012

A tiny peek at the process

Just because many people don't understand the process of taking mud to beads I thought I would share a quick peek at the process. The mud I use comes from Austin, Texas in 25 pound bags, and it is gray and...smells like mud.  Or I often imagine it smelling like a good pot roast as it pays for the groceries among other things. 
Mud new in the bag

The mud is usually rolled out with a rolling pin on a work surface I made that is covered with canvas. Most of the time I add a texture to the clay with a variety of objects.  The whole process is done by hand the only electric tool I use is the kiln.  I hand make my textures and cutters.  I also make the furniture I use in the kiln to keep the pieces from sticking once they are glaze fired.

The clay is cut out and it begins to dry.  It can take up to a week to dry properly.  Once the piece is dried the edges are sanded to soften the piece.  All the sanding dust and the pieces that break during the sanding get recycled into new clay.  I am very green as there is little or no waste.  The clay gets lighter in color as it dries.

 The pieces are then loaded into the kiln and fired to almost 2000 degrees.  I usually get up at 4:30 or 5am to start the kiln.  The kiln fires for about 7 hours and then it takes at least that long for the kiln to cool enough to unload the pieces.  Once bisque fired the pieces are now white in color.
The pieces once cooled are then glazed, glaze is weird and wonderful as you never know exactly what you will get. Also the color the glaze goes on is not what it is when you are done.  The photo below shows the pieces drying on newspaper. 

The pieces are glazed and return back to the kiln, see above...
I am up early, the kiln is super hot and it takes ALL day.
Once the pieces have been glazed fired I remove any rough spots, on some pieces I embellish them with metals. The pieces are photographed, bagged and listed.  Then I do it all over again and eat pot roast in the mean while.  I love seeing the beads made into beautiful creations.  Especially when customers send me photos of what they have done with the beads.  It is sort of like seeing the kids all grown up.  Oh, and I have a tiny studio space in the big state of Texas.  A friend that helps glaze sometimes, and we always drink sweet ice tea.  
I keep hoping that the fairies might come and help in the middle of the night but it is mostly a one woman show.  Luckily I enjoy what I do, I hope you do too.
Thanks and take care, Cindy

This is my carmine bead in copper and the accent beads are in my shop also.

1 comment:

  1. I took a pottery class back in high school many many years ago. I fell in love!!! I wanted a potter's wheel so bad but my parents could not afford one. I even tried to make some beads while in the class but they came out too large. Wish I had them now because they would not seem so large today :)
    I keep thinking that some day I will play with clay again - love what you do with it!