Ashley Fiona McHutchison hand rolls thin slabs of master blend porcelain clay in the manufacture of exquisite beakers, mugs, cups and sugar bowls with spoons, which she decorates with under glaze. Samples were displayed for us to marvel at and purchase.
She had a simple, neat set up and keeps her workspace clean. A board covered with a pillow slip to work on, rolling pin, foam to place work on, heat gun or hair dryer, slip, bucket of water, sponges, kidney, small brush, needle, knife, and wire brush.
Ashley showed us drawer liner plastic cut into templates and used a flat-sided kidney to smooth this evenly, gently easing the bubble-textured side into a hand-rolled slab, transferring the pattern into the clay. She then traced the mug shape template with a needle, removed the template and using a knife, cut out the traced shape, beveling the edges that are to be joined - a lip for the mug can be made by wiping a kidney over the edge of the clay. She slipped and scored the area to be joined, draped the slab around the rolling pin and joined the slab by gently rolling the join together, then turned the rolling pin until the join was on top. She pressed the end of a chopstick several times along the line of the join, making a pattern and strengthening the join. She then placed the cylinder on top of a piece of foam, to reduce handling, and to keep the shape solid. To finish the join, she ran some slip inside and outside the join with a brush to consolidate it and to remove cracks. It made a very neat join.
Sitting the mug on a largish sponge with a tool either side to stop it from moving, Ashley measured the length of the handle. Her hand built handles have a pulled look. She rolled a coil, and using a small tool pressed it length wise into the coil 3 times, then trimmed the edges. She places the handle to the left of the mug seam - better for right-handed drinkers. The handle is added after marking position, slipping and scoring the beaker, pinching and pushing with index finger and thumb to attach. As this is happening the other hand is placed inside for support. A chopstick is rolled over the clay to help attach the handle and smooth clay, finally painting slip over to neaten and finish. Ashley leaves a 5cm width from top to bottom of handle. It is important it fits the hand and is balanced with the size of the mug.
Next, using a beaker template, Ashley demonstrated how she works with darts. When cutting the darts, the dart edges were beveled. The cylinder join was worked the same as the mug. Don't press too hard with the rolling pin or the porcelain will crack. The darts were then joined, slightly overlapping the clay, pressing together and smoothing. Ashley used scissors to cut excess clay from the dart joins. The circle base was made using a slab, imprinting the bottom of the cylinder on the slab for size, then cutting out the circle. Ashley has a lovely stamp which includes her web site, she pressed this into the middle of the base circle. To join the base she passed her sponge over the base of the cylinder, slip and scored the slab with the wire brush, lined up her stamp with the seam, placed the base on top of cylinder and used her roller to compress it onto the cylinder. When she was happy with this she painted the inside join with slip.
The teaspoon, to go with the sugar bowl, is also a template. A thumb print forms the scoop.
Ashley was very attentive to moisture content in the slab as consistency is extremely important. She uses a heat gun to make the porcelain a usable consistency when too wet and a plastic lidded container with wet plaster in bottom to store green ware.
In her practice Ashley uses a small production line technique, rolling a series of slabs and then using the first slab as it becomes more solid. Cracking is her biggest enemy. She fires to cone 9 or 10 (1240˚C to 1250˚C) using Chrysthos underglaze on green ware applied using a slip trailer, and sponge stamps followed by a clear Cesco brush on glaze, which she thins in order to dip as well as brush on.
Ashley's trick for small cracks - embellishments. A small rectangle of clay is added when small cracks will not repair. These embellishments add to the quirkiness of the work.
- Wet knife & rolling pin before use.
- Slip mix = vinegar + clay (dry) + water, mixed with a stick blender. It is quite liquid.
- Repairs are made with vinegar, up to leather hard.
- When rolling a slab, turn it over and roll different directions.
- When rolling slabs, roll from middle out, cut off thin edges. Trim edges to avoid cracking.
The first demonstration of the year was a joy to attend. I was impressed by Ashley Fiona's good eye, steady hand, clean and organised work area, and well-presented, interesting demonstration. She is thorough in her practice, meticulous in her work and well organised.
Thank you Marienne for organising it and the lovely morning tea.