Tipi Tealights!

13 Oct

I realise I haven’t updated you on my progress at pottery in quite a while. I have been continuing with my Wednesday evening classes at Hayfield FE College, and although I’m not convinced my skills are improving that much, I am definitely still enjoying the experience!

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Readers of my blog will know that I spent a few months at the end of last year working on a pottery project for my bathroom. I’m still delighted with the effect of that project, but I also definitely wanted to try out some new ideas, rather than make any more companion pieces.

Therefore, last term, I embarked on a new series of items, this time for my living room. I already have some Native American art in my living room, so I thought I could create some items to complement this theme, and emphasise the theme of the Great Outdoors too.

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The first project I got started on was a series of three tealight holders of differing sizes for the various tabletops and surfaces in the room. I wanted to experiment with using silhouettes of shapes as the apertures for light to shine through.

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The first tealight holder I made was a simple, star design, using star cutters. I cut out a long rectangle of clay and let it dry out/firm up slightly, before cutting the stars out randomly across the surface, and curving the slab round onto a circular base.

For the second one (in the middle. in the picture above), I once again cut a rectangular slab, but I tried to cut small crescents in the clay, to resemble a pine cone. I don’t think it was as successful as the stars, but it sort of works! For the third, I tried to depict a campfire.

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After firing, I left the outer clay unpainted, but used glazes on the inner surfaces. For the stars I used blue, which graduates from a darker blue at the base to a sky blue at the rim. For the pine cone, I used a uniform, pine green glaze, and for the campfire, I used an orangey shade at the base, moving up to a deeper red at the top.

The fact that they are unpainted on the outside but brightly painted on the inside means that the items really ‘come to life’ once they are lit and in use – by day, they look neutral in the room, but by night, they brightly shine and flicker, and give off a warm glow.

I was then suitably inspired to begin work on a centrepiece – a larger tealight holder, which would be more of a feature for the room. Playing on my interest in the Great Outdoors and Native Americana, I decided to base my tealight holder on a traditional tipi shape.

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I made sure to cut lots of holes out of the clay, so that the light could get through. I had to let the clay dry quite a bit, before curling it into the tipi shape and resting it against a bottle while it dried. I also added a Thunderbird for the top! At the same time, I made the base at the same time, so that the two parts could dry evently at the same time.

Once the two parts were dry, they were fired, and then I was able to sketch out my designs onto the surface with a pencil. I wanted to use lots of references I had seen in my research of tipis, including a focus on nature, the phases of the moon, and a spirit animal.

I then painted my design in underglazes. Underglazes are great, as their pre-firing colours are faithful to the colours of the finished item. Also, they don’t seep into each other, so you can get quite an accurate design. I found that using light brush strokes gave a good effect for the sky on the outside of the tipi.

I also painted the inside in shades of yellow, orange and red, and painted the base to look like earth. Making the item took two weeks, and painting took another two – finally, my tipi was finished! I am especially happy with my lightning bear and my thunderbird.

The light really pours out of the front of the tipi, which gives a lovely effect. However, unlike the smaller tealight holders, this item is a feature in the room even when the candles aren’t lit. I am very happy with my design!

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