Ceramics Usage in Modern Technology

Posted by on Jun 16, 2014 in Knowledge | Comments Off

Ceramics Usage in Modern Technology

While you are at home today, have a look around and see how many electronic devices that would be unusable if it weren’t for the help of ceramics. In fact, a lot of what you see is ceramic based. It may not be apparent to the naked human eye, but ceramics plays an important role almost everywhere you look.  Next time you are looking out the windows of your house or out windows of your car that you drive, there are ceramic materials.

Don’t forget bricks, telephone and power insulators, tiles, crockery and toilet bowls. Every item listed requires the skills of a ceramic engineer to design and manufacture the materials that are required to perform their jobs. Another interesting fact is the bio-ceramics used on hip replacements and space shuttle tiles. Even during the war ceramics protected soldier. Being designed at the moment are ceramic engines that will be better for the environment and more fuel-efficient. So you can see how ceramics is being used in Modern Technology.

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Decorating and Glazing in Pottery

Posted by on Jun 14, 2014 in Pottery Decoration | Comments Off

Decorating and Glazing in Pottery

One way of decorating your pottery pieces is by a method known as Glazing. Glaze is a layer of glass like substance that has been fused to a ceramic piece. Glaze adds color; decoration to a ceramic piece and it also strengthens and waterproofs items. Glazing is a useful method to use on earthenware pieces, as they are unsuitable for holding liquids due to their porosity.  Glazing is used on stoneware and porcelain pieces as well.

Glaze on pottery pieces can have a variety of finishes, of gloss, matte and color. There are many ways to glaze your pieces. Most commonly pieces are dipped directly into the glaze, or you can dry dust the mixture over the clay, you can also pour the glaze over your piece or you can also spray it on with an airbrush.

Another method of glazing is Salt Glaze Pottery. In Salt Glaze Pottery, salt or soda is inserted in the kiln at high temperatures, which creates a sodium vapor that reacts with the aluminum sicilia oxides in the piece of clay, which forms and deposits the glass.

If you have decorated your pieces of pottery and then apply a glaze over the top then the decorations are known as under glaze.  If you decorate on the top of your glaze this is known as over glaze.

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Introduction to Pottery

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 in Knowledge | Comments Off

Introduction to Pottery

Pottery is the ceramic art of making pottery goods.  There are three major types of pottery: earthenware, stoneware and porcelain.  The term pottery is also the name given to the place where pottery goods are made and the actual art and craft of the potter.

Pottery is made by shaping/molding a body of clay into a preferred shape and then heating this shape in high temperatures until all the water is removed and the clay becomes hardened and the shape set.

History

Pottery is one of the world’s oldest known handicrafts performed by humans. Back as far as 10,000 years ago in the Neolithic period it is believed to have begun.  In those days especially in the Middle East and Africa the lifestyle of the nomadic hunters was transitioning into farmers who were planting crops. Baskets were well used in these times but the one problem that they had was the inability to hold water. This is why pottery was born.

They needed something new to fill this void, but it had to be light to carry. Since clay was in great supply and was easily shapeable it was the chosen material and through trial and error the tribes began to understand what was possible with this new form of this material. Especially what happens to it when it dried.  It was the Egyptians who invented the kiln to fire the pots to dry them out at a faster pace.

It was the Greeks who made it an art form and the Chinese who created porcelain. In medieval times they discovered that mixing sand with clay made it strong enough hold over fire. So the art of pottery has evolved to what we love. It is an ancient art form that is used in every day life.

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The Long Journey Of Ceramics

Posted by on Dec 9, 2014 in Spirit of Pottery | Comments Off

The Long Journey Of Ceramics

At our guild, the artists are ready to work on any type of project. When they are given the design or drawing, they set to work on it immediately. Often clients stay with the initial stages to help with the design doubts that may arise. Recently we had this order on making ceramic finger pieces that depicted nail art. The client, a nail art professional wanted the work to be displayed in her salon. She had detailed drawings on the type and form of the fingers and nail designs she wanted. While she was with us, she wanted to know more about how ceramics were made.

Ceramic evolution

Technology has made it possible for the ceramic industry to grow in leaps and bounds due to the extensive amount of knowledge that it has enabled to be accessible. With newer materials and methods the handling, making and finishing techniques have been honed and perfected. One instance of the rapid development in ceramics is the use of transistor in electronics.  The size has become so minute, but at the same time holds a vast amount of features that is quite unbelievable.

Advancements in Ceramics

Ceramics have undergone tremendous amount of changes with the way metal alloys have been developed. New materials that can operate under very high temperature and speed and have longer life and low maintenance are now possible, Metals have tensile strength, ductility, abundance and low production cost, while ceramics are brittle. With the technological advances, it is now possible to produce a blend of the two with the best characteristics of both in the blend. The resultant form is the tougher ceramic systems that are in use now like nitride ceramics.

Ceramic characteristics

The ceramics we use today are of intensive value in all engineering application and are considered as nontraditional. The traditional ceramics include brick, porcelain, earthenware etc. The advanced ceramics have metallic characteristics, making them perform high and be cost effective.  The technical ceramics include alumina, zirconia that are oxides and non-oxides like nitrides, borides, carbides and silicide and composites that are blends of oxides and non-oxide metals.

These have chemical inertness, high strength and great dimensional stability. The ceramic and composite blend is tough and has variable electrical, thermal conductivity and a complex manufacturing method, which makes it very expensive. The oxide forms are inert and used in electrical insulation and the alumina variety costs less while the zirconia is expensive. The low oxide ceramics are hard, inert, have high thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity, and are expensive.

We use metal clay for our models, which has ceramics blended with metal to enable better reproduction of the shape and design we want. The material has longer shelf life and very little wastage making it cost effective too. The finger models were made according to the client’s specifications and she was very happy and excited about having them on display at her salon and expected to get more customers just because of them. She mentioned that hers was a well-paid job that gave her much satisfaction.

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Tracing History Of Ceramics From Pottery To Superconductors

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 in Knowledge | Comments Off

Tracing History Of Ceramics From Pottery To Superconductors

Occasionally we get some unusual requests from our clients. We recently got an order from one of our clients to make a ceramic model of a golf club. The client had wanted to gift the piece to his golf club friend. I’d become acquainted with the client, while I was playing at the golf club in our neighborhood.

There have been many improvements in golf as a sport. There are several new devices like, the range finder, to help you out with the game. The client had asked about how we made ceramic models and was very much interested in knowing on how it all started. Since it is a subject I love to speak about, I gave him a short account on the development of ceramics.

Ever since man found that clay can be used to make objects by mixing it with water and firing it, the ceramics started to play a vital role in human evolution. Ceramic is one of the ancient industries  in the world and its use is dated back to 24,000 BC, when it was used to create animal as well as human figurines. Originally man used clay and certain other materials to make the objects and fired them in kilns, which were dug in the ground partially. There are ceramic pieces depicting humans hunting for food.

Nearly 10,000 years after ceramics came into existence, tiles were created and vessels for storing water and food were made from them. Clay bricks were also used around that time. Glass was invented around 8000 B.C in Egypt. It is believed that the overheating of kilns had led to the formation of glazed layer on pottery. But this evolved into a more refined and quality item only in 1500 B.C.

And later on during Middle Age, the metal industry at its fledgling stage started using synthetic materials for melting the metal at high temperatures. This led to an industrial revolution in 16th century when refractories were used to melt glass and metal for use in industries and in the production of cement, coke, ceramics and chemicals.

In the middle of 1800’s another major shift in the development of ceramics occurred, when they were used for insulation of electrical wires. And the inventions that came on later like automobiles, televisions, radios and the present day computers also used ceramic and glass, making the material an important component. From the glass windows and alumina spark plugs in automobiles to the particulate filters in diesel engines and the high temperature superconductors used in 1980s, the ceramics have certainly evolved into a very significant and indispensable material.

The client was impressed with the history of ceramics and also by the model our artists had created. He was all praises for the work and invited me over for a game soon. He’s a professional golf player and as I’m still an amateur at the sport, playing with him would be useful, as I’d get some advice on the right shots and on using the new rangefinder devices I mentioned earlier. I’m looking forward to playing with him soon.

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How To Buy The Best Ceramic Figurines

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Knowledge | Comments Off

How To Buy The Best Ceramic Figurines

With Christmas season nearing, the shopping spree starts with vigor. This year I decided that I’d gift ceramic figurines. Ceramic figurines are not only ornamental and add beauty to your home, but also have excellent value as some types are worth thousands of pounds. Ceramics especially the decorative forms can be seen widely in gift shops, and if you shop carefully you can get some splendid collector’s items.

While I’ve a big collection of my own, I hate parting with them. And moreover while I shop for the figurines, I can add some more to my collection. I’ve kept some of my treasured figurines in an artistic wooden display that has splendid curtains flanking it to give the figurines an added allure. My wife had done the curtains on her own with her new serger.

Shopping for ceramic figurines is not an easy job as you should have some knowledge about the figurines and the types available. I find many people enjoy collecting ceramic figurines. A collector’s item is distinguished by its unique design and beauty. Checking the quality is also difficult. Here are some tips on finding high quality ceramic figurines.

  • Fixing a budget is the first step, while you start looking for the figurines. Since the ceramic figurines are available readily in the market, it is easy to spend lavishly on these figurines. So keep an eye on the expenses.
  • Most manufacturers of figurines offer different varieties of the ceramic pieces at different price ranges. Some of the rare collections like Disney range are expensive as they are present in a limited number only. On the other hand, the pieces produced at a massive scale annually do not cost much. Knowing the exact value of a particular figurine will prevent you from being fleeced by the dealers. Learn about trademarks, the history and also other facts, so you can identify a collector’s item easily and also spot a fake, when you come upon one.
  • While there are the common ceramic pieces and the unique pieces, I think the choice of figurines is mostly based on personal preference only. While a collector’s item may be of high value, you may prefer a cute and relatively inexpensive Disney figurine.
  • To know about the figurines better, you need to get advice from experts. There are several books on ceramic figurines and even buying guides. You can find plenty of them online. There are forums and blogs dedicated to ceramics giving you great resources to learn from.
  • Some of the expensive and genuine ceramic items are sold along with authentication certificates. The artist or the manufacturer issues these certificates guaranteeing that the piece is genuine. If you find a certificate it shows that the item is a legitimate one and this will also come in handy in case of insurance issues, or if you want to sell the item to someone else later on.
  • The guides and price books of the figurines usually give the value as when it was minted. If you detect any discoloration or chip in the figurine it can diminish the value greatly. So you need to inspect the piece carefully for any imperfection before you buy it.
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Skyrock Your Pottery Hobby with these Advices

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Knowledge, Spirit of Pottery | Comments Off

Skyrock Your Pottery Hobby with these Advices

Nowadays people don’t have the time or the inclination to think of a hobby. They’re so busy with their work and personal life that time just flies away for them. I was mentioning this to my friend who was in a similar state. His work was full of stress and mostly he carried work home and was also occupied with work even on weekends. I warned him that this type of workaholic behavior would soon lead to a big burnout. I suggested he take up ceramic handcrafting as a hobby. Since I’m a pro at all things ceramic, I could give him the needed guidance and I also know that it is extremely soothing and refreshing having experienced the benefits myself.

I told him that in time he would find nothing interesting to him or about him, if he continued with this state of relentless pursuit. When we take up a hobby, you develop a multifaceted personality that people will find interesting and you yourself will find it extremely satisfying. And when you start something new, you never know what it’ll bring you. It may be new friends, a career or a new relationship.

Ceramics basics

Ceramics is basically creating artwork of non-metallic nature. You get to manipulate heat and its effect on clay with some tools and create excellent pieces of art and also objects that are of use in our day to day life. The most common byproducts when you take up ceramic as your hobby are glassware and pottery. The interest in ceramics may be of artistic nature or a practical one, but the main thing to focus here is the creation of beautiful ceramic pieces.

Equip with knowledge

To build your interest in pottery, you need to educate yourself on the background of ceramic. When you know details on how it started out initially and what types of materials and methods were used, you will feel more motivated into doing a good job on your own. Pottery is a very ancient art form dating back to Greece. As for the technical aspects, you can attend the local conferences on ceramics like those conducted by the American Ceramic Society. The society is of immense help to hobbyists who have an affinity for one of the oldest crafts to exist on earth.

Know the process

The ceramic pottery process is an easy to grasp one, once you get to know the steps involved. You can get familiar with the process with the help of the various pottery stores present in your locality. There are several stores specializing in ceramics alone present scattered throughout the United States. You can customize earthen ware and pottery with the assistance given by these stores. The stores give full access, so customers can educate and know more about ceramics and how to make them.

Take up a registered course

Most universities and colleges have special courses on ceramics. For those who have a professional degree already, such courses help in getting acquainted with the art form and make it a more interesting and productive hobby. I like pottery as it is very diverse and let’s your creative juice flow uninhibitedly – for example African pottery is beautiful in its form.

Preliminaries to have

To start with the hobby, you need shoes and old clothing and an oven or a kiln used in ceramic making. Select the paints, glazes and other tools you need for ceramic making. You can get everything you need at hobby shops, art stores and in the book stores attached to university. You need to have a kiln necessarily to start o the ceramic work. So ensure that you have proper access to the appropriate kiln. You can ask around on how to get a kiln. Once you have the kiln, you can start on collecting the supplies needed. For knowing about the cost of ceramics equipment, you need to assess the price for which you can get help from ceramic teachers.

Start with the sketches

Before going to the actual process, you should sketch the designs or accents you need to add to the ceramic piece. When you work on clay for instance, it can dry out easily. This will make it difficult to mold them into the shape and design you want to create. If you are not sure about the design you want to create and spend time on revising the design while working, the clay can dry out and cause problems. So start the design only after you have a final sketch ready.

Using clay for pottery

Clay can be either in refined form or powdered variety depending on the type of clay you purchase. A refined form of clay is preferred as it will not have any lumps that prevent you from working with it properly. You can also sieve the chunks, before start working with the clay.

In case of pottery, you need a wheel which is either operated electrically or manually. Throwing is the term used to form shapes in the clay, while it is placed on a wheel. Throwing needs skill and lots of practice. Initially you’ll find that it is difficult to grasp. But it’ll be great fun watch the clay take different and bizarre shapes in your inexperienced hands.

Before you remove the clay from the wheel, you can add on as many designs and patterns as you want using special design files. These are similar to nail files and are in a slender knife form, which makes it easy to make the patterns. The clay once formed to the desired shape should be dried and then fired in the kiln.

Starting out on a new hobby, especially when you’re too busy to afford it, can be frustrating and daunting too. But once you begin it, you find that it is certainly exciting. With pottery you get the same feeling. While the initial phases are easy to practice, you need patience, especially when you are doing the decorating and glazing. Once you get involved in the hobby, you’ll start taking more interest and find that you had added another exciting dimension to your life.

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Making a Ceramic Piano

Posted by on Nov 3, 2014 in Daily Activities | Comments Off

Making a Ceramic Piano

Ceramics are not the only outlet for creativity in my life. I also love music, and I sometimes like to play music on my Yamaha YDP 181 digital piano. Recently, my piano playing intersected with my work with ceramics after I came across some beautiful green ware of a piano for sale at a shop that actually specializes in doll making. As pretty as its design was, I decided against using the green ware. Instead, I decided to use it as inspiration to sculpt my own piano so that it was one of the kind and exactly the size and look that I wanted. I was worried about the design being too blocky, so I really took my time with it. Instead of a digital piano or even an upright piano, I managed to make myself a pretty little baby grand. I have detailed that process in other posts, so I won’t go into any of the detail here, but will just say that I always find it enjoyable to work in clay.

The next stage in the process was allowing it to dry, which is only a matter of waiting. Then, comes the first firing in the kiln. This is the most nerve wracking part of the whole process for me, and I am always a little scared to look into the kiln after the first firing has cooled in case something has broken or cracked in the process. It is always such a shame when that happens. Everything went just fine this time though, thank goodness.

After the first firing in the kiln, I realized that painting a ceramic piano can be a bit of a challenge. For one thing, I don’t use black often in my work, but I decided that I did want to paint some of the keys black. This meant that I had to find a recipe for black glaze. Also, I had to decide on the color I wanted the main body of the piano to be. I realize that most real pianos are either black or brown, but I allowed myself a little creative license and painted my ceramic version in green.

After the glaze firing, I opened up the kiln and saw how the little piano looked for the first time. I say this because anyone who has ever done ceramics knows that the colors before firing always look different than afterward (sometimes significantly so). And, I was a little bit nervous about the black. There was no need to be because it turned out beautifully. I really love the colors, and I think it is such an unusual little piece. It’s not often you find a ceramic piano after all.

I have decided that I like it so much I will put it on display on the top of my real digital piano since I think that will be an appropriate home for it. I am happy that I tried making a piece that is a little outside of my comfort level, and I hope inspiration strikes again soon.

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Tips for Successful Brainstorm Sessions

Posted by on Oct 18, 2014 in Knowledge | Comments Off

Tips for Successful Brainstorm Sessions

When you are a part of the Ceramic Society, you have to learn the importance of formulating ideas and executing plans. This applies to any organization and when members of an organization have a meeting, it is important to brainstorm. What is brainstorming? Brainstorming is the production of ideas and solving questions and problems efficiently. Members hold special meetings, or sessions, to come up with important ideas for a successful brainstorm. Don’t fear if you do not know how to do this. Meet the goal of having a smoothly-run brainstorming session with focus. Here are some tips for successful brainstorm sessions.

First tip: know your purpose. Without a clear cut purpose, the brainstorming session will more than likely fail. When working in a team, you will have conflicting ideas around the room. It is important to identify the issue, figure out how to solve it, and think of the ideas for problem solving that will help. This should be known before going into a meeting. Define the purpose of it all.

Another tip is to write everything. No idea is dumb, just keep jotting down notes. Give consideration because you may have to go back to the notes wondering if that idea you once thought was dumb may actually work. Don’t be afraid to build ideas on top of each other.

Start some creativity by showing visuals. It helps make sure everyone understands the idea, so clarity is definitely a plus with visuals. Sticky notes, chalkboard, whiteboard, posters, and even PowerPoint presentations help. Make sure you have your desktop (or laptop) and projector ready for a visual performance. Ceramic Society recently began using this method of performance and knew that it is proactive to have a stock of led projector bulbs in case of any issues. It is suggested to do so.

The fourth tip to be introduced is knowing that is okay to brainstorm alone. Brainstorming by oneself before presenting concepts and answers to the group has its advantages. People tend to be more creative when they come up with ideas on their own. This does not mean to abandon group analysis, since talking with group members can help introduce varied perspectives. Personal reflection as well as group reflection is vital for ideas to become action. A brainstorming session between members can make a world of difference when focusing on achieving a goal. This leads us to the final tip that can help bring true success to the table.

The last tip is to always have a follow-up session with your members. There is a good reason to schedule a follow-up session. You have to make sure something has resulted from all the amazing ideas you and your teammates brainstormed. The session will allow people to find out the next step in a strategy or plan. It is also a great way to assign jobs for each team member and outline the following stages to the end of meeting the goal. Remember to plan ahead, write down everything, and know that everyone’s opinion is valued.

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The Process of Making Ceramic Shoes

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Daily Activities, Pottery Decoration | Comments Off

The Process of Making Ceramic Shoes

Browsing through antique collector’s items always makes me nostalgic. The intricate designs and clever workmanship of the items leaves me stunned, especially, when I see the ceramic items. Ceramic is one of the most earliest forms used by humans and it still holds its allure in this technologically driven world.

I came upon a ceramic shoe in the shop and it caught my attention. The shoe looked real and very appealing. The out of box thinking in the creation had me wondering about the making. This spurred me on to know more about how these shoes are made. And I even tried them myself. I used Athletic Crossfit shoes as model for the ceramic shoes.

To start with, you need to create paper templates of all the parts of the shoe like the tongue, heel, sides, toe, sole etc. This will help in creating an exact replica of the shoe you use as model.

The creative process

You need to have the necessary tools ready at hand, before you start on the ceramic work. Scissors, rolling pin, slab roller, wooden tools, a clay cutting knife, sponge, pin tool, flexible rib and a miter tool or one with 45 degree bevel are needed.

•             Now start with a ball of clay. The clay needs to be rolled into a consistently thick slab using the roller.

•             Using the templates you have made, cut the shapes in the slab and store them in plastic wraps.

•             When the cut pieces of clay are stiff, but flexible enough to mold or in other words leather hard, you can start making the form of the shoe.

•             A process called score and slip is used. The areas that are to be fused should be scratched and with a bit of slip, which is actually clay of watery consistency, glued together so the individual parts are held tight.

•             The seams should be smoothed to get a good finish. Adding details when the clay is soft will give the shoe a more authentic and beautiful look.

Firing the shoe

Once the shoe is created with all find details included in it, it should be allowed to dry in a covered plastic bag with a small hole for air to circulate and dry it. This takes several days and when the shoe is fully dry (it is called Bone dry) it is bisque fired to get the water out completely and also to give it a solid shape.

When the shoe makes it out of the firing step intact without any blow-up, crack or breaks, you can add the regular or underglaze to give the required color. Once this is done the shoe is returned to the kiln to go through a second firing step, which is called glaze firing. Now it gets the final glossy and shiny look.

If you are wondering about the uses of the shoe, it can be used as planter, container, for holding a wine bottle, with a lamp as lighter or even as just a decorative piece in your living room shelf.

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