DETAILED CLASS DESCRIPTION (descripción detallada en español)

 Because of the nature of the forever-shifting San Miguel  tourist population, we will teach some basic clay techniques to each person as they join the class, and then students can choose what they want to learn and make and we will tailor the teaching to each individual’s project choice. 

CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES:  There are several techniques used in hand-building with clay: slab-building, coil-building, and extruded forms.   A mixture of these processes will allow you to make practically any form you want in ceramics.  We do not teach wheel-throwing techniques. 

SLAB CONSTRUCTION:  Slab construction is the process of building clay forms by joining sections of clay elements that have been cut from sheets of damp clay.   Slabs are rolled while the clay is soft, and then left until almost leather hard before being cut to size and joined. Harder clay is needed for geometric and architectural work, where straight lines are important.  A liquid clay 'glue' can be made from the same clay body and mixed with water to help join the surfaces.  A coil of soft clay can be pressed along the join afterwards to strengthen it further.  It is most important to thoroughly crosshatch the surfaces to be joined.  Slabs can also be used for tile and mural projects.  The slabs can be made by rolling or throwing by hand, or using a mechanical slab roller for larger slab building projects.  

COIL CONSTRUCTION:  A hand-building technique employed to create pots, human or animal figures and other organic sculptural forms.  Clay ‘snakes’ or ‘sausages’ are rolled out by hand and then scored, stacked, pushed, pinched and paddled together to combine the coils into forms.  Students will also learn to build armatures for their sculptures, using an internal structural clay framework integrated into construction of the sculpture.  

EXTRUDED FORMS:A clay extruder is a device used to make long symmetrical pieces of clay.  The clay is pushed through a solid or hollow template/dye to create different shaped hollow tubes, or different shaped solid extrusions.  We have 50+ die shapes. 

DECORATIVE TECHNIQUES:   Ceramic decoration takes two general forms - namely, plastic decoration, which is akin to sculpture; and surface colouring and finish, which is akin to painting.

Plastic Decoration: The sculptural surface decoration of a ceramic form is usually accomplished while the clay is still pliable and impressionable.   Textures can be added to wet forms through impressing a variety of tools and objects into the surface of the clay.  Students will also learn techniques to apply texture and add sculptural form and ornamentation to clay surfaces at different stages of the drying process, for example, 3-dimensional additions (low, mid and high relief), appliqué, burnishing, sgraffito (incising), surface impressions using stamps (embossing), carving, open work (perforating and piercing), etc.

Surface Colouring and Finish:  The painting form of ceramic decoration pertains to surface colouring and includes using underglazes (slips - liquid clay with colourants without flux, engobes - liquid clay with colourants and flux, and ceramic stains), glazes (are coats of glass, matte or glossy, fused to a clay body through heating), and overglazes, colours applied over the glaze (low-fire decals, lustre glazes and china paint over pre-fired glazes, or majollica technique - colours over an unfired glaze base).  The application of these colouring materials affects the surface "feel" or texture of the object. It is for this reason that we combine the colour and tactile qualities as one. The plastic form and painting form are invariably combined in ceramic decoration. 

ENGOBES:  An engobe is made from powdered clay mixed with water and a flux, and is used to paint on clay.  A flux is a substance that acts to fuse the colour to the clay body during the firing process.  Colourants are added to a white engobe base to create many different colours.  Our studio has 40+ colours available, and can be blended together to make almost any desired shade.  A transparent ceramic glaze can be brushed over the engobes to intensify the colours of the matte texture or to create a glossy finish.  We do not use glazes other than transparent glaze, and we do not teach glaze chemistry.  Engobes are very versatile in that they can be applied to the clay body at any point of the drying process - when the clay is moist, at the dry but ‘unfired’ stage, or after the bisque firing process.  Until the discovery of glazes, practically all painting of clay was done with engobes.  

PAINTING TECHNIQUES:  We will learn clay painting techniques, using coloured engobes, including colour layering, wax resist, slip trailing, balsa foam printing, once-fired technique (all colors will be applied before the piece is bisque fired, for a once-fired effect).    

POST-FIRING DECORATIVE TECHNIQUES:  Many materials can be used to embellish surfaces and forms after the sculpture has been fired.   Students can learn the use of paints, gold leaf, drilling, sanding, post-firing inlay, sculpture base design, the addition of fixtures, varnishes, etc.  

RESTORATION TECHNIQUES:  Part of learning ceramic sculpture is learning how to repair pieces.  We will supply a recipe for a clay glue used to repair un-fired ceramic ware and show repair techniques for different stages of construction.  We will also show students how to repair pieces after they have been fired.  This involves using many different materials for colour, texture and surface matching, surface crack repair, and structural repairs.