Friday, May 20, 2016

The Three Muses - a glaze journey...

This is my newest tile design and it tells quite a tale. Pour yourself a cup and I'll tell you... 
And so it begins. 
Here is my new Three Muses tile - the original sketch and the first copy pressed from my mold. It was a long time getting to this state... designing, sculpting, casting in plaster, curing. I was thrilled to have it in my hands. Definitely my most complex tile to date - especially since I do not often do (human) figures. 

I have Lesley and Caroline to thank for the inspiration. In a truly "Scenius" way, a conversation we three had started all this. We were discussing felting, and wool, and curly locks, and gabbing a bit as you do. Someone, Lesley I think, names the thread Three Wise Women. A little cheeky, and a little accurate as we were each other's go-to for feedback and advice. 

I swear this image popped into my head fully formed. 
Please note: thumb for scale! All you are about to see takes place in a tile maybe 6 x 7". 
And then it went further. Three wise women. Three Graces of Classical myth, three Muses. Suddenly Burne-Jones and Rossetti and the Pre-Raphealite painters were there too clamoring for attention. Long Waterhouse style dresses to hide the body (not cheating; just simplifying) and evoke an era of art history? Done. Lets go all the way and inscribe the tile with the motto associated with the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood! ( In for a penny... ) The motto is "Ars Longa, Vita brevis" which translates to "Art is long, life is short". 

Animal familiars? Three witches? My 2 dogs naturally and Lesley's cat Cleo. A hare for Caroline? Sure! The two of them had recently met up for a hare themed exhibit in the UK and I was desperately jealous. You KNOW how I feel about hares. Oh and should I mention that the hairstyles are loosely inspired by we three? I know - it seems over the top. But it felt right to me. They DO need hairstyles, after all. 

So I recently glazed the first two of these tiles. Why only 2? Well... They are very complex. I wanted to share the process here in a photo essay of sorts. This IS how I glaze all of my ceramic tiles - this one is just many more small parts.. 

1. Stain the entire tile with black (or dark) underglaze. Looks a wreck until you sponge it back. I like the added depth it gives the relief and it prevents any glaring white areas if a spot is accidentally left unglazed. 
Trust is needed here. 
2. Glaze the background ares. I like to work "back to front". This is either underglaze or glaze depending on my planned treatment of the frame. Three coats in and around. 
I think they look good already! SO excited. 
3. Three coats of peachy underglaze on faces and hands. 
Dark dark blue used to stain crevices on this version. 
4. Base color of hair - 3 coats. Sometimes 2 if my underglazes are thick. 
Even working 2 at once there are many variations. Truly one of a kind results. 
5. Accents in hair. Highlights and low lights. 
Aiming for auburn in the middle. We shall see. 
6. First dress: green glaze - 3 coats. 
7. Secong dress - dark blue glaze - 3 coats. 
8. Third dress - turquoise glaze - 3 coats. I selected this analogous palette for the first tile because I knew these glazes and colors worked together, chemically and visually. 
They look so "bleh" at this stage. These are glazes I have used and trusted for 20 years though!
9. Paint the hare and cat in underglazes, with details. ( Sorry Cleo - your marking will have to wait.)
Feeling a little disappointed with detail in these two animals. Then I remind myself they are like the size of a quarter! 
10. Paint the dogs in underglazes. Include shadowing and highlights. Yes, they look like my dogs. What else did you expect? 
OK that was fun! 
Doggy details. Oscar in black and white. Zoey in fawn and brown. 
11. Glaze the background - 3 coats! And edges of tile. In this case I used a transparent grey; since the center area had an underglaze color on it the tile will read ad having a 2 toned background. ( Different tile as can see. I did say I did 2 at a time) AND glaze the center figures sash! 
Yes - different dogs. Simplifying a little and mirroring the cat and rabbit's colors. 
12. Very carefully paint 3 coats of clear glaze to all areas that are underglaze only. This will seal them, give them a gloss finish matching the other glazes and make them durable. 
This is tedious and my least favorite part. 
13. Fire the tile in the kiln. These are low-fired glazes and fire to ^04 at app. 1850 degrees F. 
Ta-Da! And yes - this one already sold. My husband told a return customer this story and it was a done deal! 
I couldn't be happier! I wish I could accurately tell you how LONG it took to do the 2 tiles pictured here in this photo essay. I will keep track next time. I like this palette - I think a tile this "busy" needs harmonious colors to read well without dramatic contrast - so it doesn't compete with itself. I do look forward to trying other palettes on the next few.

Thanks for staying until the end... I am proud of and deeply invested in my work, the details, the layers of meaning that may never be evident to the casual viewer. This new design means quite a bit to me and I am happy to share the backstory with you!


  1. This is really special and beautiful!

  2. Jenny, another beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing your wonderful work. Have a great summer.

  3. I love the animals that you included and the reasons why. It makes the tile even more special. All of the details are wonderful. The colors are rich. Well done!

  4. Wow. Love it. Thanks for sharing your process. I think it's great to see how a piece evolves from stage to stage.

  5. Beautiful work Jenny... I'm thrilled to see it finished. Loved seeing your glazing process too!

  6. Amazing! It is made even more special by all the personal connections you added. Thank you so much for your detailed walk through the creation of this beautiful piece!

  7. Great post Jenny - glad to have been involved in inspiring ths piece in some small way.


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