The Life of a Ceramic Christmas Tree

Technique of the Week — Making a Tree

When new students come into the studio and choose a tree from the shelf they usually have no idea what has gone into making that tree. Here is an 8-step Life of a Tree in photos and descriptions.

  1.  pouring the mold — liquid clay called slip is poured into a plaster mold that is held together with bands or straps. The plaster absorbs the water and leaves a clay shell (like a chocolate Easter bunny)
  2. dumping the mold — when the clay wall is about 1/4″ think the excess slip is dumped back into a bucket or tub. It usually takes from 15 to 20 minutes to set up.
  3.  wet greenware — after the clay is allowed to dry enough to hold its shape, the piece is removed to a shelf for drying. Wet greenware is dark in color.
    ready for holes — when leather hard (but not completely dry) holes for the lights can be drilled into the greenware.
    cleaning — The piece also needs to be “cleaned” when dry; that is,  the mold lines are scraped off using a cleaning tool and detail is carved back into the piece. Sometimes a green sander is used to smooth the mold lines, and then the entire piece is sponged with vinegar water.
  4.  greenware ready for firing — greenware is fired in a kiln to cone 04 before glazing. That is 1945 degrees F.
  5.  applying glaze to cone 04 bisque — painters apply three coats of green glaze, either Bottle Green or Emerald Green. Neither of these looks green when applied but both are green when fired.
  6.  checking the holes — Jim always drills out the holes again before firing to make sure they are large enough and do not contain any glaze
  7. fired glazed trees –trees are stilted in the kiln so that they do not  fuse to the shelf. The glaze is fired to cone 06 which is 1828 degrees F. As you can see, some are white and others green. You can paint trees any color that you want. You can even use a crystal glaze but must be careful about not letting the crystals flow into the holes.
  8. finished trees — after firing, the stilt marks are ground off so there are no sharp points on the bottom. Students insert plastic lights in colors of their choice. The larger trees also get a star. If you want snow and/or glitter if is applied at this point. The base is wired with a cord and socket and a light bulb is screwed in.

These photos were taken a couple of years ago. Our pouring and firing stations have changed considerably since then but the technique is the same. Please note that there are many styles of trees and they can also be painted with stains, Fashenhues, or Azure markers.

Carol’s Carousel Creations
Where having Fun is why we come!

Come on over and make a tree! Easy enough for the kids to do!

 

 

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