Looking at the Viral Load

Viral load is simply how much virus you have in your body and of course the more virus you have directly correlates to how sick you are. I’m still making ceramic versions of viruses. The following are a few of my latest efforts. With each one I make, I reduce the viral load in my imagination.

This first one is an Orthoreovirus. There are 10 sub classifications of this virus which has a wide host range, including vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, protists and fungi. I decided to attempt to do this one with small spines. It almost made it through the firing. I lost one spine in the bisque firing and was able to reattach it with glaze for the high fire kiln. Sadly, someone decided to pick it up and they broke off about 5 spines when they set it back down. I was slightly dismayed since it took me a long time to make it. I attempted to glaze with the Grape and put some Ochre Celadon on the details on the body. I was not pleased with the result as the Celadon ran and gave this one a blotchy effect. Everyone seemed to think that that made it look more “infective” – you be the judge.

This next one is a representation of a plant virus (unidentified). It reminded me of pollen but it isn’t… Anyway, it is a mixed clay body of white stoneware and brown stoneware with white stoneware embellishments. I tried the Grape glaze (again) with Phil’s Celadon accents on the spikes. The glaze was a little thin in places but the blue bursts of color were obvious. The Phil’s Celadon didn’t run like the Ochre Celadon so I was very happy with this result!

Looking Viral Again

Summer is upon us again and the ceramics studio has been over run with the children’s summer art program. This is the first summer the summer camp has been held since 2019. The result is that open studio is restricted to Sunday only. I was able to complete a few viral pieces that amused me and generally horrified others.

This first piece is the Reovirus. This is a white stone clay body glazed in Royal Blue with red iron oxide stain on the filaments. The blue was perfectly vibrant and with the addition of some room temperature glaze as accents the filaments really pop!

This one is the Norovirus. It is bigger than the orbs I’ve been making coming in at ~6 inches in diameter compared to 3 inches for most of the others. I was very concerned that it wouldn’t make it through the bisque firing intact but all was well and it came through the high fire glaze kiln in great shape! I used Grape glaze which is a solid purple. When applied thinly is a hint of purple and slightly translucent but in a thick application turns a beautiful deep purple with blue bursts. I tipped the ends with red iron oxide for contrast.

The last one is a Cypovirus. Again made with white stone clay and glazed with a high fire glaze. Many of the glaze colors are not designed for pieces in the round since they tend to run at high temperatures. I opted to try Royal Blue again since it was a new batch to see if it worked. The protrusions were again red iron oxide but I attempted to put Megan’s Blue inside the little crowns around them. My intension was to have a two-tone blue. Sadly the Megan’s Blue reacted with the red iron oxide resulting in a blue as dark as the Royal Blue. Still it is striking!

As a side note, tonight is the opening of the Student Faculty Show. I entered a grouping of 3 pieces with the title, “Pandora’s Box Opened”. These pieces were thankfully submitted by a fellow ceramicist because I was on vacation when submissions were being accepted. I was notified late Wednesday night that the Juror had selected my work as an award winner! I’m anxiously waiting for my COVID test report, praying for a negative result, so that I can go and accept my award in person. I’m hoping that this time I’ll actually get a monetary award!! I’ll keep you posted – on the COVID status and what kind of award I received!

Looking at the Kiln

I’ve been working on some ceramic pieces. In fact I never stopped working, I just stopped posting photos of my pieces. I looked back and discovered that there were zero/zilch posts with my latest ceramic orbs. So catch everyone up I’ve dedicated this post to the art that was and maybe shouldn’t have been…
The first one is the sea urchin. I’ve made this one several times and every time there is a problem. First it was that the spines drooped (too thin), then they stuck to the kiln shelf and broke when it was pried off. I then attempted it again and used a stain on the tips to prevent sticking but the glaze was contaminated and came out a matte instead of shiny. So here we are, I used a small stand and glazed in Phil’s Celadon with Hannah’s Buttermilk on the tips. It didn’t stick, nothing broke off, and the glaze worked. What a relief!

The next piece for your consideration is one of the viral representations. This one is based on the common cold. I was not pleased with the glaze on this one. I used Atomic Purple and Grape. The Atomic Purple is very faded and looks nearly grey. It also got a little gloppy (using a technical term) which diminished the detail. Still overall it looks just as it should!

The third one for your perusal is another virus. A papillomavirus to be precise. This one was done in Gold Shino with Royal Blue accents. I was very pleased to see the beautiful sheen of the Gold Shino glaze but was a little disappointed to see that the Royal blue glaze ran a little. The points had been very carefully dotted with blue glaze which cooperated and made very perfect little bubbles of glaze on top of each spike. Such is life when at the mercy of the kiln gods.

The fourth one from the Winter session was a toss up. Literally. I tripped while carrying it to the glaze room. I guess I was quite the spectacle but I made a superior save (I have cat like reflexes from years of catching mice that think they can make a break for it and I think I could have been a Seeker and helped win the Quidditch trophy). Anyway after saving it from shattering, I was able to glaze it. I had hoped that the Ochre Celadon background would make the Megan’s Blue discs and Grape centers really stand out. The Grape was good in some spots and nonexistent in others. That went double for the Megan’s Blue. I’m going to blame it on diluted glazes. Anyway there were offerings to the Kiln gods (since I was not the only one having issues) and that took care of the problems! I hope!

Looking Geometrical

The kiln has spit out some more of my ceramic pieces and thankfully they all survived. I was playing around with the idea of viruses and the instructor issued a challenge to several of us – make something that has a geometrical component. At first I ignored it. I mean, all my orbs are spherical and that is very “geometrical”. That was my reasoning. Then she came over to me specifically and asked if I couldn’t do a piece that incorporated triangles or rhomboid shapes. With furrowed brow I scanned my favorite databases for a coccolith, fungus, pollen, or virus that had a some triangular aspects. *sigh*

I chose to model my orb off of the group of viruses called Iridoviridae. this virus effects insects (mosquitoes and isopods) and causes blue to bluish-purple iridescence and a shortened lifespan. As you might guess their capsid shell has a series of rectangles that form an isohedron. These occur in a variety of ways either as regular or irregular forms…

This particular orb is glazed in Super T which with the red iron oxide stain has a very striking contrast. The photo doesn’t do it justice. It is a white stoneware clay body fired at cone 9.

Before the challenge I was working on a virus orb of a Reovirus. These viruses are associated with upper respiratory infections, enteritis, fever, and the symptoms of the common cold. So not as horrible as the coronavirus but still bothersome.

This one is again a white stoneware clay body glazed in Shaner Gold with red iron oxide applied thickly to give a dark metallic sheen to the portions protruding. The Shaner Gold went on a little thick and obscured the textured details on the background. Still it is a favorite glaze and came out looking good!

Looking Mousey

I finally got a piece back from the kiln! With the kiln tech in and out and the restrictions on class size due to the pandemic, it was taking a lot longer to get things fired. You see they won’t do a firing unless the kiln is full (for monetary reasons as it costs a lot of time and money to complete a cycle in the gas kiln). I had made this concept orb several times. It was so very popular with coworkers, vet techs, graduate students, and researchers that every time I completed one I felt compelled to give it away. I will likely make this one again, as a gift, but this one is mine!
The clay body is white stoneware. The mice are glazed with a red iron oxide stain applied thickly to give a metallic sheen to the surface. I am very happy with this one. Amazingly all the tails and ears are intact and it came through the firing perfectly!

Looking at Ceramic Orbs

The summer ceramics class ended a long time ago and we are just about to start the Fall session. There were supposed to be 2 five week long summer semesters but at the last minute they decided to reinstitute the ceramic summer camps for kids. That meant I was able to get in only one session. The instructor was out for 2 weeks but we were able to come in anyway. It was really a bonus – paid for 5 weeks and got 7 weeks of studio time! Still my production was somewhat limited. I just now got all my pieces back (the kiln tech was on a summer sabbatical). Yes, I am still in my orb phase. But I’m slowly shifting from coccoliths to viruses since the pandemic caused me to do a lot of research on viruses…

This first one is a white stoneware clay body with a 50/50 mix of porcelain and white stoneware used for the decorative embellishments. It is glazed in Super T on the little “florets” and Grape on the dividing ribbons. The background is Megan’s Blue. It represents Navilithus BC, a coccolith from the Indian Ocean found Southwest of Java.

The second one is white stoneware glazed in the new formulation of Oribe. This represents the Human Echovirus.

Looking at the Flash

I used to make big ceramic pieces. And by used to I mean 20 years ago and big was the size of a soccer ball. Because I get 25 lbs. of clay with each ceramics session and I make about 6 pieces per session (maybe 1 to 2 pounds per piece), I’ve accumulated about 175 lbs. of clay on my shelf. This means that I need to use it up. It isn’t realistic to assume that I can make more orbs as they do take some time. My only option is to go bigger. So I did. This one is the size of a #3 soccer ball.

You see I was attempting to make a centerpiece for saintvi’s living room coffee table. She had purchased some lights and when they came it was a whole bag of them… She gave me one and I started musing how I thought they might work for a ceramic piece that was pierced. Next thing I know I’m coming up with all sorts of ideas (out loud even) and she gave me a second strand to experiment with. I decided that since she has seasonal pieces for spring/summer (non-descript for any specific holiday), Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, that I needed to provide an option that could fill in between times. Sadly I can’t upload the video (mp4 format) to show you all the fun effect the flashing lights produce in a darkened room. It flashes slow, fast, it strobes and twinkles or just stays on. It really makes a nice pattern on the walls and ceiling. It was my first effort and I seriously didn’t think it would work. I’m pleased and surprised! It is glazed in Royal Blue and Megan’s Blue in alternating stripes with Yellow Salt drips. When it came out of the kiln I looked at it and felt disappointed. But then my frame of reference is different than most. Everyone in the studio thought it was excellent. I thought it looked like it had been targeted by pigeons! Doesn’t matter – I still gifted it to saintvi as an early birthday present! As a bonus it matches her leather furniture perfectly!

Looking Viral

Last week was the deadline to enter a piece into the Student/Faculty Art Show. I entered a grouping of 4 orbs under the title “Corona Coven” which wasn’t terribly original. I’m pretty sure there are going to be several coronavirus themed entries. One woman has been working on a weaving that incorporates nitrile gloves cut into strips (powder blue, purple, and Pepto-Bismol pink). She was still frantically working on it last week (the weaving instructor is in my ceramics class). I’m anxious to see the finished product and I do hope she completed it in time.


The 4 orbs above are the grouping I put together. The first is a white stoneware clay body glazed in Royal Blue with Super T on the projections. The second is the Coronavirus that was delayed by the coronavirus. It is glazed in Alfred’s White with red enamel (Precious Moments) “room temperature glaze”. The third is a white stoneware body glazed in Gold Shino with Megan’s Blue applied on the spikes. Megan’s Blue is a new formulation that mimics the old and discontinued Chun Blue (one of my favorites that contained Barium making it unsafe for food). The old was very high gloss. The new formulation is slightly less shiny, but still pools nicely in any depressions making it a good choice to highlight any texture or pattern. The last one is a white stoneware clay glazed in Phil’s Celadon with spots of Reitz Green glaze. The individual titles are (in order): Norovirus, Coronavirus, Small Pox virus, Influenza virus.  I’m happy with the way they turned out, especially since the potential for breakage was very high! Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope the judge is impressed!

Looking Sharp

I’ve been busy in the studio. And the Kiln tech has been catching up with all the pieces coming and going through the bisque and glaze kilns. So lets get right to it!

This is a little coccolith I made in white stoneware. I glazed it with Super T with Gold Shino on the background. It turned out better than I had expected. The Shino tends to bubble if other glazes are placed on top of it so I had to be very careful when applying the Super T. I’m calling it a rousing success! This one is a little painful to hold as it is very sharp!

This orb was an experiment using a stamp set that I got at Christmas. The little daisy pattern stamp was used in hope that spring was really on the way! I used Gold Shino on the background and then Semi-Matte Blue on the discs. I was not as satisfied with the way it turned out but that is mostly my own fault. I was worried that the blue glaze was going to be too thick to be able to see the daisy detail – so I removed some of it. That resulted in the blue looking very pale. It is still lovely but it doesn’t match the picture in my head…

I decided to redo a previous orb that I had gifted to a former Xangan. I decided to use a glaze called Tomato. This glaze is a rusty red with a slight iridescence when it it applied thickly. I was crushed when the kiln tech said that there was some damage on one side – due to someone picking it up and then setting it down a little hard. Because of the many sharp points on this piece, it is not suitable for an area with small children…

This orb is a miniature of one I made about 20 years ago. The original is about the size of a soccer ball but this one is only the size of an orange. I glazed it in Mamo Yellow over a mixed clay body (white stoneware and porcelain). The glaze turns out a semi-matte yellow when it is thinly applied but is a nice green where it pools thicker. I call this one Puberty Revisited.

This next one is a coccolith, Syracosphaera exigua. I’ve replicated this one multiple times but with a variety of glazes. This time I tried out the reformulated Grape glaze with Shaner Gold on the “runes”. I think its lovely.

I attempted another coccolith, Scyphosphaera apsteinii, one of the coccoliths found in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. The clay body is white stoneware. I glazed the interior with Super T and used Phil’s Celadon on the outside. I am very happy with the contrast of glaze colors.

This is another coccolith, Hymenomonas globosa. This one is a white stoneware clay body glazed in Wood’s Blue. I’ve had trouble getting this glaze to work on my pieces but took a chance. You can see the really lovely blue in the areas where it pooled. My classmates all applauded the glaze on this one! I like it too!

Last but not least is an experimental piece that I worked on. I cut a multitude of little triangles in various sizes and wrapped them around my pin tool.  The triangles initially looked like tightly wound rosettes. After trying out a few different techniques I ended up with more conical forms attached to the hollow form at the pointed end. It was suggested that I attempt Evan’s Red glaze ( but decided not to because it rarely comes out red and instead is a murky grey). I went with Atomic Purple (looks a light lavender) which I applied very thin in hopes that it didn’t overwhelm the texture. Success!

Looking at What the Kiln Coughed Up

I’ve been back at ceramics and slowly glazing the backlog of pieces that I did last session that didn’t get finished before COVID hit. The kiln tech has been working like a fiend to get everything caught up. She proudly announced to me that my piece had made it in one piece. Hmm. Which piece was she referring to? I hadn’t written down the last couple I’d put in the queue for firing. It was a surprise! I remember agonizing over the glaze for this one. I had thought that I’d make each prominence a different color but since it is high fire my color palate is limited. I had quizzed the instructor and finally decided to make it easy on the kiln tech. The clay body is 3/4 white stoneware with 1/4 dark stoneware. I was hoping that I’d get less shrinkage since the dark doesn’t shrink as much as the white stoneware. I can’t tell any difference and so probably won’t make that effort again. I glazed with a concentrated Red Iron Oxide stain in several dilutions. It was a real tricky one to make but that is how I relax. I’m calling it my “Sleeping Hedgehog” orb although one of my classmates (who has a little bit of a sarcastic streak) wanted to know if it was a hairball. …