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 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 Inflated

I decided to make a larger orb. To do this I use a technique that involves rolling out slabs of clay to 1/4″ thickness and placing them around an inflated rubber balloon or punch ball. I used to make these all the time. But it had been awhile. In my tool kit I had several dollar store punch balls. My favorite was a large one that when blown up was almost the size of a beach ball. I never took it to its maximum capacity, usually stopping at the 10″ – 12″ diameter size. It was to my dismay that upon removing it from the protective plastic sleeve and attempting to inflate it, that there was a leak. My first thought was that if the leak was small, I could patch it with some tape. But the hole was large – almost as if someone had bitten off a chunk. Carrying it to the trash was sad. We had been together for over 15 years. I was forced to pull out the back up balloon. The yellow one was stiff. As I pulled on it to make it easier to blow up, it disintegrated in my hands. My first thought was that I’d have to put my project on hold. As luck would have it I had a brand new, never used one in green. It was stretchy. I managed to get it to the size of a small soccer ball. It didn’t take long after that to get the clay around it and the seams smoothed out. I wanted to do this one with constellations but it wasn’t to be. Instead it was decorated with flowers and leaves. I did make it a pierced form and there is an opening to insert the lights…
I used a white stoneware clay for this one and Asian mums are glazed in Atomic Purple and the smaller flowers in Super T with the leaves done in Grass Green. The background is Phil’s Celadon. I attempted to use some underglaze chalks but most of them burned out. I’m going to touch up the leaves with some “room temperature” glazes since the Grass Green was a little splotchy. Anyway it really throws some beautiful patterns on the walls and ceiling when the room is completely dark…

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 for Ceramics

I was able to take home a couple pieces before I left on my road trip. The kiln was kind. The first orb is decorated in a paisley pattern (because I like paisley) and I was trying out a new toy that cuts out little paisley shapes. Anyway it was fun to make and I was able to finish it within a single class. Because it was the end of the session, many of the glazes were down to the last bits. I figured that was okay since I only needed a dab. Well, I should have know better after all these years. I got suckered again. Seems the last person to use the glazes decided to stretch them by adding a little water. That resulted in the glazes being weak and pale and well, not very vibrant. So although I applied the glaze in what I thought was a thicker coat, they turned out to be a pale imitation of the true glaze colors. Still it is a nice little orb made of white stoneware.
The second orb was an experiment using a new hand extruder. I used the die that made a star. Initially I was going to cover the whole orb with stars but I ran out of time.The stars were glazed with Yellow Salt, which being thinned resulted in an orange color. Not the creamy yellow I had hoped for but still an acceptable color. The swirls and streamers from the stars were glazed with Grape. This too had been diluted resulting in a splotchy blue/purple color. Not horrible but just not what I had hoped for. The majority of the orb is unglazed so it has a raw clay look and feel.

Looking at the Latest Art

I’m on hiatus from the ceramics studio since I was gone during most of the 4 week class extension. I did however stop in to pick up a couple finished pieces.
The first is Hibiscus pollen. I could only find one photograph of the real deal and the orb is my interpretation. It is made with a mixture of brown and white stoneware clay as the base. I glazed it in semi-matte blue with royal blue on the ends of the protrusions. It is bigger than my most recent orbs measuring 4.5″ across. I was very happy with the result.

My second orb is a different pollen Alisma lanceolatum ( a water plant) and although it looks a little odd in the photo, it is really quite pretty. It is made with the same brown and white stoneware clay mix. I glazed it in Gold Shino which is very shiny. So shiny that it is difficult to get a good photo because of the reflections. The centers of the raised areas have a red iron oxide stain dot. The dot went from the size of a pencil lead to the size of the pencil during the firing. Because the red iron oxide was concentrated, the dot has a metallic matte surface that contrasts with the sheen on the rest of the orb. The pollen is listed as ~40 microns across and my orb is 3 inches across. My rendering is much bigger than life size!

Looking at Studio Fees

For the last year all the potters at the studio have been required to measure the pieces they’ve made and placed into a glaze firing. Supposedly this was to determine the use per person and to collect data to support a new fee schedule that would require “production potters” to pay their fair share. The results were in. It showed exactly what we all knew – there are a handful of people who produce an extraordinary amount of work. And “surprise!” it has peaks that occur within a month of the major art shows in the area. After the little presentation complete with graphs and tables the studio management announced that the measurements would continue for another year BUT in response to the data they were increasing the class fees by $20 but giving us a bag of clay for “free”. I still have about 60 pounds of clay on my shelf. I don’t need any more clay. It begs the question, if they have identified the production potters why are they increasing the class fees across the board? Why not just charge the production potters the extra cost for hogging the kiln? If history repeats this is what will happen (mark my words as I’m going to come back to this post in a year or 2 and see if I was right): The fees will increase but we get 25# of “free” clay. The cost of the clay is either $16 for dark grog stoneware, $18 for white stoneware, and a whopping $20 for porcelain clay. After a year (3 semesters), the free clay will be taken away but the fees will stay the same. Then in another year they will bump the fees up another $10 or more making the class almost too expensive for the average person to afford.

Amid all the fuss I managed to get a couple more pieces back. First is the coccidia orb. Coccidia are a single celled parasite that lives in the intestinal wall. They cause bleeding and diarrhea that can be life threatening in very young or debilitated animals… This piece is glazed with Gold Shino with Blue accents.
The second one is one that you either love or hate – it is composed of a multitude of faces painted with varying concentrations of red iron oxide stain. I had purchased this mold for faces that was designed for making candy! No kidding. If you think it is weird as part of a clay sculpture just imagine eating little chocolate candies with faces!

We are in Orlando and heading to Universal Studios for the day. Harry Potter World is on the agenda. The weather is a balmy 70 degrees with sunny skies. I put on sunscreen just in case….