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Decorating With Horsehair

Horsehair fire burning bowl

This way of decorating is a good example of the connection that exists between the hand of the ceramicist and the hand of nature. As the hair is laid on the piece of ceramic, you can just imagine Mother Nature drawing all those squiggly lines across the piece.

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Horsehair ceramic is made from a white stoneware clay that has been bisque fired to a lower than usual temperature.
This leaves the fired clay body quite porous, so that it can absorb the carbon from burning hair.
Later, the bisque is warmed up in the kiln to about 1300° F.
When it is removed, individual strands of horsehair, preferably from the tail, are laid against the hot surface.
If the temperature on the surface of the piece is just right, the hair will attach to the pot, shrivel up, and begin to burn.
If it is too hot, it will almost look like it pushes the hair away.
As the ash forms, a small deposit of carbon and smoke is absorbed into the clay surface, leaving a permanent trace of the horsehair.
After the temperature falls below 900° F, the pot will no longer accept the hair.
The artist will usually etch a design onto the surface of the pieces after the horsehair is applied.
When the ashes are washed away and the piece is completely dry, a paste wax or an aerosol furniture polish is applied and rubbed in to give it a soft satin finish and lasting luster.

Ceramic pieces available at www.koolsnativearts.com

Ceramic piece available at www.koolsnativearts.com

The important thing for a well informed ceramic lover to remember is that horsehair ceramic is not a form of raku ceramic.
The raku has a tradition which grew out of 16th century Japan and it is produced there today following the traditional ways.
Horsehair ceramic is a 20th century Native American tradition which, because of its simple beauty, has been adopted by other ceramicist who also do contemporary American raku.

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The first thing that you need to do, is either buy a piece of pottery or throw one of your own.
Pick out what ever shape you like, big or small.
After your piece is cleaned and dried, use a smooth metal rod to rub the clay and smooth it out.
Don't push too hard.
Begin to polish it in small sections with the metal rod, applying oil in the area where you are rubbing.
As you rub the piece, it develops a mirror like surface which is hard and smooth.
Wrap in in a towel to protect it from nicks and scratches and leave it to dry.
Fire it to Cone 07 or 08.
You can glaze the inside and sometimes portions of the exterior.
Put it into a raku kiln to be rapidly heated to 1800° F.
When it reaches that temperature, with thongs carefully removed it from the kiln.
Place it on some grass, leaves or straw to smoke the base of the pot and then wait for the piece to cool enough to accept the smoke from the hair which is held an inch from the hot ceramic.
As soon as it begins to accept the smoke lines, quickly hold the hair where you want the design.
This only takes about a minute.
It is really hot and must be done with protective gloves.
After it has cooled, brush the excess carbon off of the piece and apply three coats of paste wax to protect the surface from being marred by oils when people handle it.

Remember, horsehair ceramics have to be porous in order to absorb the carbon, so it can not be used as a water vessel.
It can only be use solely as a piece of art to spruce up your favorite room and to show your appreciation of Native American craft.

I hope that you found the information helpful and if you try it, your piece of ceramic turns out like you wanted it to.

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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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