My work nearly always starts with uniformly rolled slabs of clay or extruded clay. I use earthenware (fired to cone 04) and mid-range stoneware (fired to cone 6). Both clays work well for slab construction of complex shapes while earthenware allows me to experiment with fine texture and sheer glazes. Stoneware with opaque glazes lends itself better to exploration of shape.
Slabs are cut and constructed at the nearly leather hard stage using templates to ensure accurate wall and roof alignments. Joints are mitered at 45 degrees and reinforced with coils. If I have any concerns about structural integrity, I make sure to use plenty of moist internal coils and dry the structure very slowly.
Texture is added to the smooth slabs after construction by troweling on scrapes of moist clay – not unlike troweling plaster on a wall. Further texture and images are added with incision tools. This lends itself to loose spontaneous marks from which landscapes and other images emerge. Hand-built birds – often crows or juncos – are added to some structures to further express a story which is emerging from the various scratch marks and textures. Color is applied after the bisque stage in washes of dark underglaze (to emphasize the texture) and overlapping broad strokes of sheer glaze. Various areas of most structures are intentionally left unglazed, creating even more contrast and complexity to the surface.
Structures are bisque and glazed fired in an electric kiln to their maturing temperature, depending on clay body. I often work in a series of structures with slight variations, not knowing exactly how a new design or shape will work out. The storytelling role of the birds in the structure is generally determined in advance, but more recently I have been exploring highly expressive and spontaneous surfaces that carry the narrative. This approach lends itself to making design decisions on the fly. The addition of wheels or other found objects requires advanced planning as they are difficult to add without thinking through size and attachment concerns.