Knowledge

Creative Inspiration From Nature

Posted by on Nov 10, 2015 in Ceramics, Knowledge | Comments Off on Creative Inspiration From Nature

Even while observing industrial use ceramic objects, have you ever wondered where designers and manufacturers find their inspiration to create functional materials, large and small, which you may invariably be seeing on a regular basis during your daily routine.

It is one thing to say that urban art draws its inspiration from most forms of city and cultural life. But where have the original seeds germinated?

Perhaps today’s modern architectural designs are the best examples of this. In light of the concerted drive towards environmental sustainability, the best designs are not only aesthetically pleasing to look at; they also blend in creatively and deliberately with natural surroundings, particularly the elements.

Where natural inspiration begins

owl-287019_1280If you are just starting out as a ceramic designer at home, making mainly pottery, you may be the first to admit that you will be stepping outside into your own garden to take a look around you.

Researching dozens of art books and scanning websites for functional designs and ideas is one thing, but the best source of inspiration could be found right outside your door. The next time you do step outside; don’t forget to take your sketch pad with you.

Industrial design artists are mostly seen with sophisticated digital cameras to observe, view and capture precise interpretations of their surroundings. But the creative process of settling down on your porch step or lawn chair and sketching with your own hands what you see and smell, enhances your experience as a ceramic artist and will inevitably lead to the creation of something original which has the stamp of your own personality and feelings all over it.

Natural inspiration is far beyond your walls. So, set aside a weekend and take a drive into the lush, green countryside.

Become part of nature

Apart from closely observing, touching and inhaling all of your new natural surroundings, you could take the creative process a step further by immersing yourself more in these surroundings and wholly becoming part of it. Fair to say, most great artists have done this. Nature’s flora and fauna may be wild at heart but as the designated custodian, you still have an advantage, in spite of dangers and depending on how far you are prepared to go to satiate your artistic curiosity.

Of course, you’re going to have to be well prepared, particularly during the early stages of your creative journey. Depending what role you are prepared to adopt during your excursion, you could begin by visiting websites such as these to see what you’ll need. By now, you will have already packed your sketch pad, pencils, charcoal and, indeed, your camera.

Before long, you will have enough material to keep you busy throughout the winter months. Once you’ve finished crafting your first pot, you don’t need to wait long before the next idea comes to you. It’s already there.

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Creating a Safe Environment To Work In

Posted by on Nov 9, 2015 in Ceramics, Knowledge | Comments Off on Creating a Safe Environment To Work In

clay-figure-198644_1280One of the first exercises you will be carrying out when setting up your first workshop to start your new pottery habit is to make your working environment as safe as possible.

This environment is usually your own private enclave in which you can place as much concentration into what you are trying to create. But in the domestic environment, this is not always easy to achieve, particularly if you have a family.

Someone is bound to invade your private space, whether to call you in for dinner, or to proudly share a piece of good news.

Safety procedures

The most important safety aspect is making sure your work room is locked tight after you have finished up for the day. Harmful toxins abound in this creative working environment. So too, some of your latest creations which need time to set. Ventilation and temperature is also important, so make sure that these factors are set to specifications. Before leaving your shed at night, make sure that all tools are cleaned and stored away. Make sure that containers of paints and lacquers are also shut tight and stored away in hard to reach places. This measure is necessary when children are part of the household.

Creating a sanitary environment

Where cleaning tools and surfaces are concerned, make sure that the basins in which you do your washing up are properly sanitized and thoroughly cleaned up after utensils are cleaned and dried. Because the emphasis is on creating a sanitary environment and creating crafted goods that are unspoiled by harmful toxins and excessive dust particles, you could give consideration to installing an industrial use water softener filter. It’s also possible to install one filter for the entire household but ideally you will be using qualified maintenance technicians for this task.

The importance of clean water

It is not immediately noticed by the naked eye but water has an important role to play in the creation of ceramic products. To counter the harmful and poisonous toxins that are used during industrial manufacturing processes, the quality of water used is vital. On the much smaller scale of your pottery workshop, this is as important. Having a water softener installed will go some way in helping to make sure that your drying articles solidify perfectly.

It will also go far in creating the ideal sanitary working environment. To reflect on just how acute the problem of impure water is, think about those old baths and basins which had grime and rust stains on them. On closer examination, you may have experienced some form of irritation during your bathing ritual. These are the telling signs of toxic, dirty water.

Good health is important too

Pottery draws on all your resources, emotionally, mentally and physically. It is therefore essential that you make sure that you are in good condition for long hours of working alone in your shed. While you are about it, don’t forget to step outside, take a break and take in a deep breath of fresh air.

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Where You Won’t Find Ceramics

Posted by on Nov 7, 2015 in Ceramic Engineering, Ceramics, Daily Activities, Knowledge | Comments Off on Where You Won’t Find Ceramics

Where You Won’t Find CeramicsWe often talk here about ceramics, their uses and the different places and machines where you might find ceramics or ceramic components. But what about places where you won’t find ceramics? Porcelain and similar materials have their uses, and they are very good for a limited number of applications. However, ceramics aren’t any kind of perfect material without flaws or problems. We have addressed some of these in the past, and you can bet that among the reasons for ceramics not showing up in some of the places we’ll outline, you’ll be seeing a few old favorites popping up once more.

For one, ceramics are awfully fragile when compared to components made from metal, or even plastic pieces in some cases. Ceramics don’t stand up to shaking, rattling and other blunt force very well, though they do make for some good body armor thanks to the way they disperse incoming energy. You won’t find ceramics in hammers, wrenches or long pole saws because they’re just too fragile for such rough usage. Designing ceramic sheets to break and reduce damage from a bullet is all good, but you wouldn’t want your tools going to pieces on you during a project, so you won’t find ceramics there.

Similarly, you won’t find ceramics in sleeping arrangements like mattresses and box springs. Mattresses have been made from all kinds of materials, from fabric and padding to simple bags stuffed full of straw or corn silk. Some box springs are even made out of cardboard in the case of very cheap bed sets. But even that cardboard will hold up to the tossing, turning and rolling of a sleeping body better than ceramics would. That would almost be like sleeping on a bed of nails after you’d chipped or cracked enough of the ceramic parts, very painful and not at all recommended.

jugs

Oddly enough, while you’ll often find ceramics in the floors of buildings or rooms like kitchens and bathrooms, ceramics tend to play a miniscule role in furniture. It’s really more for dolls and figurines rather than chairs, couches or beds, though the latter was already mentioned above. A thick piece of solid ceramic material is a ton heavier than even dense, sturdy wood, so that probably has a lot to do with this. Being fragile doesn’t matter at all if something is so heavy it’s unwieldy to move around and use in the first place, right?

Well, these are just a few of the places where you shouldn’t expect to find ceramics in any capacity. It’s not quite what we usually talk about here, but knowing where you won’t see ceramics tells you more about the material, and it’s kind of an educational experience because of that. If there’s anything we love here, it is educating people about all the different applications for ceramics and the myriad ways to use them. But it would be silly to ignore the places where they can’t be used just to make a point or push an agenda, now wouldn’t it?

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Ceramic-Based LED Lighting

Posted by on Nov 6, 2015 in Ceramic Engineering, Knowledge | Comments Off on Ceramic-Based LED Lighting

Ceramic-Based LED LightingCeramics don’t conduct electricity like copper or gold components do, but it’s that lack of conductivity and resistance to the high temperatures which tend to come with active electrical circuits which make ceramics an excellent material to use as the base or backing for LED lighting systems. Ceramics don’t melt like plastic at higher temperatures, and they tend to be far more durable than their cheaper plastic counterparts. There is a trade-off for this boosted level of quality though, and it comes in the form of increased production costs and a different kind of fragility, though it isn’t heat, which is good.

For one, ceramics just don’t stand up to blunt force trauma or sudden, serious impacts very well. A set of ceramic LED lights falling from a ceiling some four meters to the floor below would probably be a broken, shattered mess where a system with a plastic base would have a couple of broken or loose bulbs but still work for the most part. The increase cost to manufacture ceramic systems over plastic ones means they will cost more for consumers in the store too, and the actual difference in price over cheaper plastic lighting sets is enough to push ceramic lighting out of strict, low budgets.

Compared to plastic LED lights, ceramic lights are also significantly heavier. The base material is much denser, so it only makes sense that it has more weight to it than the lighter, flimsier plastic. Barring any accident like a mount screw coming loose or the owner dropping the lights on the floor, the heavier, sturdier ceramic backing will have a longer consumer life and give you more for your dollar than the plastic LED systems. There are good and bad points about both types of LED lighting systems, but the best value will depend on what needs you’re trying to meet specifically.

If you’re looking for portability and you don’t care about the lasting power of your lights, plastic is probably a better choice for you in the long run. It’s nowhere near as heavy as ceramics in most cases, and that means you don’t need to do as much work to secure a plastic fixture before you use it, which can take a lot of time and work out of the process for you. On the other hand, ceramic LED lights are going to last longer as a given unless some accident occurs.

Consider the environment where you plan to use your LED lighting. If you’re looking at a greenhouse with LED lights specifically for growing plants, you’ll probably want to use a ceramic base because it will hold up against the intense heat better than plastic, allowing you to run your lights for longer before you need to give them some time to cool down. Last, but certainly not least, keep the price in mind. Ceramics are generally more expensive, but there can be some very costly plastic setups as well. If you do nothing else, just don’t buy the first thing you see.

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Hazards in dealing with ceramics

Posted by on Nov 1, 2015 in Ceramic Engineering, Ceramics, Knowledge | Comments Off on Hazards in dealing with ceramics

While pottery is considerably less harmful when compared to other workplaces, some of the materials used in pottery can cause illness and hazards. Knowing about such materials will help you avoid them and make your workplace safe, especially if kids are involved in the ceramic creation.

Children have for a long time safely played with clay and made beautiful things out of clay, but this has been possible because of handling the involved materials with common sense and respect.  Here are some of the hazards associated with ceramic pot creation

Lead poisoning

Lead is a very dangerous material, especially when ingested or breathed in. It is released from firing into air, when painting or glazing is done on the ceramic. Using a ceramic pot or mug glazed with lead in it can be toxic. Although most of the ceramics used now do not contain lead, sometimes the lead may be added accidentally which can lead to serious effects.

The lead in the glaze is absorbed by any drink or food that is acidic. Coffee or tea cups and serving dishes are mostly made of ceramic. These look beautiful and are preferred by all in both cold and hot weather.

Lead is used in such utensils because it helps to speed up the melting of the glaze, so any color can be added easily. If you are buying ceramic items while on a vacation abroad, make sure you test for lead. The test kits are inexpensive and purchased easily.

While ceramics are used in almost all spheres of life from simple household pottery to highly advanced space technology there hasn’t been much research on the hazards they produce. Even modern day mountain skis have ceramic in them to enable better safety and performance. Choosing an efficient Mountain Ski, helps to have a better experience on the slopes.

Ceramic paint

White color paint had lead carbonate in it earlier. Lead oxide was used to add red color. This paint when it is washed down by rain can contaminate soil and cause harm to children affecting their intelligence and also cause other dangerous symptoms.

Materials to be used with caution

The following materials are hazardous and should be used with care. Inhaling the fumes or ingesting them should be avoided.  While the materials do not generally produce any hazards when fired properly in glazes, you still need to be careful while using them.

Borax, cadmium, beryllium, cobalt, selenium, chromium, copper, potassium, nickel, zinc, vanadium and potassium dichromate are the materials to be used with care.

Toxins formed during firing

Materials such as chlorides, fluorides, sulfides, and carbonates can form toxic fumes when they are fired. Impure clay, fluorspars, gypsum, cryolite, crude feldspars and a few other materials have the above materials.

The ball clay commonly used in pottery contains dioxin, which releases fumes on firing. These get deposited in blood and causes serious problems. Dioxin inhalation occurs when people fire ceramic pieces in their home basement in kilns, which are not vented. Knowing the materials, and processes that release the toxins, help in taking proper precautions such as wearing protective gear, using right equipment and a proper studio for the ceramic creation.

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The Challenge of Mixing Wood with Ceramics

Posted by on Oct 20, 2015 in Ceramics, Knowledge | Comments Off on The Challenge of Mixing Wood with Ceramics

The Challenge of Mixing Wood with Ceramics

Ceramics and wood have a number of things in common. For starters, they have been gifted to humanity to use as they see fit. Fortunately, ceramic materials and wood cuts have been put to good use. At a glance, it may not be possible to appreciate all the inherent benefits of materials which have its origins in the earth. But do not be overwhelmed by such abundance. Simply breath in, pause for thought and take a long, slow look at your surroundings, whether you are indoors, standing in your kitchen or living room, in the classroom, on the factory floor or in your office cubicle.

Standing the test of time

After just a couple of minutes you will soon notice the positive impact wood and ceramics has had on your life. For most people, home is the center of their universe. Taking that into account, the observant eye notices how many American homes are still being built with wood, even in part. Also, no kitchen or bathroom is complete without its tiles which provide functional benefits beyond being pleasing to look at.

Where aesthetics is concerned, the use of ceramics and wood has been dominant throughout human history. Today, we do not even need to look beyond our own backyard to marvel at the natural beauty of its trees, even when bare during winter. One soon begins to appreciate that in spite of both the forces of nature and man’s own penchant for destroying things of beauty over and above creating it, wood can and has stood the test of time.

Art history

So too, ceramics. Ask anyone who has been abroad to parts of Europe or the Indian sub-continent, and one of the first things they will gush about is the awesome magnitude of both Roman and Greek architecture as well as the unsullied splendor of the Taj Mahal. And what is not seen in reality is visualized through literary interpretations rather than what is conventionally shown through camera lenses. One of the best examples of how the world of ceramics and wood converge can be found through the rudimentary Biblical descriptions of the creation of Solomon’s temple where cedar wood and marble (or plaster) were used abundantly.

On a much smaller but no less noble scale, finding the inspiration to do wonderful things with wood-cuts and ceramic tiles is not difficult for some. But for the rest, it could be challenging. Take heart that persistence and subsequently, invention will yield the desired results, whether building a new kitchen surface or working on a wall mural. If you are a beginner, also make an effort to source the right tools, such as the perfect kiln for sculpting effects and using a resourceful wood router ideally suited for beginners.

Create something new today

Whether you are a practiced artisan or beginner, there is no shortage of literature and guides on how to use tools practically and purposefully to overcome the challenge of creating something marvelous out of both ceramics and wood.

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