Click to watch my process on Oregon Art Beat:
Oregon Art Beat, Ceramicist Babette Harvey, Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oregon is my home where mountains and ocean are within an hour or two drive from my house. It's not by coincidence that I live in a place surrounded by nature. The underlying narrative throughout my work is an exploration of the natural world, humanity, and environmental issues. Each sculpture reflects these subjects by combining nature imagery with human centered objects. Animals with planets and books on their head or women dancing on bears are a way of keeping optimism alive while addressing issues that I deeply care about.
China paints are colorful over-glazes which are traditionally painted onto an already glazed porcelain piece. I use the china paints a little differently. I do not paint on a glazed surface, I paint on the non glazed but fully fired surface of my clay body. I do this because I am looking for a matt or satin finished surface that looks similar to water color. China paints are semi transparent and take on the look of whatever surface they are painted on. My clay body being similar to porcelain has a slight sheen to it when fully fired and the china paints contain just enough silica to fuse onto the surface of the clay in the last low temperature firings. I also enjoy using china paints because their transparent nature allows the detail of the black staining (done at the bisque stage) to show through their beautiful colors.
I use slabs to create most of my work but in making the larger sculptures I also use clay coils. The sequence of my working is that I build the sculpture, let it set up until leather hard, and then I draw imagery and carve the designs in low relief. After the carving is complete I let the piece dry fully. When dry it is fired to the first low fired stage called bisque. After the bisque fire, pieces are stained with black underglaze which pulls up the detail of my drawing and carving. Pieces are fired again to the highest firing temperature 2100^. After the pieces are fully fired I apply colorful over glazes to the sculptures. This over glaze is called china paint.
Not done yet! After china painting I put the pieces back into the kiln for one or two more kiln firings at a very low temperature to fuse colors into the clay.