China paints are colorful over-glazes which are traditionally painted on the glazed surface of porcelain ceramic ware. I use the china paints a little differently. I paint on the unglazed but fully fired surface of my clay body. I fire my work to the the clay body's mature temperature before I put the china paints on. The china paints are also kiln fired at a very low temperature to fuse them into the surface of the 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 firing. 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.
Oregon is my home where mountains and ocean are within an hour 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 on books with planets on their head or women dancing on bears are a way of keeping optimism & humor alive while addressing issues that I deeply care about.
I use slabs to create most of my work but in making the larger sculptures I also use clay coils. The sequence of creating each piece is this: I build the sculpture or wall piece and let it set up until leather hard (stiff). I draw the imagery and designs onto the surface of the clay and then carve the drawings in low relief. After the carving is complete I let the piece dry fully. When dry it is kiln fired to the first stage called bisque, meaning the piece is now hard but still slightly porous. The bisqued pieces are stained with black underglaze which pulls up the detail of my drawing and carving. After staining the pieces are kiln fired again to the clay body's mature firing temperature of 2100^. After the mature firing I apply china paint to the sculptures and fire again at a very low temperature just enough to fuse the china paints into the clay body. China paints are now permanent.
Click to watch my interview on Oregon Art Beat:
Oregon Art Beat, Ceramicist Babette Harvey, Oregon Public Broadcasting