How it’s done || Christmas decorations

This post is dedicated to a couple of my closest friends….

I’m sure you have at least one friend like these ones – the loyal, encouraging, supportive and  brutally honest types? The ones that ask those tough questions most ‘normal’ people just keep to themselves?

At a recent catch-up, they commented about a recent giveaway I ran on fb – gifting one of my Christmas decorations (congrats again to RH on guessing the exact number – 382). My friends fawned over my Christmas designs but didn’t like the price tag. ‘Those tags would be easy to make’ was the exact declaration.

[ And all the hand-makers, crafters, artisans’ heads hit the table ]

With a small smile, I start to explain how each tag is made – lucky for you, here’s some pretty pictures to help you see the process…. (if you click on the photos, they’ll expand)

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Tools at the ready – Clay, water, rib tool, stamps, underglaze colour, sponge, needle tool, official stamp and decoration template
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Flattening out patty of clay
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Getting ready to throw the clay down – one technique for flattening the clay
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Ready to release
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See how the clay stretches and is pulled across the surface of the board…
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Clay is thrown out until the desired thickness is reached
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Using the rib tool to compress the clay, we run the rib over the clay on both sides.
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Using the template as a guide, I cut around it with the needle tool
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Creating the line of hearts is so easy with the template – running around the plastic helps to create a smooth line and consistent shape
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You need to work quickly at this stage as the clay’s moisture is absorbed by the board, making it harder to work with and more prone to cracks.
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Using the spare space to create some little rectangular tags…
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Pressing the ‘Servant Ceramics’ stamp into each tag
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Wiggling the needle top to enlarge the initial piercing.
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Removing the excess clay from both sides of the tag for a smooth finish
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Using the needle tool to pierce an opening up top for ribbon/string
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Piercing a ‘love’ tag
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At this stage, I now use a sponge to smooth all edges, including the piercing and cutout areas
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You have to press hard enough for a good impression, but not so hard as to mark the surface with the whole rectangle of the stamp.
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Just need the ‘v’ and ‘e’
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Each letter is individually stamped
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Painting the colour into the stamped text
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The underglaze dries quickly and I prefer using DECO underglazes – they are fantastic!!
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After the underglaze has dried, I scrap the excess colour off the surface…
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As this process creates dust, I wear a mask for protection
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One of my favourite moments – wiping a damp sponge across the surface to reveal…
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…smooth, clean text
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This task can be frustrating – if you scrap too hard, you can lose the stamped text and need to re-add colour
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Ah, so pretty!
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With the tags made, they need to dry out before loading them into the kiln for their first firing – to 1000 degrees Celsius.
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After their bisque firing, they are dipped into glaze. The edges and back are sponged again, ensuring no residual glaze is left as it melts into a glaze surface on its way to 1280 degrees Celsius.

After the glaze firing finishes, and the kiln cools down (often taking 12+hours), we take out the tags and sand their edges and backs to ensure a smooth, touchable surface. If required, we thread a ribbon through the top to complete the tag.

That’s how my Christmas pretties are made. Each tag, ornament and decoration has its own subtle differences – be it in their shape or text arrangement, the glaze finish or how they hang from their hand pierced hole. It does take time to make each tag. A lot of time, its a hands on affair.  They are to be treasured, displayed, hung up…

With love_2013_christmas decorations from Servant Ceramics
‘With Love’ – sanded and used as a gift tag.

And in response: ‘Oh. They’re bloody worth it then.’

Ah, brutally honest and concise. Love my peeps.

I hope this post helps you to understand a little more about the ceramics process and exactly what is involved when making seemingly simple ceramics objects. Oh,  if you’re really interested in ceramics, check out the mudcolony blog for more insight into practices and processes of studio ceramics.

With a big smile for you, Rachel.

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4 thoughts on “How it’s done || Christmas decorations

  1. I checked your Christmas ornament price and it is actually less than for similar type ornaments from another ceramic maker. So by comparison you can tell your friend that yours are a bargain!

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