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Incorporating Metals Into Ceramic Sculpture

Sculpture metals low fire high fire underglazes stoneware

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#1 June Aries

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 12:18 AM

Hello, I am curious about the incorporation of metals into ceramic sculpture for aesthetic reasons. At my university we use mostly stoneware (although we can make or buy our own clay bodies) and the ^10 is the normal firing temp although we can independently fire at lower cones. To use metals with the sculpture they must obviously be bisque fired together- as they will be apart of the clay (there will be obvious shrinkage but I plan to accommodate that) I guess my question is, if I were to use stoneware (for sculpture) and fire at a lower temp say... Bisque at 06 and fire at ^5 - ^6 up to the melting point of the metal used ... Would it make the sculpture super fragile considering the stoneware wasn't fired to it's fully matured temp... Any suggestions on a hardy low fire (^5 -6) clay body, or what metal should be used... What all metals CAN be used? I am curious about bronze (which would have to be fired at an even lower temp) or maybe just tiny scraps of steel... These metal pieces will be small decorations protruding out from the sculpture- and I'm not even sure if this is possible, I'm somewhat inexperienced, but if anyone has any info I would GREATLY appreciate it! Thank you!
-June

#2 Tyler Miller

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 12:52 PM

June,

 

I think you'll find quite a bit of difficulty in firing metal and ceramic together.  The issue of shrinkage is one thing, and if you've got a handle on that, great, but I think that you'll find that bronze melts just around the temps of bisque, and flows a little higher.  In addition, the conditions of kiln firing would likely cause it to oxidize and affect your clay in unexpected ways.  This may be desirable, however, and if you search around the forums you'll see examples of copper wire inclusions in different firing techniques.  Iron will oxidize heavily even at bisque temps, and by the time you've reached cone 5-6, you may risk burning it in an oxidizing atmosphere.  Edit:  Stainless steel might be an option, but I've observed this to even degrade pretty badly in the wrong kind of atmosphere.  I've made some mokume from copper and steel sheet and used stainless bolts to hold the thing together.  After about 2-3 uses at about 1700-1900F (bisque temps), the bolts weren't usable anymore.

 

Firing a cone 10 body to lower temperatures will indeed give you less than optimal strength.  It may not be "super fragile," but it won't give you everything you're used to.  Glaze fit problems will arise as well.

 

If you're looking for wild, unpredictable effects of scorched metal and its vapour, you'll likely have a lot of fun firing them together with a body/glaze combination appropriate to your working temp range.  If you're looking for polished metal surfaces and contamination-free glazes, it's likely best to include your metal components after all your firing is complete.  Through careful assembly with glues, epoxies, or mechanical means like screws, anchors, or maybe even rivets if you've got a steady hand, you can likely get a mixed media piece that holds together just as strongly as if you were to fire both together.  In all likelihood, much more strongly, because the metal will be undamaged and intact.

 

Good luck,

                  Tyler



#3 Mark369

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 07:39 PM

I have used nails in low-fire ornaments and copper wire also.  Got some nice fuming from the copper.   Experiment.  I would put a clay plate or shallow pan under the items with metal to catch it if it melts and runs.  Can't be sure what all is in stuff any more.  


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#4 jrgpots

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 08:02 PM

A new specie of plant called Rinora niccolifea, was recently discovered in The Philippines. It accumulates up to 18,000 ppm of nickle in its leaves.  How would you like to make an ash glaze from this plant's leaves?

                                                            Ref  Phytokeys 2014; 37.7136   (just published this month)

 

Another plant is S. America accumulates gold in its leaves.  Miners look for the tree so they can process the gold-laden soil beneath.  I don't remember the source of this info.  Nor do I know if the plant grows in gold rich soils or if it accumulates and concentrates it; and in the process increase the gold concentration in the soil.  

 

Who said  "gold doesn't grow on tree?"

 

I understand this is "off-topic" a bit.  But it is a new twist on "incorporating metal in ceramics."

 

Jed



#5 Tyler Miller

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 10:22 PM

Very cool, Jed!  I'd imagine the ash from Rinorea niccolifera would produce some neat greens and blacks with the right glaze composition.



#6 MMB

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 10:20 AM

Well to start you could consider a recent feature on ceramic arts. It definitely caught my eye because I too want to incorporate a mixture of mediums whether it be during or after a firing.

 

http://ceramicartsda...lly-with-color/

 

Its even got me looking into trying out some homemade glass clay. (not really clay)

 

Anyways, Tyler is right. Incorporating the two together isn't going to be the easiest of thing to do. Especially when it comes to shrinkage. Most metals get nasty during the firing and can flake and give off nasty fumes. Ive done copper flake in glazes to give off greens at low temps and pretty white and blues at mid range. Reckon these were flakes from key shavings and after inquiring more I have chosen to no longer pursue the venture due to possible lead fumes. Being I have my hands dabbling on the glass side of things I know that they sell shapes and glass dams made of stainless that glass workers use without issue. Mind you though these forms are covered with kiln paper or heated and coated in kiln wash. But from a fuming stand point they dont seem to be an issue in affecting the glass so you can at least feel comfortable that a glaze wouldnt be affected. I could say any stainless could work, but if you want to go the extra mile you could find out exactly what stainless the companies use for those shapes. I was dumb and used store bought (home depot) non stainless steel to make a kiln washed dam for a glass pot melt. As you can see the steel did not fair well in my electric ^07 firing.

 

wt78p.jpg

 

If you find what works for you then keep us updated. I will say in closing though do not buy your metal from local hardware stores. Seek out a local metal supplier. You might have to buy a longer piece but you will be saving a lot of money in the long run. For example.... 2 x 1/2 inch flat bar that is 36 inches long I paid 45 bucks for at a hard ware store (yeah I know ridiculous) but at a metal supplier twenty minutes from me I could of got a 144 inch piece for 32 bucks.

 

:edit: I knew I was forgetting something. Duckweed is a readily available aquatic plant that is a good candidate for water purification and takes on heavy metals such as Nickle, Zinc, and Copper. Wonder if there would be a way to incorporate this into the water then harvest for ash production.



#7 Chilly

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 01:20 PM

I use stainless steel ex-bicycle wheel spokes for bead hangers in the kiln. They last about 3 ^6 firings before they disintegrate.

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#8 Mossyrock

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 02:43 PM

I have the video by Jeremy Randall from Ceramics Arts Daily.  He discusses and uses various metals in his ceramic work.  I think there are some excerpts from his video in the archives.


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#9 Bob Coyle

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 02:51 PM

Not much to add except I have tried to fire copper and steel incorporated into raw ceramic bodies and got the above mentioned poor results. You can get some interesting things to work at very low fire temperatures maybe cone 016- 08 but the metals will still oxidize and flake pretty bad.

 

I often wonder whether you could pull this off  firing in an inert atmosphere. I have a small test kiln I might be able to seal up enough (once the water gasses out of the clay) to waste a bottle of MIG gas and try firing to cone 05. with a glazed vessel.



#10 Tyler Miller

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 03:17 PM

Bob,

 

this may be of great interest to you, then: "Adventures in Argon Injection" for heat treating blades in kilns http://www.bladesmit...320#entry281533

 

Just recently cropped up on the Bladesmith's forums. :)



#11 Bob Coyle

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 03:54 PM

Sounds like what I am looking for Tyler. I wonder how much gas you might use in a 6 hour run verses then short time it take to heat treat the blade? He talked about 2 Cu ft/hr. for .22 cu ft. Mine is about .4 so that's about  4 cu ft/hr. 24 cu ft total. Should be doable with a small bottle.

 

Might also work as reduction is you added some charcoal to your glazes???



#12 Tyler Miller

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 07:58 PM

I think a little charcoal wouldn't be a bad idea.  Especially if the atmosphere was already approaching neutral.  Wouldn't be a bad experiment to try.  Argon's where I tap out, though, those guys are mad scientists in comparison to what I do.



#13 Bob Coyle

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 08:49 PM

 

those guys are mad scientists in comparison to what I do.

I'm with you there Tyler, Even though I am a chemist. Both ceramics and metallurgy are proprietary knowledge that takes years of hands on to really learn. I will try this method down the line though and I would love to brag that I had discovered a way to get a perfect copper red in an electric kiln... dream on. :rolleyes:



#14 Benzine

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 08:50 PM

I think a little charcoal wouldn't be a bad idea.  Especially if the atmosphere was already approaching neutral.  Wouldn't be a bad experiment to try.  Argon's where I tap out, though, those guys are mad scientists in comparison to what I do.


Funny you should say that Tyler, because I was about to call both of you either "Mad Scientists" or "Alchemists"....I would say "Sorcerer", but I keep that classification for John.
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#15 Bob Coyle

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 09:17 PM

You are right benzine... compared to John (and many other on this forum) we are both just sorcerer's apprentices.







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