Thursday, September 29, 2011

Don't go crazy on China Paint if you are painting porcelain ceramic or (in my case) ball-jointed (BJD) dolls

My swatches in my earlier posts which were made on bisque tiles that were either unglazed, or glazed with satin and matte finishes have a collection of seemingly numerous colors. I personally think I went crazy over the colors, thinking that I should probably satiate my curiosity and save on postage by getting all the colors of the rainbow.

The colors and additives cost me a little less than $300 in my estimation, and I could have gotten away with just spending half of that. What made me want to buy from two vendors were that the collection from Jean Nordquist was already great for painting dolls, but I got curious about the offerings of Paints and Porcelain and the owner Earleen Rowell (link here) was so nice to have given me tips about painting on porcelain that I wanted to buy from her as well. I also wanted to discover for myself the opalescent additives her store carried, which would not be for the dolls but might become useful to know and have experience with for future projects. I have plans to make chess sets in the future. (Chess sets would still break! I'm working with porcelain!)

I would recommend that if you are going to use China Paint for painting landscapes, flowers and still life, that you might want to get a good selection of assorted colors. However, if you're going to exclusively work with porcelain ceramic dolls, then just get a few colors to start. Most of the colors needed are earth tones, and you probably need 5 colors at the most, just for subtle differences in the browns and reds. Even the eye color doesn't have to be blue, it can be earth tone as well.

I'm still out of town and at a cafe, blogging. :-)

Friday, September 23, 2011

MY CURRENT CHINA PAINTS Part 2 for Painting on Porcelain (incl. ball-jointed porcelain dolls) on MATTE and SATIN Glazed Tiles

Sorry these two tiles took a while to post. I was busy with my theatre group, not to mention I'm not yet making a living off of my ceramic works.

I think I should use either the matte or satin glazes, as opposed to just painting on unglazed bisque, although my ceramic dolls are fully shrunk and sealed prior to painting. Supposedly the china paint sinks into the glaze, and if the pieces are unglazed, the china paint would still adhere to the doll parts, but it might not be as good. I'm just assuming this. Next time I paint over unglazed, I'll try to scrub the paint off after the kiln stage.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'm out of town right now

A few months ago I volunteered to do the souvenir program for a theater group which I had joined on and off in the past. I finally finished the souvenir program last Friday at around 2 a.m. I met my deadline, because the Saturday following, I was going out of town for work.

I was so absentminded when I left. I brought my laptop but did not bring  my adapter. Luckily I was able to borrow someone else's adapter.

It is now Monday, and I'm still out of town. This trip will be over by Friday, when I should be back in Chicago in time for the opening night. However, I'm going out of town again the following day, Saturday, and again, I won't be back until the following Friday.

Only then will I be able to work again on my dolls, and my goal is to be able to paint at least one. I already got done painting china paint swatches over two glazed tiles, one has a matte finish and another has a satin finish. I had wanted to blog about the two new tiles, like I did about the unglazed bisque tile, but that will have to wait for another 11 days, because the only thing I would be able to do this coming Friday is to go to the opening night of my theater group.

The theater group was hard work, but unfortunately, there would only be three shows, Friday night, and a matinee and an evening show on Saturday. Would have been nice if it was a month-long run, but the producers had problems with the financial part.

Thanks to all those who just recently followed me. I hope you also don't mind if I follow you back.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

MY CURRENT CHINA PAINTS for painting on porcelain (incl. ball-jointed porcelain dolls)

     This is my current collection of china paint and some additives. Some additives did not register, they are supposed to be mixed in with other colors. While my initial plan is to color dolls, which pretty much do not need a lot of the colors above, I decided to have more selection, because I did not want to spend additional time and money on shipping, if I wanted to satisfy my curiosity later.

     I got the top 4 colors and additives from Jean Nordquist Dolls. It's the Doll Master Set. I had thought about saving money by just ordering a few colors, but towards the end, I realized that I should just get the Master Set, since I would continue to be curious about the rest of the colors they offer. (LINK 1). The last two rows are from Paints and Porcelain. This time, I chose a few colors, some of which I really just wanted. (LINK 2) Once again, I don't expect myself to use all the colors on the ceramic porcelain dolls. Here is another online store Colorific Porcelain (LINK 3), here is another Kathy Peterson's The Good Stuff (LINK 4), here is another Doris M. Ackilli Studio (LINK 5) and here's one more: Virginia LaVorgna (LINK 6). You can follow all the links to their online stores. I really just called the first two, because they were the first on my list. The second link, however, Paints and Porcelain, the owner Earleen Rowell was the most helpful, although she did suggest for me to use the Willoughby china paint I get from her on glazed, and not unglazed, and preferably gloss.

     The paints and additives you see above surprisingly total to about $300. Except for the last row, they come in what is called drams, they are like tiny vials.  The last row come in liquid form, but they are still small little bottles. The cost added up. Basically, there is no way you would want to order from all the stores.

     I used unfinished bisque tile, which I got from Dick Blick's. This would naturally be the first I could share with you, because I painted on the unfinished bisque. I did not just want to see the pigments, but I wanted to see how well they will stick to the surface without any layer of glaze.

     I have three more tiles, which I just coated with Amaco Clear Transparent Gloss (very shiny), Amaco Clear Transparent Matte (no shine at all), and Duncan Clear Satin Glaze. The reason I'm using Duncan Clear Satin Glaze is that it was the only satin glaze the store had. I don't (yet) have a preference for brands. I'll share the pictures as soon as I finish painting the china paint on them. There are two tiles at Cone 05 in the kiln right now, so I'm just now curing the glazes before I start painting china paint patches again.

     I'm thinking the effect will be different on the glazed tiles because the tiles would be sealed. The ceramic bisque tile above absorbed a lot of mineral oil. The mineral oil did not just float on the surface.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


The kiln top heats up, I place my coffee mug on it, and too this picture. It did heat up, but if it were plastic, it would have warped and spilled the liquid. I would not want to know what can happen, if the kiln is turned on to way past an oven's temperature and liquid starts to travel into it.

Making My Improvised Ceramic Stilt

A ceramic stilt is a base or a stand with pointed sharp metal, which look like the tips of sharp nails, strutting out of them. Stilts are used so that the glazed surface does not touch anything, because anything touching will fuse together.

During the first firing, when no glaze or paint is used yet, pottery can be stacked on top of each other. Their sides can also touch, in the kiln.

Ceramic glazes and paints are like powdered glass. Once the pieces are glazed or painted, the pieces should not touch each other and the kiln sides and floor. The coats will fuse to whatever they touch, so if two pieces touch, they will fuse together.

If you go to the kitchen and look at your ceramic plates (and jars), the bottom part of the plate which touches your table or floor, called the “foot,” is usually unpainted and unglazed. Pieces like these do not need stilts. The way they were fired in the kiln is that a single plate is placed on top of a single tray and the trays are stackable. The manufacturers do not need to fuss around with stilts. A piece that is completely covered with glaze or paint, however, would need to be stilted.

The problem with the doll parts, the entire outside surface has to be painted, or glazed, or both. If stilts are used, there would be minute points on the surface of the pieces where stilts would have touched them while firing.

The idea I had was to skewer the doll parts, so the metal would touch the unpainted, unglazed inside surfaces during firing. Whatever material I use, it has to withstand the high temperatures in the kiln.

First, I got a few feet of high-temperature wire from the nearby ceramic supply store. This is wire that is supposed to withstand kiln temperatures, not ordinary galvanized iron wire.

  Secondly, the best material I had available to make the base of the stilts was porcelain clay. I cut up porcelain clay into thick rectangular pieces, and because they were thick, I poked holes in them to make sure that they don’t crack or break while drying and firing. It took me 10 days to wait for the blocks to dry. I initially embedded the wire into the blocks and then took the wire out, because I remembered that the porcelain would shrink during firing while the wire would not. So I redid the clay and let it dry with major holes, where the wires would go through, and minor ones, where the moisture would vent out. I used round, thicker toothpicks and let the toothpicks remain until the blocks were dry.

After firing the porcelain bases (Cone 6), I threaded the wire through the holes. I was finally able to skewer the doll parts and suspend them while firing. I glazed two sets of doll parts with transparent clear gloss, and had to fire them in two separate batches. The first was more precarious, because I fired the heavy parts first. The second was easier, but altogether, this experiment with the stilt and the first glaze took more than 2 weeks. The shaping and drying of the clay took about 12 days, and the three firings took 3 more days. I’m blogging because I’m still waiting for the 2nd batch of doll parts to cool down.

I've also been busy with my theater group

I am a volunteer for a theater group here in Chicago. Supposedly, I read it somewhere, that there are usually 300 to under 500 theater groups in Chicago in any given year. I'm supposed to make the souvenir program, and take the program to a printer.

Theater groups are supposed to be fun. Tonight, I feel like I've stretched myself thin.

I have this doll project. By now, I have discovered that making ball-jointed dolls, or ceramics, is serious work. A lot of artists paint, that's a given, and not too many work with ceramics. What is "worse," is that I sculpt tiny doll heads, and make molds of small doll body parts, and produce porcelain doll parts from these. Most people who do ceramics can't begin to imagine doing what I do.

I have been stretching myself by volunteering for theater, and doing the monumental solo task of producing and promoting my dollwork. If I have to quit anything, it would be the theater group.

THANKS FOR FOLLOWING ME ON TWITTER! Please keep following me!

After just 14 days, I now have 450 followers! I kinda noticed however, that Twitter has a limited of the number to follow (2,000), so I need to get about just under 1,900 followers before I am able to start following again.

The alternative would be to unfollow some people who don't seem to be actively tweeting anyway.

Nevertheless, 450 in 14 days is a great accomplishment.  I noticed a few doll magazines following me, which I think is a vote of confidence. Now I really have to produce (eeks).

Over the last few days, I had taken picture and been composing a blog entry which I have yet to finish. I can't seem to sit around long enough to finish it. I have a few pictures to go with it, but like my other pictures here, I want to chronicle not just my progress, but comment about my pictures as well. I'm making things difficult for me.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the nearby ceramic supply shop, and that took a long time, so I was not able to do much else. I bought more high temp wire, and 4 frits which I want to experiment with. I also bought some glazes and a brown Amaco pencil. I think the pencil can withstand Cone 5. I also bought a clear satin finish glaze and a clear matte finish glaze.
I did two sets of firings in the kiln on two sets of doll parts... I wanted to see how clear gloss glaze looked like. I learned two things. First is that gloss glaze is too shiny. If the attempt is to make the dolls appear human, and appear to have human clothes (fabric), then high gloss glaze is not advisable. Secondly, the instructions of coating the pieces three times is valid, because one single layer is not enough to produce an even, glossy surface. I will present pictures of this stage soon.

I'm thinking of what to present on my facebook page, here so that the entries or pictures do not become redundant. Not sure what to do yet.