A Smithsonian Associates Studio Arts Course
the millennia, ceramic vases have served various purposes, depending on the
culture. Some cultures used them only for utilitarian purposes, others for
religious rites; and others as objects of beauty. For example, the Greek,
Syrian, and Turkish cultures adapted their architectural traditions into vases.
From the heads of gods to fully carved figures, these vases reflected a
departure from the traditional ceramic vases decorated with painted brushwork
decoration. In The Sculptural Vase,
an 8-session course, students have the opportunity to create their own unique
I sat in on Tuesday’s session with Instructor Alfredo Ratinoff. He kicked off the class by bringing out color samples students had made the previous week. Color samples display how finish coats, layering, and the glazing process react to the kiln’s heat, allowing students to get a preview before committing to their entire project. For instance, Cobalt will appear dry blue by itself but becomes vivid blue with a top coat. “The objective is to look at the variations you get with different materials,” says Ratinoff.
"If you don't have samples, you don't have a good piece," he says. “Certain colors change drastically in temperatures of 2200 degrees. Samples remove the guesswork.” He also points out that the real kiln (a 12-hour process) gives a better glaze than the test kiln (2 hours) used for color samples. He compares the different outcomes to microwaving versus slow simmering a meal: The result is a much richer, more vibrant color.