Artist Spotlight: Sarah Marsh
We're happy to announce our third Artist Spotlight, featuring ceramic artist and writer Sarah Marsh.
With our artist spotlight series, we want to highlight artists that we've worked with who are doing unique items and give you a peek into the background process behind how these kinds of works are created. We spoke to Sarah Marsh about what kind prompted her to get into this work, what she loves about it and more!
What initially prompted your interest in making ceramics?
I really like doing things with my hands, and there's something really satisfying about squishing clay around. Sometimes writing just isn't enough and I have to get my hands dirty!
How long have you been creating these items?
I took ceramics and studio art in high school (circa 2006), but I never really got the hang of the wheel. After high school, I didn't touch clay for years. In December 2018, I took a throwing class at a new studio in Brooklyn, and I fell in love all over again. So it's been almost a year of proper wheel throwing!
How long did each item take you to make, and what was the general process from start to finish?
It definitely varies, but I can safely say that it's a multi-day process. With fresh clay, I throw a cylinder in under ten minutes. Then I have to let the clay firm up (we call it "leather hard"), which can take a day or two, depending on how humid the studio is. I can speed up the process with a heat gun, but somehow the only one in the studio that works has gone missing. The next step is trimming, where I clean up the bottom of the cylinder and add a foot (that little raised circle on the bottom of most mugs). I find this part of the process the most stressful! I always worry about trimming a hole right through the bottom, which would make a pretty useless mug. I take this step very slowly - maybe 15 to 20 minutes.
After that, I attach a handle. I can either hand-pull a handle or use an extruder. The hand-pulled handles can be really pretty, but definitely take longer to get right. The extruder spits out a long noodle of clay that I attach to the trimmed mug using slip, which is just watery clay that acts like glue. Now it actually looks like a mug! It goes into the kiln for its first bake - the bisque firing, which bakes all the water out of the clay at a temperature of about 2200F! This takes about 8-10 hours. After the mug comes out of the bisque firing, it's dry to the touch and pretty fragile. Bisqued pieces are then glazed. If I'm painting on a design, this can take a lot longer, but if I'm pouring or dipping a glaze, this step can take as little as five minutes. Once the glaze is applied, it goes back in the kiln. The glaze firing vitrifies the clay, making it sturdy and ready for use.
If someone wanted to get started making their own ceramics what would you recommend?
Look for a ceramics studio in your area! A lot of studios have "try nights" or introductory classes that will teach you the basics of wheel throwing or hand-building. It's so much fun and everyone (in my experience) is super helpful and excited to share their knowledge about this ancient craft.
If someone wants to commission you for an original piece, what's the best way to do it?
Hit me up on Twitter (@smarshtastic) or on Patreon )! It helps if you have an idea of what sort of design in mind, but I'm always up for a challenge!