Katherine Houston Porcelain pieces are handmade and hand overglazed, which means that they will vary according to the artist’s inspiration and whim. Her original and unique porcelain pieces are one-of-a-kind objets d’art. These pieces serve as great centerpiece ideas for wedding or dining room table centerpieces.
The technique used by Katherine Houston ensures that her work is unique in the field, due to its sheer difficulty and complexity. Her work requires painstaking attention to detail and can be an extraordinarily lengthy process.
In order to create an ideal prototype, Ms. Houston will spend as long as it takes – often months – forming numerous models until she has created a single, ideal piece that achieves the envisioned form and balance. Some designs can take up to a year to conceive.
In the beginning of the sculpting process the clay is often weighed, in order to produce a base of a certain size. It is then wedged to remove air pockets and to align the clay’s molecules, which reduce the potential for cracking, as well as exploding in the kiln.
The base is sculpted by “hollowing out” the hunk of clay, making its thickness as uniform as possible. At this point the work is skillfully carved and sculpted by hand, and textured with various tools, and also with natural objects.
Next leaves, stems and other embellishing components are carefully added. When a piece is completely sculpted it is left to dry, and is now in the state called green-ware.
The drying process can take weeks, and even several months for large work. This stage is particularly precarious, as different components of a piece dry at different rates, and there is the risk of cracking and of components becoming separated from each other, unless drying is gradual and even. Pieces must be painstakingly weaned of their moisture – a process euphemistically known as “baby-sitting.” At the same time, when a piece is fully dry and ready to be bisque fired, it is brittle and chalk-like, and is in its most fragile state.
Pieces are then bisque-fired. This removes all moisture, and renders pieces firm enough to handle. Now in a state know as bisque-ware, pieces are ready to be high fired.
Pieces in their bisque-ware state are dipped or hand painted in a clear glaze and are then high-fired to a temperature of 2400 degrees Fahrenheit.
This step holds the greatest risk, for if part of a piece is too dense, if a sealed air pocket exists, or if air holes are obstructed, the piece may explode in the kiln. Not only is the piece itself lost, there is the possibility the explosion might damage other pieces in the same firing.
Upon survival of the high-fire firing, where the most horrendous cracks can appear rendering the price worthless, the piece is now vitrified, shiny, pure white hard paste porcelain. It has become a three dimensional canvas.
Following the high-fire begins the exacting and laborious process of hand painting pieces – in this state known as white-ware – with color over-glazes. The first coat, or base coat, is now painted lightly by hand and the piece is then low-fired.
To achieve desired depth and range of colors, pieces receive multiple coats of over-glaze, and each coat must be fired on individually. Houston uses a palette of over 300 colors, applying them with a laborious brush-stroke technique called “stippling.”
Some pieces require as many as twelve color firings, contributing to the lengthy and painstaking nature of the process.
When a piece is finished, its jewel-like colors are rich and vibrant, yet subtly blended, deftly shaded, and velvety in their appearance. If 24-karat gold is used it is applied as a paste at the final firing and then meticulously hand-burnished.
Katherine Houston Porcelain can be purchased or commissioned from her studio, located in Boston’s South End. Click here to contact.