lessons by Claire Curneen and Dr Natasha Mayo

Claire Curneen – One of the leading ceramic artists in UK. Most of her works are porcelain figures and she loves using chinese ink to decorate her figures.


In the lesson Claire demonstrated how she usually builds a head. The sizes of the eyes, ears, mouth and nose of the head should be fairly small, different from the life size of human beings and their definition should be ambiguous. These are some of her works –

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We were asked to build a similar head then slip would be applied on the head and free style sgraffito for decorating. I started with a small amount of clay to build its base. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the size of the head which was far too big, so it inclined towards the front and there was crack under its jaw. Therefore, I put a big lump of clay underneath its chin to give support.


Slip application best works on the clay which is leather hard dry stage. The layer of the slip shouldn’t be too thin or too thick and the consistency of the slip should be like whipping cream. I tapped the slip onto the head. Avoiding long brush stokes through the surface is essential as they mix in the colour of terra cotta. I used wave strokes to covered the head, starting from its hair-line all the way to the back and continued normal tapping motion on its face. While the slip was still wet I started to do my sgraffito. A “keys and locks” pattern had been drawn in advance, then I used Photoshop to combine both the head sculpture and the pattern images together to ensure the start of my sgraffito onto the head provided the best vision.


Natasha Mayo – A figurative ceramicist, a freelance writer and also a practitioner and researcher in the discipline of ceramics. Some of her works shown as below –

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In the lesson Natasha provided us with a leg template and slab of clay then lay the template on the slab to cut out the shapes. Two oblong shapes of clay to form a preliminary shape of the feet. Slightly compress one side of the oblong to make it lower than the other side which should take up about 2/3 of the surface. To make the toes, at the end of the slope diagonally cut away some clay then make 4 cuts to make the toes, be careful of the proportion as the big toes should be the biggest. At the higher side of the oblong scoop out the clay to about 1 inch deep creating a seam line to slip-join the calf section. After the lower leg clay has turned a bit stiff continue to slip-join the thigh. Adjust the shape of the legs, paying attention to where are the position of ankles, knuckles, knee caps position then add characters and details to the legs and feet.

I shaped the leg by using a wooden ball tool – pushed it outwards from the inside. Because it was a long process of work, to prevent the clay turn stiff I kept spraying water on the legs. Finally, used plastic card and soft rubber kidney to smooth the surface.



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