Desert sunset candle holder

Many years ago I saw some beautiful votive candle holders in a store. I didn’t have the money to buy one at the time, and I didn’t have a camera to take a picture of them, either. There were two varieties: a desert sunrise and a desert sunset. The sunrise had a fiery pink sky that transitioned to a gradient of warm colors behind the silhouettes of saguaro cacti. The sunset also had a gradient of warm colors along the horizon that served as a backdrop for saguaro, but the rest of the vast sky was a deep purple, scattered sparsely with stars and a crescent moon high above. I fell in love with both of them immediately, but was drawn to the sunset one more. Even after fifteen years I still haven’t forgotten them.

Although the candle holders were made out of glass, I figured I could try to create my own out of clay. Sure, they probably won’t glow the same way when there’s a flame inside, but this would be the closest that I can get to having a desert sunset candle holder. (My efforts to find one online were fruitless.)

I took the desert sunset idea but decided to make the scene my own. I found some photos of desert sunsets, and used them as a guide. I took liberties with the terrain and plants, and the spacing of the colors of the sky. Those were all painted on in underglaze.

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Somehow the purple underglaze ended up looking more blue after firing.

I made sure to carve a crescent moon in the sky for light to shine through. I thought of punching holes for stars, but was concerned the small holes would get plugged with glaze and light won’t go through (as I’ve learned the hard way), so I didn’t do that. Instead, I carved out cacti. At the time, I thought it would be weird to see a glowing cactus, but assumed it would look like any other silhouette when dark. Now I wish I hadn’t done that, as a glowing cactus does look strange.

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A fiery ghost?

Aside from making a bad call regarding glowing cacti, my major disappointment is that the clear glaze was too thick, giving the whole thing a clouded look.

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This is how it looks when I didn’t increase the saturation of the colors in this photo.

At the time, I thought the glaze in the bucket was too thick. My first attempt dipping the piece had to be washed off. I even had the instructor add water to the glaze. If I remember correctly, he even watered down a portion for me, but I thought it was too thin and poured it back in with the rest of the bucket, and glazed my piece using that. Had I used my brush-on clear glaze, this could have been avoided, and the colors would be bright. There isn’t anything I can do now to fix it. Making another one isn’t currently an option as I have decided to take an indefinite break from ceramics. Oh well, stuff like this happens, and I’ve learned from it.

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