Dotted luminary

Back in December of last year when I was in my luminary phase, I did a Google image search for “ceramic luminaries.” I came across several that had designs made from carving dots, and decided to make my own.

I’m not as creative as many of the artists out there (look at this one—it’s beautiful), so I stuck with simple shapes. I used a needle tool to make the holes.

DSCF9252qDSCF9253qEach edge is about 2¾ inches long. I had made each face 3 in2 but the clay shrinks and it’s not easy to cut the slabs without having it warp in the process. That’s why the edges along the top are not even—it’s handmade. (That said, there are methods to keep the slabs even, one of which is waiting for the clay to dry a little so it holds its shape better.)

DSCF9254qDSCF9255qAfter the glaze firing, I was disappointed with the result, so I wasn’t even planning to post this project. The reason I decided to write about it was to show where I made a mistake, and what I have learned to do differently afterward.

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The only holes that let light through.

In all of the photos in this post, there was an LED candle inside. As you can see, many of the holes are blocked with glaze, so not much light can shine through. I hadn’t taken into account how much the clay would shrink. (I used B-mix with grog, which has a 12% shrinkage, if I remember correctly.) After the bisque firing, I noticed how much smaller the small holes had become. When glazing it, I don’t remember if I tried to clear the glaze from all the holes, but I wasn’t able to poke it out of the smallest holes. When the glaze melted during firing, it flowed into and clogged up the holes.

Although I did not make another luminary in this style, I have been careful to make larger holes and clear out the glaze from small openings in my other luminaries. After July, I decided to take an indefinite break from ceramics, but I will continue to share pictures of my projects from the past six months in posts to come.

Night and Day Celestial Luminary

After I started ceramics again last October, I got the idea to make luminaries. The design for this one is entirely my own.

DSCF7299qI started out with square pieces that measured 2.5 inches wide, but after the firings, it shrunk down to a little over two inches. At least there’s still plenty of space for a tealight candle, as I had intended it for.

DSCF7296qThe dark blue glaze is a brush-on “midnight blue” glaze. The light blue glaze is Catalina crackle (which is not food safe). It is a dipping glaze, but I brushed it on, because I had already painted the dark blue half. Since Catalina runs, I needed to leave the bottom quarter inch bare, and as you can see, it flowed down onto there. I actually needed to reglaze it, because the first time I didn’t put enough on, so it was too thin and didn’t flow all the way down. This was my first time making anything with cut outs, and I learned from now on I need to clean up the glaze in the points on the stars, because it’ll stay there and fill them up.

Here’s how it looks with a lit candle inside.

DSCF7308qDSCF7309qIt wasn’t until after this that I thought maybe luminaries would look better and brighter if they were white, because it reflects light better. After all, the colors aren’t that obvious when it’s dark. But I’m still happy with what I’ve made.

Beeswax Luminaries

Last November I took a class on making beeswax luminaries. It was my first time smelling beeswax, and now I can’t get enough of it!

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We were told to bring dried flowers, so I pressed a few the week before. The leaves were provided by the instructor. After the wax on the water balloon has cooled from the third dipping, the leaves and flowers are stuck on by dipping them into wax and quickly adhering them to the luminary. I believe you can also use colored tissue paper to achieve interesting effects. Unfortunately, I had some difficulty getting the flowers and leaves to stick, so they ended up getting coated with thicker layers of wax, making the original colors less visible. They still look cool when glowing, and that’s what matters more.

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We did have issues with the wax not staying warm enough in the crock pots of water, so the instructor had to take the pots of wax back to the stove in the kitchen. That explains the lumpiness and cracks on some of them. However, if you’re dissatisfied with what you’ve made, you can simply melt the wax and use it again.

Lastly, the bottom of the luminaries should be filled with sand before placing the candle in so that it won’t melt the wax. However, using a tea light candle holder serves the same purpose.

If you’re interested in making your own, here is a pretty good tutorial. There are some beautiful honeypot luminaries, and they float!