Ceramic Pumpkin Box

When I started ceramics again last fall and was in a luminary phase, I got the idea to make a ceramic Jack-o’-lantern. It’d be much cleaner than an actual pumpkin and could be reused year after year. Since I was working on other projects, I didn’t get around to making my ceramic pumpkin until December, and because of a mess up (that I describe below), it wasn’t ready to take home until January.

I first made the bottom half as a pinch pot. Then I carved the ridges. Unfortunately, I made the lid a bit too small, and by the time I had made it, the bottom half was already too dry to make smaller. (I tried squeezing it in, but it was too late.) Still, it stays on because I had put a ring around the inside. (I’m not sure what that part is called.) After seeing how small my pumpkin was, I thought it would be difficult to carve a face on it, so I left it as a pumpkin and I like it better that way.

DSCF7283q

The diameter and height are both approximately 8 cm.

I painted the outside orange with “tangerine” underglaze, and then it went in for the bisque firing. When it was time to glaze it with clear glaze, I was applying wax resist with a brush onto the foot, but wasn’t careful, and a drop of wax resist slid onto the pumpkin where I wanted it glazed. It had to be bisque fired again to burn away the wax; otherwise, that part wouldn’t have gotten any glaze. That delayed it from getting completed earlier, because I had to wait for the next bisque firing, and then the glaze firing after that. However, after that incident, I have been very careful when brushing on wax resist.

DSCF7293q

The interior is the natural color of the clay (B-mix) with clear glaze.

I wanted the stem to be green, even though brown would be more accurate. I first dipped the rest of the lid into clear glaze while holding it by the stem, then used my finger to dab in the spots closest to the stem that I had missed. I used a brush to paint the stem with Antique Jade glaze, and I like how the color turned out. (The strange thing is that Antique Jade sometimes looks like a lovely aqua, but I’ve never gotten it to look like that. Later the instructor said it’s a bucket glaze so it shouldn’t be painted, only dipped, but my previous ceramics instructor was open to whatever worked. The truth is, it is harder to brush on a dipping glaze because it is thinner, and I’ve read that you can add gum arabic to thicken it.)

Autumn/Halloween Cookies

My boyfriend and I made cookies since we were having guests. He made the dough and did the actual baking. I rolled the dough and cut the cookies with cutters, and I did most of the decorating. It was our fourth time making sugar cookies together, and we had made enough mistakes the previous times to be able to get them very delicious this time. It was my first time decorating with store-bought icing and squeezing it out of tubes. The only other time I had decorated cookies before was with homemade icing and letting it fall from spoons.

P1080304cqThe green, black, and white were Wilton decorating gels. We did not know at the time that they take a long time to dry (like a day). Six hours later they still hadn’t dried so if you weren’t careful, they would smear or transfer onto other surfaces. I drew the faces on the jack-o’-lanterns freehand. Someone asked if I had used a stencil. It hadn’t occurred to me to do that. It does feel weird to eat something black. I kept wondering is that even edible?

Anyway, the cookies were a hit. Our guests said they were delicious and left with a bunch of them, so we didn’t have to eat them all ourselves (sparing us of all that sugar and fat.) I look forward to decorating more cookies for the holidays to come.

All the cookies we made that day.

All the cookies we made that day. My boyfriend drew the more creative faces.

Pumpkin carving

I grew up not celebrating Halloween, for religious reasons, as I have written about before. I don’t remember why, but one year my sister and I tried carving a pumpkin when we were very little. I may have been five or six years old, or even younger. We used one of those standard serrated pumpkin carving knives for kids, but I remembered it not being useful (or maybe we weren’t strong enough back then, or both). Then when I was in 4th grade every kid had to bring a pumpkin in to class to do all sorts of measurements with (find the weight, circumference, does it sink or float). We also needed to count the seeds. I don’t remember if I cut it open myself or if I got help from someone else, but I did not carve the pumpkin afterward.

This year I felt like getting a pumpkin to carve. I think of pumpkin carving as an art, so it doesn’t have to be something spooky (translate: ugly), and wanted to give it a try. I wasn’t sure what design to do. A generic Jack-o’-lantern face seemed too unoriginal for me, but since this would be the second time I’ve ever carved a pumpkin, I was thinking I should stick to something simple, and not try something too ambitious until I’ve gotten the hang of it.

Since my boyfriend has more pumpkin carving experience than I do, he started the process of opening up the pumpkin and removing the flesh and seeds. The pumpkin that we got is slightly lopsided, so one side looked better for carving than the other. He carved out a small triangle, for an eye. Upon seeing that, I felt inclined to carve a line of triangles that alternated point up and point down. I wasn’t sure if I would do the inverse below that, or if I could carve patterns of other shapes below, so I took a break, since my hand was getting sore. Carving pumpkins takes a lot of strength (or maybe needs a super sharp knife). After my break, I ended up doing the inverse of the pattern.

P1080362q

While I was taking a break, my boyfriend finished carving a face on the “front” of the pumpkin.

P1080359q

During the carving process, we tested how it looked by putting a LED tea light candle inside, but after we were done, we put in two actual tea lights inside.

P1080329cq2

P1080332q

After this experience, I’m not sure if I want to keep carving pumpkins. I might stick to carving candy pumpkins. This year, I carved pumpkin-shaped jelly candies. They’re stickier and softer than mellowcreme (the stuff that mellowcreme pumpkins and candy corn are made out of), so it didn’t turn out as well defined as my carved mellowcreme pumpkin.

P1080296cq

Unfortunately, it was hard to get a clear photo of the carved faces because there isn’t much contrast. Ironically, they’re on a Valentine’s themed plate. Oh well.

P1080300q

I even tried to get it to light up! Once again, it was hard to get a clear photo because the face doesn’t have much contrast.

IMG_9372rq2

The Mellowcreme Pumpkin that I carved in 2011.