Ceramics is a dynamic process blending earth, water, air and fire; it’s an art to transform the clayey soil in solid objects by a dehydration process which eliminates water from clay by heating and movement of the air, impeding clay to be ploughed back to its plasticity.
The process of manufacturing ceramics is really complex and unpredictable, as this art is in constant improvement based on experimentation and knowledge acquired during the process of creation. The precision and attention to every detail are essential to achieve a refined piece of art.
Magic Ananda ceramics is fabricated from white clay elaborated and shaped both by hand and using molds. The pieces are decorated with enamels which are applied by paintbrush using different techniques. Covered with enamels, ceramics looks like vitrified, and this surface makes the item impermeable, as the porous clay surface becomes sealed.
The finished artwork looks brilliant as its surface is once again treated with varnish, this time a transparent one. This process requires that the pieces be baked in twice in oven by cycles from about four to six hours under temperatures from 900 to 1.100 Celsius. This final layer seals the exterior surface completely making the piece resistant and solid for many years to come.
The process of creating ceramics develops in stages where each period has vital importance if you want to create an excellent piece of art. Attention to detail, cleaning of the artwork and a very careful treatment of the pieces when they are in a very fragile state, all these details make the whole process of production very delicate and thorough. Pieces are manufactured simultaneously at every stage, that is they are shaped, treated with air currents, designed, enamelled and baked in groups in order to fill the oven completely. Thus the finished items are manufactured every month or two months, by groups of about twenty to thirty pieces.
The ceramic pieces are created during a dynamic process of transformation of the matter. Each stage makes it change its composition and texture which evolve toward a final result. It is the last stage that allows us to confirm the excellency of both the engineering structure of the artwork and its decorative aspect. The engineering structure of the artwork produced and the process of applying enamel are deciding factors. A beautiful creation can result in an explosion of the item, or enamel can be faulty; thus a possibility always exists that some of the pieces would not achieve the high quality level necessary to be presented to the public. We keep these creations as samples which allow us to learn more techniques.
This distinctive ever-changing feature makes the process of creating ceramics very emotional and exciting. This process captivates and charms creative minds, it surprises us with its magic of final beauty.
Manufacturing of Ceramic Pieces
The process of manufacturing ceramic pieces must begin with preparation and proper treatment of clay. Creating Magic Ananda ceramics requires white clay submitted to a treatment. To this clay we add refractory clay, feldspar, silica and lime, among other components. The combination of clay must always be homogeneous; its texture will vary from liquid state to dough, depending on the method we work with.
While clay is still soft, we can add to the pieces additions, incisions, decorative textures. As soon as they dry, the pieces made of clay become solid, but extremely fragile. They call them crude pieces, because they have not yet passed through the process of baking.
Hand shaped pieces
We use clay in the form of dough to fabricate hand shaped pieces. The clay is submitted then to a process of preparation and kneading to equilibrate, assure the necessary water level and evacuate air.
As soon as the dough gets ready to be shaped, the pieces are processed in oven or by hand. They are assembled according to the design and engineering structure of the piece. The boards are joined together by a particular mix of clay.
After the item has been thus shaped and modelled, the process of drying begins. It should be as long as possible and the clay should be moistened assuring thus a better inner fusion of the artwork.
Pieces fabricated in moulds
To fabricate pieces in moulds, we prepare a mix of clay and whip it till we get the necessary consistency. Next, we prepare the moulds and fill them with liquid clay leaving them to rest for some time. Later we take out the excessive remnants of clay leaving the piece in the mould to dry for the period of time which varies depending on ambient temperature. Finally, the piece is extracted from the mould; we correct the flaws and imperfections before we proceed to final drying.
Once the piece made of clay is ready and dry, we proceed with smoothing its surface with a natural wet sponge till we obtain the smooth and crisp surface.
In ceramics, the ornamentation design is narrowly tied to the shape of the piece. It is necessary to equilibrate ornaments in order to achieve harmony in a whole. It is this composition that makes a ceramic piece unique and beautiful.
The first step to create the artwork is to make a carbon drawing on the piece. It must be implemented as neatly as possible. When the design is ready we choose colours and final details which are added in the process.
Enamel is an essential decorative technique of Magic Ananda creations. It is prepared using metallic mixtures of mineral origin which are called oxides. Enamel can be of different colours: blue using cobalt oxide, yellow using antimony, green from copper, orange when we use iron, black using manganese, white using tin. All together they constitute a palette of great fire, thus called because the point of fusion is extremely high.
The range of colours can be extended by friezes, that is combinations of these oxides by way of formulas. There exists a large variety of prefabricated enamels on the market, which makes it easier to manage the palette of colours according to our taste and preference.
Enamel techniques makes the piece impermeable, as the painting sticks to the ceramic surface and seals its pores. The colours become brilliant and the final result looks smooth covered with a glaze.
The colours are added on the crude piece, and different techniques exist depending on the effect desired, but at any given moment the paint must be applied homogeneously and in a faultless manner.
For the baking process, Magic Ananda uses a specific high-temperature electrical oven which can be programmed according to determined heating cycles. With high temperatures, security measures must be taken in order to prevent accidents and protect the ceramist’s health. The oven must be placed on a site where circulation of air is assured to prevent inhalation of harmful substances emanating from the items during the process of baking. All the operation must be conducted with dermic gloves, a mask and protective glasses.
The whole process begins when the operator places the ceramics inside the oven. For this, special steps and supports made of refrectory bricks are used. These accessory tools allow us to operate on various levels and to find better positions for the pieces of artwork. We can use thus the maximal capacity of the oven and the electricity in the process of baking.
First Oven (First Tour of Baking)
During the first oven (the first tour of the baking process) the process of baking of clay is under way. The paint gets attached to the piece and the total process lasts from four to six hours, the temperatures raising to nine hundred degrees Celsius at their highest.
Due to the heating levels, to open the oven, twice the time is used than that of the baking process. This time must be observed to avoid drastic changes in temperature which could damage and lead to cracking of the items baked or even make them explode if they are still too hot.
After this first baking it is still possible to make a few corrections and add details to the paint in order to make look better final adornments. After this perfect and homogeneous layers of glaze are applied on the product. It is left to dry and then a new charge of oven is on the way.
Second Oven (Second Tour of Baking)
The pieces covered with glaze are placed back in the oven. Now, the glass covering the artwork will be melt with the paint and the exterior surface of the artwork baked.
During this baking the oven charge is more delicate as each piece must be placed between metal pins in the manner that these pieces be suspended in the air in order to avoid direct contact between the applied glaze and the refractory surface of the oven, and avoid thus that the piece get stuck.
This cycle also lasts from four to six hours. However, the temperatures are higher than in the first cycle. Indeed they can reach 1100 degrees Celsius. This means that the process of cooling before opening the oven must be longer by one to two hours longer than the baking.
After an extensive and thorough creative process, we smooth the rough edges of the metal pins which were used to support the pieces during the second baking. After this we clean out the dust waste which is left behind after the process of baking.
We inspect thoroughly the artworks to observe and note any final details, and underline accomplishments and mistakes, all of them being a part of the continuous learning process. We send to the market only those artworks which comply with our high quality standards.
Finally, we make respective notations and take photographs of each artwork as part of registry and research as a means to improve these techniques.