Biodegradable Urns, Encaustic Painted

Biodegradable Urns are made with paper pulp and recycled clay. The surface of these urns are painted with encaustic wax and pigment.

I am categorizing these urns as biodegradable, because like my 100% biodegradable urns they are not fired in a kiln. The paper and clay part of these urns will break down in water, and in the earth. The encaustic painted surface application of beeswax and damar resin (tree sap) are not totally water soluble, therefore these urns should not be used for burial at sea. My intention for these urns is for natural earth burial, or to keep as a treasured memory for your home.

I have been making biodegradable urns since 2009. I mostly work with patterns and hand painted papers to create quilt like patterns on the surface, see earlier post here.  On these latest urns I am using the encaustic painting technique, which is an ancient method of painting with beeswax and earth pigments for color. See history here.  I have always been intrigued by this method of painting because of the layers and textures that can be created from the hot wax. It feels so much like working in clay. I am able to manipulate the hot, warm, and cool wax with tools… it is such a sculptural way of painting.

A couple of years back I took a workshop at R&F Paints in Kingston N.Y.  I spent a few days there learning the technique of encaustic painting. I brought a few of my tiny biodegradable urns with me hoping I could paint on them once I learned the proper method on wood and paper first. The workshop instructor was happy I brought the urns, and said that people use encaustic on clay tiles, so it would work just fine. As I began to melt the wax on the surface of the clay many ideas came to mind for the endless possibilities! I had so much fun taking a break from pottery for a few days and learning something new. I also learned that just because I am a potter/artist it does not mean I can just pick up a new medium and expect it to be easy. I gained a new respect for encaustic painters in those few days at R&F Paints.

Fast forward two years later. I have finally made time to use what I learned from the workshop. These new urns are the beginning of a new way of working with clay, paper, beeswax, and pigment. I am liking the texture and the earthiness that I am achieving.

The first photo below shows the urn freshly made. It needs to dry completely before I begin the process on applying the hot wax and pigment. The following photos show the finished pieces.

These small urns will hold up to 20 cubic inches, and measure 5″h x 4″w. They can be found on my shop page here.

Making the biodegradable paper clay urn LucyFagella.com

 

Encaustic Painted Biodegradable Urn LucyFagella

Biodegradable Urns Encaustic Painted LucyFagella

biodegradable urn, bottom detail

biodegradable urn lid detail Lucy Fagella.com

Summer Slow Down/ Making New Designs

The older I get the more I realize summer is way to short in New England.  So the past two summers I have taken a break from teaching, and slowed down a bit on production… working only about 6-8 hours a day rather than 10-12 hours a day.  I’ve spent many hours in the garden, on my bike, and just taking time to really see the beauty of nature.  I have focused on renewing my creativity, and took some time to follow through with the ideas that have been accumulating in my sketchbook for the past year or so.

Here are some photos of a new urn form and the process; from drying shellac resist design, then glazed but not yet fired, to the finished fired urns.  These new urn forms should be up on my website in the next few months.

shellac resist drying
shellac resist drying
Glazed but not fired.
Glazed but not fired.

leaf grid urn raindrop urn

 

 

Permanence/Impermanence

Impermanence in ceramics… an oxymoron, as potters we strive for permanence.  Pottery is fired to 2300 degrees.  Pottery marks time, it is what we find in archaeological excavations, telling us about cultures from long ago. 

As a potter I hope that my pots will bring a lifetime of enjoyment and use for the people who own them, and some memory of the maker.  ‘Functional’, ‘useful’ and ‘beautiful’ are words I like to hear when it comes to my pottery.  The question I have asked myself the past few years is this:  can I leave my mark, making beautiful, useful, functional pots without them being permanent?  In my biodegradable urns I feel I have achieved this. I am making a piece of art that is only meant to last for a short time, but this short time is of utmost importance… the transition from life to death.  Rituals surrounding death have always included art, masks, body paint, pottery, objects, song and dance, which are meant to transition the person to the afterlife, and help sooth the grieving.  In making these urns I am following these ancient traditions.  I hope that what I create in the urns is a balm for the living, which helps to sooth the grief.   

Useful Pottery… that doesn’t last

We are living in an age where so many things serve a purpose for a short while. Many of the gadgets we use are actually meant to break after a certain time period so we buy more, or the latest version of that item. Yet the materials they are made from last forever.

When I think of pottery I think of lasting forever,  yet I love to think of ways that clay can be useful and go back to the earth.  (More to come on permanence/impermanence soon with my biodegradable urns). For now, two things to share, a new biodegradable urn, and a wonderful blog post about clay chai cups from India!