Saturday, July 28, 2012

New Website for Out of the Fire Clay Sculpture Studio!

Hope this finds you well!

I've been off the radar for some time, but things have been happening behind the scenes.

For now, I'd like to announce the launch of my new website!  My friend, Steven Durland, who is a great website designer, got me started, but there is a lot to learn about the process.  (If you knew how small is my aptitude for this sort of thing and could see me at the computer now, you would be proud!)

At this point, I am still tweaking and have a lot to learn, but would love it if you could take a moment and check it out.  You will find images of my own art and information on classes and happenings at the studio, as well as my artist-in-the-schools programs.

To go there, please click on "Out of the Fire," below, or at the top of this post:

The url is:

There is also a blog page there.  Hoping to post more often and to do a better job of keeping in touch.

Please let me know if you see any problems or have any suggestions.  Your feedback is most welcome!

Thank you!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Perrin and Jenni 

Jenni and Perrin recently visited the studio and created these "Critters," as Perrin calls them.

Jenni's Leopard Slug
Beautiful texture and love those eyes!

Perrin working on an awesome beetle

Although you may not appreciate the real thing in the garden these Critters are pretty cool.

  This guy looks like he could just crawl off the slab roller!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Chameleon Contest! And the Winner is....

There were so many great suggestions.....but I had to choose one.

Rachel C. wins for the name


It's green, fun to say and something I like a lot!

Rachel receives a two hour clay sculpting class for two people, materials included.

Congratulations, Rachel!

Thank you, everyone, for participating. I"ll probably do this again in the future--there are other clay critters in the studio without names!


Friday, August 5, 2011

Can You Say, "Camouflage"?

As a former zoologist, many of my artist-in-the-school programs involve animals and their adaptations. Here is a video shared by my good friend and amazing sculptor, painter and master of other art forms, Cindy Billingsley.

From: Every Day is Science Friday, host Ira Flatow

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Name that Chameleon, Win a Class for Two!

Name Me!

When I chose this photo of a happy chameleon for my postcards for teaching clay sculpture classes, I had no idea how popular s/he would become. People of all ages have remarked that they picked up the postcard because of his (her?) great expression.

Even I still smile when I look at the photo.

Well, it’s time for this joyful Spokeslizard to have a name. Please send me your best suggestions and the author of the name chosen will win a 2-hour sculpture class for two people (includes clay and one firing) at Out of the Fire Sculpture Studio, in Saxapahaw, NC.

Anyone may enter! E-mail your entries to, or find the studio on Facebook: Out of the Fire Clay Sculpture by Cindy Biles. Deadline to enter is August 31, 2011. I'll post the winning name on Facebook and here in September.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Fun!

Summer Fun
14" X 19" X 14"

Just finished Summer Fun, in time for the new show at the Saxapahaw Artists Gallery, in Saxapahaw, North Carolina. Members of this cooperative gallery are the featured artists for the month of July. We'll have an opening reception on Friday, July 1, from 6-9PM. There will be wonderful art, food and drink, music, conversation, good times. Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mason Stains, Demystified - an article by Jennifer Hoolihan at Highwater Clay

This just in from Jennifer Hoolihan at Highwater Clay, in Asheville, NC. Jennifer and Les have helped me many times when I've had questions and needed advice on clay and glazes as has another great friend in the area, Paul.

Here is the article:

Ceramic Stain

Act One

by Jennifer Hoolihan

On your visits to Highwater Clays, you might have noticed all the brightly colored bags of powder neatly lined up in the stain aisle. Perhaps you were beguiled by the visual display but wondered, what are these? Good question! Read on, and we will provide a little clarity on the wide world of ceramic stains in part one of our tech tip stain series.

Ceramic stains, like the brand Mason Color, offer a rainbow of color for the modern clay artist. What exactly are stains? Simply put, they are manufactured colorants. Stains are compounds made up of different oxides and minerals. Metal oxides such as iron, cobalt and copper are blended with elements like zirconium, zinc and tin. These auxiliary ingredients are used to stabilize and widen the color range of the metal colorants. Each stain has its own unique recipe. Once the raw materials are blended, the stains are heated to facilitate the chemical reactions needed to produce and stabilize the desired color. Some stains need to reach a high enough temperature to fuse, others just need a good cooking. When the heating process is complete, the stains are ground into a fine powder of about 200 mesh and washed to remove any remaining soluble material.

The point of this extensive procedure is to make a colorant that is consistent in hue and also stable across a wide temperature range. Colors and subtle shades that are difficult to achieve using raw oxides are provided for with stains. A stain doesn't really incorporate into a glaze melt the way a raw oxide does. In a stain, the stabilizers act to protect the coloring metals from being sucked into the wild molten glass of a melting glaze. The colorant remains suspended as a tiny particle in the melted glaze. A raw oxide, on the other hand, hooks up with other elements as a glaze gets molten. These other elements, such as titanium, tin and boron and the atmosphere of the firing can have a profound affect on the color development of raw oxides.

Often times the powder form of a stain is very similar to the fired color, thus taking a lot of guess work out of surface decoration and glazing. However, this is not to say a stain isn't affected by the chemistry of a base glaze. Different stains are more stable than others. This is where knowledge of specific stain colors comes in very handy. Fortunately, the Mason stain reference chart supplies all kinds of useful information. Mason, and other stain manufactures, won't tell you the exact recipe of a stain but they will tell you the components, like if it contains cobalt, nickel, etc. Those random little numbers listed under the color sample give valuable clues on how to use each stain to its fullest potential and avoid unhappy glaze results. It lists how much stain and opacifier is needed to replicate the color shown in the chart. This is really useful since some stains are stronger and more opaque than others. It gets really juicy when you start reading the reference numbers for each stain. You find out which stains don't play well with zinc (most greens) and why your pink glaze fired out splotchy gray (not enough calcium in the base recipe). And why are there 6 different black stains? It's all in the reference chart. You still want to test, test and test, but the reference chart gets you off to a good start.

Now that we have covered the 'what' of ceramic stains, part two of our series will delve deeper into different ways of using stains. We'll learn various ways of incorporating them into your work with recipes and useful tips. We'll also get a bit more technical to increase our understanding of the ins and outs of the Mason reference chart. Until then, happy potting.