How to Get More Saturated, Velvety Color When Working With Clay
"I'm not a ceramicist—I just happen to work in ceramics," Farrah Sit tells me when I make the mistake of calling her that after we'd been speaking for a while about the way she pigments her clays. She's not being brash, just humble (if a little more humble than she needs to be).
Farrah went to school for industrial design and is comfortable working with many materials from leather to brass, which she does regularly when designing for her brand Light + Ladder.
And while she's capable of striking design in many more industrial materials, it's the colors of Farrah's clay pieces that most enthrall me: deep sea blues and greens and pewter-y greys, in tones so rich you wonder if they're made velvet rather than clay. How does she achieve it?
It all starts with a bag of "porcelain slip," a standard clay base that Farrah sources from upstate New York. She and her team then color the clay by mixing in stains that are bought in powder form by the pound—a technique that grants them the most control over the resulting color.
As opposed to glazing, which is applied after the first firing and gives a piece a glossy colorful coat, using pigment "achieves a more muted color, which can be tuned exactly to our liking." It also means the color goes all the way through the sides of the pot, creating a soothing matte finish even if Farrah chooses to coat the piece in a clear glaze afterwards.
"You can see that it's fully saturated—that's the pigment," Farrah explains. Relying solely on a glaze wouldn't just look more translucent, it would also prevent her from making such custom colors, since glazes are commercially produced and therefore limited in their range of colors.
Where'd she come up with the natural, dazzling color palette?
I really like natural colors. With that color set, it was inspired by minerals—a metal, earthy tone (not earthy in the Arizona sense of earthy)... And we mainly use clear glaze, because I'm just not really into artificial colors. I grew up in upstate New York, where everything is neutral and being outdoors.
The shapes of her pieces, which are in keeping with her industrial design background, blend that reverence for natural forms with the geometric shapes they encounter living in Brooklyn. "It's nature finding a life in the city."
We're sharing this snapshot of Farrah's work in collaboration with WorkOf, where you can shop her teardrop bud vases and the cylindrical watering can from the image above (amongst others designs!). And for a slightly different selection, including the two pieces below, head to the Food52 Shop.
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