Hemlock Imprints in Ceramic Dishes

In July, I’ll be moving to Seattle, Washington to start a PhD program at the U of W. I’ve lived in Maryland my whole life, and my family has been here for four generations, on the same piece of family property in Annapolis, Maryland on Mill Creek off the Chesapeake Bay–so this will be a hard move. However, I’m channeling the spirit of my great-grandfather who left the family property and history up in Massachusetts with his Italian bride (quite the scandal) to start new and fresh in Maryland. I’ve found a creative way to preserve some family history and take it with me with my ceramics art.

Family History

My great-grandfather worked for the FBI in the ballistics department, started their gun collection, and researched the “fingerprint” gun barrels leave on bullets, leading to identifying guns used in crimes.

When he moved the family down to Maryland he brought with him seeds from hemlock trees on Lincoln Ave in MA, where the family had lived for generations. He planted the seeds on Orchard Beach, which grew into three 100 ft + majestic trees. Last spring and this spring, I clipped branches and made ceramic dishes with their imprints to memorialize our family history, and take part of it with me.

Imprint and “Wipe-back” Method on Ceramics 

1. I made a smooth dish, and while still very fresh and wet, I pressed the branch into the wet clay firmly, being sure to press each individual needle for an impression deep enough to hold the color later. I removed the branch – though any little pieces left in the clay will burn off in kiln so don’t worry about digging all the pieces out. Bisque fire the piece when dry.
2.   When bisque fired, use “cover coat” underglaze – basically colored slip- and paint heavily in all of the indentations. I make sure to get a thick layer in all the crevices. Let dry thoroughly.


3. I then take a wet sponge and clean water and wipe away excess underglaze – making sure to rinse sponge inbetween each wipe so as not to spread color unnecessarily on white spaces. (A little bit of this will happen, but as long as you keep it minimal/light, the imprinted parts will still stand out.)

4. I then cover it in a shiny translucent glaze, fire it again, and voila = family history memorialized in hand-made useful art to always remind me of Maryland.

On these pieces, I used Duncan’s “leaf green” cover coat underglaze and “celadon” Envision glaze over top.

P.s. I also engraved a little bit of the family story on the underside of these two pieces so others can know where these came from.


6 responses to “Hemlock Imprints in Ceramic Dishes

  1. You gave me idea. I am making multimedia flower still life using lace for flowers. I now thing I will use leaving painted on one side to make leaf stamps on the surface. On another use painted dry leaves.

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