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Martine Thérien has chosen clay to express herself artistically for more than twenty years. Her throwing studies have soon drifted towards sculpture. She has kept from this first learning the sense of form, repetition and usefulness. Each art item is handcrafted by pinching, hollowing out or coiling techniques. Some pieces have first been thrown on a wheel and then fashioned by hand. Captivated by clay's nature, she tends to stay as close as possible to the original beauty of this organic material.

She fires her pieces according to raku techniques and pit firing — at a low temperature — because she prefers to keep the clay tender, porous, almost organic. Martine Thérien favors particularly soft and satin-like patinas. This is a reason why a lot of her clay artwork is coated by "terra sigellata" (fine clay particles obtained by decantation) which are afterwards polished and smoked. The main theme of her work is issued for the best part from animal imagery. Nature and the loving relationship between all living creatures plays a primary role in her art.

In this fantasy world, fairies, gnomes, cats, goats and birds are evoking fairy tales and awakening our imagination. Heavy and sensual animals as buffaloes, bulls and rams are bringing us closer to the earth while winged-characters on horses are carrying us towards mystical lands where ideals overhang reality.

Firing Techniques

The "raku" technique comes from Japan where it's associated with the traditional tea ceremony.

Glaze-coated pieces are heated in a kiln until the glaze has perfectly melted and has become glossy.

The object is promptly withdrawn from the kiln with elongated clamps and is set down in a metal tub containing hay — or sawdust or even dried foliage — which ignites when in contact with the incandescent glazed piece. The fire immediately choked triggers a thick and dark smoke which provokes crackling textures.

If the glaze contains certain metals, like copper for example, the piece will show iridescent effects according to varying oxidation and/or reduction states. To fix the effects of those metals, the piece — still burning hot — will be submerged in cold water.

Primitive firing

Primitive firing is also a low firing technique where smoke plays a very important role by the varying and interesting effects it creates. It's made also from sawdust, hay or dried leaves, and must be fired at a temperature high enough to really penetrate the piece.

Patina

To create a soft and satin-smooth patina on the artwork, before firing the pieces are coated with "terra sigellata", which means "clay that seals", because it was originally used to seal containers.

Terra sigellata is obtained from decanting dried and powdered clay to which we added some water and a small amount of water-softening powder to enable the molecules' separation and decantation. The terra sigellata is actually the fine coat of clay which floats on the surface of the clay thus decanted. It is made from the finest molecules. After covering the piece, it becomes very soft to the touch and shines when polished with a chamois pelt.

The fine clay can be applied by immersion, spraying or more simply, with a paintbrush. Then, three or four coats are applied on the raw clay after which its polished with a chamois pelt between each coat.

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