Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Hair Reciever

What are hair receivers?
They are exactly what they sound like, they are things that receive hair.
You don't see them much nowadays (actually I have no idea if anybody else in this century is using one), but they were widely used in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Hair receivers are the pottery vessels into which ladies would deposit the clumps of hair from their brushes. These clumps would then be rolled into rats, which were used to puff up hairdos.
When I heard about hair receivers I thought they sounded very useful. I had been collecting my hair in a jar for quite some time and it didn't hold very much. My father was taking a pottery course for his sabbatical, so I got him to throw a hair receiver, which I then decorated. He is quite good at pottery and says he will start a website sometime, but he hasn't yet, so I can't leave a link to any such thing.

The top of the receiver, after decorating but before glazing.
I drew all over it with a thing called an "under-glaze pencil", which is a pencil that won't burn off in the kiln. My design is not remotely historical. There are 3 rat skulls on the lid, and 3 rats around the sides of the receiver. They look sort of like mice, but since it's a hair receiver they are rats. Rats and mice don't look all that different anyways.
Rat 1.

Rat 2.

Rat 3.
I made the third one a Borg. It's based on the drawing that I cropped my profile picture from.

A close up of one of the rat skulls.
The other stuff around the receiver is rose vines.

It took hours and hours of drawing, and a lot of pencil sharpening, but I finished it. Then Papa had to glaze it. There were several clear glazes to choose from, so several test tiles were fired with the different glazes to see how the pencil reacted to them. I drew Homunculi on the tiles.

Envy, Pride, and the second Greed.
The results were rather dissappointing.
Nooo! My favorite Homunculus has melted into a smudge.
He ended up using a different glaze, which still caused a bit of blurring.
The finished hair receiver.

The Rat Borg came out very light.

The other two rats were darker though.

The rat skulls were also lightened.
While the pencil lines aren't as dark as I had hoped, I am happy with how the receiver turned out.

The hole in the lid is for stuffing the hair through. It is the best way to collect hair, the receiver does a very good job of containing the clumps, which are terribly difficult to stuff into jars.
Since I have been saving hair clumps for a long time, I had more than a receiver full when the receiver was finished. I'm keeping it in a bag now, but I will make rats out of it soon, and then I'll write a post on rat making.


  1. Mira, your design is impressive even though the glaze blurred the design, it's still pretty darn good.

  2. It's difficult to find a glaze that doesn't react with the glaze pencil. The black in the pencil comes from a mixture of coloured oxides, which is why one of them turned blue (I liked the blue) in the firing (if one of the oxides in the pencil reacts with something in the glaze, you lose that colour). The underglaze pencil is perhaps a good way to draw on a burnished pot, but it's not the most reliable in terms of colour-fastness or sharpness.

    We'd have to fire some test tiles to check this out, but there are two approaches we could take to perhaps make the next piece better. The first one is to wet the surface of the pot a bit before drawing, and also dip the tip of the pencil in water. This pulls the pigment into the porous surface of the pot when you draw and it is less likely to move in the glaze when fired. I didn't know this trick when you were drawing on the pot (someone who draws on pots a lot told me about it afterward). The second one is to paint the image using stain 6666 (or the devil's black, as it is called). That stain will not change colour and it should produce very sharp lines. It's just that the brush is probably not as easy to work with as a pencil point. We can try some tests. But the clear glaze I ended up using is the least mobile of the lot, and it was sprayed on thin, to reduce the chance of running. All in all, for a first go at that kind of decoration, I think it came out very well.

    As a final note, since neither of my pottery instructors had ever made or even heard of hair receivers (and between them they have 80 years of teaching experience), there's a good chance we are the only living people in the country who have made one.