Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas eve, before and after

Kenny's painting, "The Holidays" 2005

Last night we hosted our annual Christmas Eve gathering with our family—now families. It was a wonderful evening. Kate and Ben helped me prepare a delicious Mexican style meal. Chris, Karen, Justin and Sara brought the accompaniments. Lauren, our only granddaughter, made a wonderful apple pie for dessert. Conrad, age 9, was his dear, sweet, happy self as was our newest grandchild, Reed, age 2. It was a delightful evening—we feel so very blessed!

A very quiet Christmas day today. Jim left at 7:00 am for ZMM. I tumbled back into bed as soon as I got home from the airport. In short spurts, I tried to regain control of the house—between naps! I munched on leftovers from last night at noon and again this evening—delicious leftovers.

The firing last week went well in spite of the light load. It took longer that usual though. I wonder if that is a consequence of the light load or a sign of aging elements? The cone packs all indicated a good, even ^6 firing. The BlackJack clay fired well—no problem with pinholes or crawling. I did have some trouble with uneven coats—streaks of thick and thin glaze. I want to give more attention to that part of the process.

Chris called me out to the studio last night to share some observations about my glazing. He pointed out that the pieces that had oxide stains painted on the bottoms were so much nicer than the ones with bright white, unglazed foot rings. He commented on how when one would put the piece in the dishwasher one would see the unglazed bottom and feel it was unfinished or crudely done. When he picked up a piece and turned it over to talk about the foot ring I was reminded of the Japanese custom of always turning a bowl or pot over to look at the finish—something most potters do also. And I remembered Euan Craig standing in his kitchen in Japan describing how he analysed how a piece would be used in the home when he was designing his new pieces--how it would feel to wash and dry the dish or pot. I have thought about Chris' observations a lot today. It is an important detail which I have been mostly overlooking. I appreciated his interest in my work and his concern to share his thoughts with me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

bones of my ancestors

Today Jim and I drove to Murchison, Texas, in Jim's 'baby' truck. It is a 300 mile trip there--and 300 miles back! A long day. We left at 6:00 am and were home at about 7:00 pm. We went to pick up 1000 pounds of BlackJack clay. Sounds like a lot of clay--but it is not such a lot--that is the whole 1000 pounds in back of the truck.

We had a wonderful visit with John Morrison, 3rd generation owner of BlackJack clay. As Tony Clennell said after his visit with John, "That man knows more about clay than anyone I've ever talked to." It was a very interesting and educational visit. I am wanting to get him to meet with some of the potters in San Antonio to share some of what he knows about clay and glazes. A very significant encounter for me.

Going up, as we got into east Texas, I began reflecting on my attachment to that part of the country. I was born in Longview, TX--just another 50 or so miles east beyond Murchison. I only lived there for 2 1/2 years before we moved to San Antonio but during the war (WW2), while daddy served in the navy, my mother and my sister and I lived with my grandparents in Jefferson, TX, another 50 or so miles north-east beyond Longview, where my mother grew up. Even after the war, each summer we returned to Jefferson to visit my grandfather until his death in the mid-50s. I certainly spent more time growing up in San Antonio than in Jefferson but I have always felt that Jefferson was my 'real' home, that is where my roots are. That attachment to east Texas is a big part of the reason I am attracted to work with the BlackJack clay. Unfortunately, BlackJack is not available in San Antonio, nor Austin, nor Dallas! Thus the 600 round-trip outing today! Tony Clennell was very enthusiastic about working with BlackJack clay and my teacher Diana says I will love working with it--and I think I will, too.

As I was reminiscing along these lines it occurred to me that with this east Texas clay I might be throwing the bones of my ancestors! (Credit to George Crane for the title of his wonderful book, "Bones of the Master") On Clayart we've talked a lot recently about knowing/mastering the 'bones' of our clay work--so this notion has a special appeal to me right now.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

a bisque firing

is really not very interesting. Just the necessary step before the glazing and the glaze firing--that is the exciting one to open. In this kiln load I have 3 large pieces (large for me) that have already been glaze fired but were uninteresting pieces. The pieces were nice and the glaze did not pinhole but they just were not interesting. So, on a lark I painted flowers on one with some Majolica glaze 'paints' and decided I liked the result better than the original. So, for this firing, I painted the other 3 pieces in a similar manner. I won't get any prizes for these bowls but I think I will be happier with them than I was before the re-do. However, I was thinking as I painted the last one they may be acceptable now but this is certainly not going to be my 'style'.

(The plate in the upper left corner is the one had I painted earlier and the other 3 large pieces are the ones I painted flowers on today and which are in this kiln-load.)

Otherwise, what I have in the kiln is pieces made from BlackJack clay. I wanted to try throwing that clay and I'd like to get some glazed before I drive 300 miles to pick up a 1000 pounds of it. That is a major commitment and I'd like to have some assurance that I will like working with it. This is the week before Christmas and our family's Christmas Eve gathering here so I'm not certain that I will get these pieces glazed and fired before the end of the week. Jim and I were planning to make the drive to BlackJack Clay in East Texas together but he leaves on the 25th and will be gone for 3 weeks. So I may be making that trip alone or looking for a road companion!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

on vacation

I just have not done much with clay. It feels like I am on vacation. I am slowly getting ready to doing a bisque firing. But I keep thinking of one more thing I want to put into the kiln. I have just remembered that Ben asked me to make an incense dish for him and I’d like to get it into this firing.

Diana’s little ‘sugar’ bowl sits on the counter. I can’t put it away because I take such joy in looking at it as I pass by. I have thought that I would like to ask her to make a little cream pitcher to match. Then I thought I should make the cream pitcher to match! So I may give it a try! Of course, I won’t have the same clay or glaze or sprig mold—but it would be interesting to see what I might come up with!

I called SACC to see if I am enrolled in Diana’s class next semester and was delighted to see that I am in it!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

a great day

This little pot is by my teacher and friend, Diana Kersey. It is small--maybe 3" all around--and will be our sugar bowl. I just love it--it makes me smile inside when I look at it! Some pots do that--but not many!

It was a great day because I got to run around looking at the pottery made by my friends and fellow potters. I started out at Clay Ole, the annual San Antonio Potters Guild sale. Most of the exhibitors are my friends from the guild and/or from classes at Southwest School of Art and Craft. There is a lot of 'overlap' between those two groups and it makes such a rich community--a treasure in itself. I loved getting to see the work of my friends--and I loved not having work there myself this year! Made me wonder why I am wanting to be a potter--I could just run around all the shows and look at the beautiful pottery--maybe even buy a piece once in a while. In fact, if I were not making pottery myself I'd have more room to have and enjoy the work of others. That is not really true. I am addicted to clay because I can try to make these beautiful things myself. I've always wanted to be able to make the things I love--food, clothing, babies and now pottery.

After my visit with friends at Clay Ole I went to the "Six Art Show and Sale" at Justin's on Main. That was a very interesting show as the "Six" artists each worked in a different medium. The only potter was Diana and that was where I got the wonderful little 'sugar bowl'. Of all work of Diana's that I've seen this is the first piece that I have fallen in love with--the first I felt had my name on it. I am really crazy about it!

Another of the artists that I knew was Jane Bishop who does beautiful work with textiles. She creates beautiful textiles by painting, dying, burning--yummy fabrics. And then she stitches them up into wonderful objects--some clothing but all kinds of other beautiful objects. I've spent a lot of years at the sewing machine and I think if I had encountered Jane before I fell in love with clay I'd have wished to learn to do what she does. Or to say it differently, if I had been able to do what she does with fabric I'd not have gotten involved with clay!

I had a fun chat with two of the other artists, Paula Cox and Rhonda Kuhlman, about the computer, the web and blogs. I was surprised that they seemed to shy away from using the computer except for email given what creative people they are and the creative work they had there to show. But maybe it is not so surprising. Using the computer is really not very creative. Of course, there are people who do very creative work on the computer but many others, like myself, use it like I use the sewing machine--not much creative work on either.

It really was a wonderful day! But it made me wonder if I am losing interest in my own clay work—because of my great relief at not exhibiting in the show. But I’m sure that is not the case. I have fought long and hard trying to conquer the problems I was having with finding the right clay (one that is viscous at ^6) and glazes to fit (no pinholes etc.) It was an incredible struggle to get ready for the show in October because of the high percentage of loss I was having in the process. I was just exhausted physically and emotionally. Now I am ready to change clay and start all the testing again. I’ve made some pieces with some BlackJack clay that Tony Clennell left here in March and I will fire it and test it out with some glazes to see if I am going to like how it looks under the glazes—assuming no problems.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

starting the new year, early

Yesterday I took my computer to Diana’s to show her my pictures from our trip to New Mexico. She is so dear—she probably had lots more important things to do but she made me feel like visiting with me was all she had to do in the world! After the picture show we visited a bit about the status of my clay work. And after a good deal of discussion we determined that 1) I need to change clay, 2) I should give up worrying about having my clay vitrified at ^6, and 3) I might try using Black Jack clay! Lots of big decisions.

After our visit I have made a couple of decisions. I called Black Jack and have determined to drive to East Texas next week to pick up my first load of clay. I had been attracted to using Black Jack clay way back in the beginning of my clay life but had been disuaded by consideratins of trouble—it is not sold in San Antonio—and somthing I was told at Armadillo (don't remember what was said!) And because I thought I wanted to use a white clay. It was attractive to me just because it is from East Texas—near where I was born and near my mother's home where I spent a good deal of time the first 8 years of my life. Diana said it is a wonderful clay to throw. And Tony Clennell was so impressed with it when he visited Texas he brought bags of it to the San Antonio workshop to give to folk who might consider using it. So I'm going to give it a try.

I also decided to enroll in Diana's class next semester at Southwest School of Art and Craft. Taking the classes at SAAC keeps me grounded in a certain sense. I have good guidance readily available and a supportive community to be part of. The downside to taking the classes, for me, is having to pack up my equipment each week to take downtown and then unpack when I get home to work, and it seems that we cover so much territory in the classes that it can become superficial for me—I need more time to work on the various parts. However, the way Diana described what we will be doing makes the class sound more focused—tighter.

The workshop at Santa Fe Clay was very stimulating and I am eager to begin working on some of the design techniques we were shown. But the first step is a lot of PRACTICE! Practice using my brushes on newspaper, practice drawing simple forms, practice trailing slip. I also need to do some work developing slip. I think the big problem I’ve had with slip trailing is not getting the right consistency. I also want to practice using the air brush for spraying glazes. Lots of practice!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

holiday in New Mexico

We went to New Mexico last week. I had enrolled in a workshop in Santa Fe and we decided to make a holiday of the trip and extend our stay through Thanksgiving.

To start it off the workshop was great! I had worried that perhaps I had been foolish in thinking it would be worth the trouble and expense it cost. But actually it was so much more than I imagined when I first read about it. The instructor, Betsy Williams, is a graduate of
St. John’s College in Santa Fe. She spent 5 years as an apprentice in Japan. Then returned to New Mexico where she built her home (herself) and her wood firing kiln—which took 2 years to complete. Her focus in this workshop was decorating ware with traditional Japanese techniques—it was very inspiring and I am itching to get into the studio and practice/learn to apply some of what she demonstrated this weekend.

The minute the workshop was over Sunday afternoon we took off north to visit our friends, Johanne and Carl, who live outside Penasco, just south of Taos in the mountains. They, too, built their own home with their own hands. Carl is an incredible wood worker and made all the furniture (tables, chairs, stools, cabinets—kitchen and bath—doors, chests-of-drawers (3), and gorgeous head-board for their bed. Each piece is a work of art—beautiful work. He has also made doors and cabinets for neighbors’ homes—as well as furniture that he sells at the local studio tour each year. They had just returned from a month in Peru—and had wonderful tales to tell of that trip.

On Tuesday they took us to visit a potter friend, Shel Neymark, and his wife, Liz. They, too, built their home and guest house with their own 2 hands! Shel made all the tile work in the house—gorgeous! As well as floor and table lamps and wall sconces! They have Carl’s cabinetry in the bath and the kitchen and Carl's doors throughout their house. They are living in the guest house right now and renting out the main house—but the renter was out of town so we got to see it, too. And Shel's studio with his wonderful ceramic floor lamps and a whimiscal coffee service!

Then, to top it all off, they have a cave in the side of the mountain behind their house! A friend suggested that for $2000 and 2 months he could carve out a guest house in the side of the mountain—and they took him up on the offer—it took 6 months—don’t know about the dollars! It can’t be described—carved into the side of the mountain (sandstone) with gothic type ceilings there are 4 or 5 rooms—depends on how you count the spaces. An entry hall, main room with 2 story high ceiling, kitchenette, bathroom with gorgeous tile work, meditation room, and upstairs (!) a bed room with overhead carving! Shel is also a musician (as is Carl) and has all manner of musical instruments there because of the incredible acoustics. The ‘cave’ has electricity and running water! There are three of the 'seats' you see Jim enjoying below. The next picture is of the bath tub! Of course, those are Shel's tiles!

Wednesday Johanne and Carl left to celebrate Thanksgiving with their family and turned their house over to us. Wednesday we made our trip to Taos. A nice day—but nothing to compare to our experiences in Penasco! Thursday we spent there at Johanne and Carl’s—in retreat!

Then made the LONG trip home on Friday. We left Penasco about 8:00 am and arrived in San Antonio about 11:00 pm! A couple of detours along the way made for a very LONG day in the car.

Hope your holiday was especially nice, too!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Empty Bowls

Sunday, November 12, 2006 San Antonio Potters Guild presented "Empty Bowls 2006" on the grounds of the Southwest School of Art and Craft. SAPG members donated over 1000 bowls to raise funds for SAMMinisteries--a local program to feed and provide temporary housing for the homeless. It was a georgeous day and we were overwhelmed by the community turn-out--we ran out of bowls--the first time in our 7 years of sponsoring Empty Bowls. For $15 the patrons select one of the bowls and then are given bread and their choice of one the fabulous soups provided by some of San Antonio's finest restraunts. It is a good deal--there are many beautiful bowls to select from and at $15 each a terrific bargin.

I was serving as a cashier. At one point a woman paying for her bowl athe next cashier's station said, "Gay Judson". I looked over expecting to see an old friend but I did not recognize her. Then she exclaimed that she had just bought one of my bowls and was excited to meet the potter. Well, we had a good laugh over her enthusiasm. Then she asked if I would sign her pot. I pointed out that the pot was signed on the bottom. But she wanted it signed with a pen--so she could show that she had met the potter! We laughed and sent her on her way--long lines forming behind her. In a few minutes she was back with a Sharpie pen and a photographer! The photographer was my dear teacher, Diana Kersey, who was getting as big a kick out of this as we were. So I signed her pot and Diana took the picture. Very flattering to an immature potter!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

just right, sometimes

Well, sometimes things come out just right! And that is how I feel about this little handled bowl.

Sheila Clennell is responsible for my success. She put out a wonderful DVD on making cane handles. Then yesterday when I was trying my hand at the process I encountered real problems. I sent an SOS note to Sheila and she responded immediately and told me what the problem was--I had the wrong material--and how to solve it! I am so pleased with the result that I plan to make a few more before the guild sale in December.

I took the newly handled bowl filled with chocolate-covered-maraschino-cherry chocolate cookies to a dinner gathering honoring a friend of ours visiting from San Francisco. The bowl was the perfect container for the cookies! What fun.

At the dinner party I met a couple, new to San Antonio, who are both potters. Not professional potters but very accomplished potters. Each has had full time occupations as well as raising a family which have limited the time available for clay work. But now 'she' is retired and is spending her free time taking classes at Southwest School of Art and Craft. He is still working so does not have a lot of 'free' time but is already a very accomplished craftsman. They both had the opportunity to study under Charles Counts in the '70s. 'He' was telling me what a philosopher Counts was and how they enjoyed getting into philosophical discussions starting from consideration of the various meanings of 'centering'--building on the same concepts M C Richards developed so well, perhaps. I really enjoyed the encounter and look forward to more ceramic exchanges.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

back in the saddle again...

Sometimes, when I've been at the wheel for a long period of throwing, I feel like I'm getting off the saddle--and I am not comfortable on horseback!

These last week has been very busy with family commitments and responsibilities. So that besides the slow-down from fatigue I've also had trouble finding time to be at the wheel. None-the-less, I've managed to get a kiln load ready for a bisque firing as seen in the photo. Mostly these are pieces for the upcoming Empty Bowls event on November 12--hopefully! And I have a group of glaze test bowls which I threw off the hump and most have 's' cracks in the bottoms because I have not learned the trick of compressing the base on the hump.

Yesterday I spent wandering through the exhibits at the Texas Clay Festival in Gurene, Texas. A beautiful day, cool and sunny, and wonderful work on display. It was so stimulating that I felt myself wanting to race home to get to work in my studio. Of course, it was too late by the time I did get home. But not too late to open the DVDs I bought from David Hendley on extruding! I don't have an extruder, yet! But I just love watching someone work with clay and he is so comfortable with the clay and his processes it is great to watch. I bumped into a friend yesterday and she mentioned that she has had to close down her studio for a while and has an extruder she would loan me. So I'll get to try out some of David's suggestions and see if I will want to invest in an extruder.

So I'm back in the saddle again...

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Well, I am beginning to wonder about my passion for clay! It seems that I spend more time being discouraged than enthused. I’m pretty discouraged right now. Partly because of fatigue—it was a very busy couple of weeks leading up to the festival and a very busy weekend—even Monday was a full day. I rested all day Tuesday and somewhat today. Finally, I have begun to try to put the studio back into order—but only just begun. It was a mess. When we took the shelves out we exposed a lot of dried mud from earlier rains and floods. So today I washed that down—and the huge glaze spill I made during my mad rush to get ware ready for the festival. And I set out a LOT of bowls to take over to GoodWill. I’d like to have nothing to apologize for in the studio or in the kitchen!

Sunday, October 22, 2006
Still working on getting the studio and the sewing room—the access to the studio—in to some kind of order. When the studio over-flows with work, it overflows in to the sewing room. So for the last couple of days I’ve tried to reorganize the studio and the sewing room. The studio is in pretty good shape but the sewing room still has the dregs of things I don’t know what to do with from the studio. Yesterday I threw 3 large bowls hoping to come up with some adequate for the ‘donor bowls’ for thank-yous for Empty Bowls. Have 3 nice bowls potentially!

Today I trimmed those bowls—looking good. And then I threw 8 small rice bowls off the hump to be test bowls for the Cinco Blanco clay I am using now.

Thursday evening Jim and I went to the opening of a show of Paul Northway's work at the library. It was nice work, we bought a piece, and very interesting process. Paul said he fired some of the pieces 5 or 6 times at different temperatures! Well that is a lesson for me! So today I took one of the pieces that I fired in the last days before the North Park Festival on October 14 that I was not happy with and I painted flowers over the existing finish using Amaco’s Majolica glaze--a cone 04 glaze. I will fire it with my next bisque firing.

If it comes out well I'll repeat the process on 3 other pieces that were glazed similarly to this one.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

it did rain

but not too much and many came out in spite of the bleak day to participate in the craft and music festival at North Park Presbyterian Church yesterday. I am so grateful to my dear friends and family who did come to see my wares and support my project! I also very much enjoyed having Catherine (Cat) Bani-Yassin in the space next to me and Toni Cheshire next to Cat—both members of the San Antonio Potters Guild. We had wonderful, intermittent chats through the day that made it very special—and shorter!

Setting up outside is much more challenging than inside. In the first place, I could not put up my canopy (the David Gordon kindly gave me) by myself. Even with Jim we appreciated the help of fellow exhibitors. And my shelves that we bought last year and which worked so well inside are very unstable outside on the soft grassy turf. I was amazed watching how independent Cat is and how well she has arranged her display so that she can be independent.

I am really exhausted today. It feels like I've been running a marathon for the past month trying to get to yesterday! And once I clean the studio and unpack everything I brought home from the craft fair, I will begin another marathon to get to Clay Ole—the San Antonio Potters Guild ceramic sale—December 9! The challenge was not just fabricating an inventory but overcoming (I hope) the several serious problems I was having with my clay/glaze fit. Hopefully, the next race will be a smoother run!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I Got Pumpkins

Well, some things are going well (at last) and some are not (still). The pumpkins came out great, in my humble opinion! I anguished over getting an orange glaze for them. I did not have time to 'test' the ultimate mix of glaze and colorant before glazing the whole bunch. So I had my fingers crossed when I loaded them all into the kiln. I was delighted when I emptied the kiln and found orange pumpkins!

Then on the other side of the coin...I woke very early (3:30 am) eager to open the kiln and get it re-loaded. It was not quite cool enough to open yet so I went back to bed but could not sleep. After an hour I went out and opened the lid just to peek in. Oh, horrors...the cone pack had exploded and EVERY piece on the top shelf had trash fused into the center of it. I closed the kiln and went back to bed--maybe to just give up! But after a bit of withdrawal I mustered up the courage to empty the kiln and see what else was destroyed. Fortunately, the other 2 cone packs had not exploded. (I had used a very plastic clay to make the cone packs and they were very wet when I put them in the kiln. In the past I have had a coarser clay to use and it weathers the firing very well.) Most of the rest of the kiln was filled with the pumpkins--so there was a bit of satisfaction in spite of the misfortune!

Monday, October 09, 2006


I hate to whine and I don't like to talk about things that are not going well. But I just have to say something about how BADly things are going right now. I am beat to a pulp trying to crank out enough work for the festival on Saturday. I am not happy with what I have to offer at the festival. And I'm not getting any breaks. I waited to order postcard-announcements until I felt like I had overcome the clay/glaze problems and could count on participating in the festival. I ordered cards to be sent by 'UPS 3-day special delivery'. That would get the cards here by Friday (the 6th) and I had labels printed and stamps purchased to rush them to the Post Office immediately. Well, for unknown reasons, UPS 'rescheduled' my delivery to Monday the 9th. On top of being late, they arrive on a postal holiday and will not be processed by the USPS before Tuesday noon! At best they will be delivered on Wednesday for the Saturday event. Well, that is really not the end of the world. Maybe I'd rather they did not get delivered at all since I am so anxious about what I have to offer for display and sale.

Then there is the continuing anxiety about finishing the pieces. I think they look great when they come out of the bisque firing but I am usually disappointed when they come out of the glaze firing. My son, Ben, has suggested that I just glaze everything white--or clear--and I think he may have a point. But I have a hard time doing that! Last year I was very content to 'just dip the pieces in a bucket of glaze' and put them in the kiln. But now I think I am supposed to do more. There needs to be some artistic aspect to the glazing. And I don't know how to do that but am no longer content to 'just dip". And it is not OK to think, "Well, someone may like it that way". I want ME to like whatever I offer to other people with my name on it. Maybe the answer is to stop signing the pieces! OK, end of the whine for today!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Pumpkin Faces, Booooo!

Today Lauren and Conrad came over and carved two 'leather hard' clay pumpkins. They did a great job and now we are all anxious to get them fired and glazed! Boooo!

I am feeling incredible pressure to try to get work ready for the festival next weekend. The one good firing has encouraged me--but what if the next couple of firings are not successful? I calculate that I can do 3 more firings--time-wise--before the festival. I got the kiln loaded and fired this evening--something I doubted I could get done earlier in the evening. But I really need to do another bisque firing and another glaze firing before Friday--and that requires a very tight schedule to pull it off.

I am still so confounded by the 'art' part of ceramics. I feel so comfortable throwing the pieces but so lost when I have to 'decorate' them. Wonder if I'll ever be able to move beyone that point.

Monday, October 02, 2006

finally, it works!

The glaze firing came out great! The glazed surfaces are smooth and shiny! So I finally have a vitrified clay and glazes that work on it. Ron Roy was right in suspecting that I was overfiring instead of underfiring. The pinholes had us thinking that the clay and/or the glaze was not fired long enough to smooth over the bubbles made by the escaping gasses.

At any rate, I am so glad to have that problem behind me. I'm sure there will be other problems ahead--but I could not move forward until this one was overcome.

Today besides mixing up some glazes and throwing some more test tiles we focused on getting some postcards made to send out to family and friends about the show on the 14th. Until today I was not sure I would be in the show on the 14th. Jim took some pictures of some of my work and Ben put together a card and ordered it on a rush delivery schedule. I would like to get them mailed by Sunday--but it may be a bit later!

Friday, September 29, 2006


I am glazing today--and tomorrow--and Sunday. But it is hard! I've spent most of the day setting up for glazing! That is hard--setting up outside to spray glaze--but the really hard part is trying to figure out what glaze or glazes to use and how and so on. So I take a few breaks! One of my favorite pastimes is reading posts on the Clayart listserve. Today there has been a little discussion about teabowls--stimulated by looking at the teabowls of Steve Harrison.

One of my most treasured pottery experiences was a trip to Japan with several other potters. Our little group of beginner potters worked for a week in a studio in Mashiko and at the end of our week we could select a few pieces we had made to have glazed, fired and then shipped back home. It took over a year for the work to arrive. I had forgotten what I had made! There is a 'set' of 6 small 'teabowls' and one slightly larger matching bowl (Lee called it my begging bowl.) They are clearly the work of an inexperienced potter--but I really love them!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

OK, I'm back.

That last firing did not produce great results--better but not there yet. Therefore, the silence. I just don't like to talk about the things that aren't going just right. But, in spite of it all, I'm pushing ahead--I am amazed at my determination in the face of much disappointment. But I am certain that somehow I can get over this hump--and by gosh I'm going to do it.

Today I loaded a bisque firing. And tomorrow I will set up outside to glaze, with the spray gun, some pots that are already bisqued. I seem to have had better luck with spraying glazes than I am having now with dipping in the glaze buckets.
Of course, the big challenge is that I want to participate in a craft fair that is scheduled for October 14--and right now I don't have work that I would be willing to put out for sale. When I signed up to participate I had no idea of the troubles that lay ahead.

I bought some ware racks from a friend who is no longer potting. They will be a great boon to my production process. They are in the carport where the kiln is located and where I set up to spray glazes. The racks give me places to put my greenware ware for loading into the kiln and then place for the bisqued ware to await glazing. Loading and unloading the kiln has required innumerable trips in and out of the house--this will cut down on lots of leg work. (Bisqued ware is on the left, greenware is slow drying, underwraps, on the right.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

with fingers crossed

I just started a glaze firing. It is not a full as usual--but I did try to spread everything out equally up and down. After MUCH reflection, consideration and help from some good potters I decided to fire this load slow and LOW. Up until yesterday I expected to fire higher, suspecting gasses from combustibles still in the clay to be the problem. But it was suggested to me yesterday that perhaps it is not pinholes I am suffering but blisters! Blisters from overfiring the clay--not underfiring. That was a big surprise. But as I thought about it and read about blisters vs pinholes I had to agree that I was getting blisters--giving a crusty feel to the affected areas.

I have also given a lot more attention to my glaze application this time. Not because of the pinhole problems but to unattractive patterns on the fired surface from uneven glaze thickness. So I spent 2 days glazing this small load of pots. I am as eager to see the results of this attention to glaze application as to the effect of the firing schedule change.

I have wondered, in the past, if I made a mistake not getting a larger kiln. Boy, am I glad I don't have a big kiln to have to load to run all these 'tests'. These days it feels like I need a smaller kiln!

I can see that all these challenges have a benefit--I am learning a lot. But I am really ready for some happy results! I've got my fingers crossed!

Monday, September 18, 2006

keeping on keeping on

I've learned somethings about myself this past week. I've learned how hard it is to 'blog' when your down! These problems with my clay and my glazes is very discouraging and I really don't want to talk about it. But it is the big thing going right now. I did refire all the pinholed pieces to see if they would smooth out or heal over. I did a very slow firing and fired a little higher--which meant it took lots longer to fire--but there was no improvement. I also put in a couple of pieces that had not been fired and were freshly glazed to see if they would do better with a longer, higher firing. But they also pinholed.
So now I am waiting for the end of a long, slow bisque firing to see if that is where the problems originated. The idea is that perhaps the ^04 bisque firing is not getting all the combustibles fired out and gasses still being released in the glaze firing is causing the pinholes. As soon as this firing ends I'll glaze and fire again to see if that was the source of the pinholes.
I am very discouraged, as can be seen! And it is hard to get up and going under the circumstances. But I've seen that if I am not motivated to get back into my clay work all I have to do is get into the studio and start straightening things up and washing them off. Then like magic I'm back into the swing of things. Sandy Miller had written that having an assistant do the morning mopping for her ruined the whole day. That is when she works out her day's schedule and without that organizational workout she is lost for the day. Funny creatures we are.
I've been playing with some paperclay this week. It has been fun. It is a change from the usual as it is hand-building which I never do--being so addicted to the wheel. I''ve been making sushi plates and have enjoyed stamping decorations onto them. Hope they hold up to the firing!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What an amazing group.

Last night, in the depths of disappointment, I wrote to Clayart (listserve) describing my unhappy experience yesterday and my confusion over how to overcome the current difficulties. Today I have received so many responses--some to the listserve many more to me directly--offering suggestions based on their own experience or practiced wisdom. How many groups are you connected to that are there, on call, to respond to troubled members that they don't know? I feel that I know many of the Clayart folk just from these generous sharings within the group. I have 'friends' in many parts of Texas, Colorado, Florida, New York, North Carolina, Canada, Denmark, England, Belguim--I am sure I am overlooking many 'friends' in other parts of this vast globe. I have said belonging to Clayart is like getting a degree in advanced ceramics. Such a wealth of experience available just for the asking.

Tomorrow I load the kiln and begin again, re-inspired.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What came out goes back in.

Well there was no good news for me today. (Perhaps I should not have scheduled to open the kiln on such a black day in history.) Everything is a mess. With few exceptions--those being test tiles and small test bowls--everything has serious pinholing problems. I have finally found a clay that is vitrified at cone 6--Cinco Blanco by Armadillo. But everything is pinholed. My friend Herb pointed out similar pinholes on bowls he had made with Cinco Blanco. The glazes are ones that I have used successfully on other clays--which, unfortunately, are not vitrified at cone 6. Maybe I am chasing the wrong rabbit--not everyone seems so concerned about using vitrified clay.
I spoke with Armadillo Clay about my experience. It was recommended that I refire and take the firing temperature up a bit higher as the common wisdom says pinholes are the result of underfiring. The conflict is that Armadillo Clay stresses that one must not fire Cinco Blanco above cone 5. I am getting a cone 6 touching in my current firing schedule. So I will reload the kiln and refire.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Where is my palette?

Friday I mixed up a batch of test glazes--still looking for 'my' palette. And today I spent the day glazing. Don’t think I really have a kiln full—but am going to fire it anyway. I really want to see what I have to work with. A couple of pieces I glazed have peeled up like happened in the last round of glazing. I am just going to wash off the glaze and start over on the next round. I think it was the Faux Ash again—and maybe it was on Touchstone again—but I thought I was doing something different. I hope after everything is fired I will be able to see what had the problem—have good notes but no markings on the pots. It was a long day. I have glazed all the test tiles and all the test bowls (minus the ones I will wash off) and all the mugs. Then I threw in a few other pieces—including the steamer and saucer which have bad cracks—but since they are lost anyway I will see what happens in the glaze firing—maybe the glaze will ‘heal’ the cracks!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

All fired up...

But not really. I loaded a bisque firing today. The pots have been ready for about a week—but I was not! I wasn’t because of all the kiln maintenance I needed to do! Several of my shelves were badly messed up in the last glaze firing. It was not just glaze running down the side of a pot and dripping onto the shelf—though that happened, too. One of the test plates deposited big blogs of glass onto the shelf in several spots under the plate! And a couple of the run-offs from the test bowls were so serious that the foot of the bowl broke off and stuck to the shelf! I’ve cleaned up glaze spills before but those were such that I could tap the glaze off with a chisel and hammer. But this time there was no budging these spills with the chisel. Jim suggested using the Dremel tool to grind the glaze off. And that is what I am doing (notice the present tense after 3 days work.) The glaze burned down into the shelf—through the kiln wash—so it does have to be ground out. In addition to this mess, other shelves were in need of a fresh coat of kiln wash. All in all a dreadful lot of work. But I got enough of it done so that I could start the bisque firing by noon today. I still have 4 shelves to do more work on before I can use them again. Fortunately, I recently bought some extra shelves that were on sale—they are a little smaller than my kiln’s shelves but they work and today made it possible to go ahead with the firing.

I am now more aware of the need to become a better observer. I know that some of my glazes ‘spit’—but I have not tried to figure out which ones are doing the spitting. And now after the bad flows and dumping of glazes I am making a real effort to know which glazes can’t be mixed—which was the cause of the worst problems in the last firing. On the test bowls I had dipped the rims in different washes or ash glazes to see what they would do. Where I let the overlap get too close to the foot I got the most serious runs—sticking the foot to the shelf and melting into the shelf. On the plates I was overlapping glazes to see how they worked together. The biggest mess was putting M&M Clear over Denim and Charcoal! That is the combination that dumped the big piles of glazes on the shelf.

When I unload a glaze firing I am so eager to see the results on the pots that I don’t take note of what has happened to the shelf under each pot. So I want to slow down and try to take it all in. I have gone back and figured out which pieces caused the mess that happened in the last firing. But I still don’t know which glazes are ‘spitting’.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Getting hooked on pottery.

Some potters can connect their love of working in clay to early childhood memories of clay-making with a parent, grandparent or in a youth class. I have no such memories but I do find an early connection to my clay-working addiction. Two, in fact. First, I have always been strongly attracted to ‘hand-made, home-made”—textiles and food, for example. I never feel more elegantly dressed than in some of the wonderful Mexican hand embroidered shirts and dresses that crowd my closet. (That is one in the photo under "About Me".) I love setting my table with the hand-made pottery that we bought in Dolores Hidalgo so many years ago and I love serving the food I make in stoneware cooking vessels. I can’t imagine a more beautiful bedroom than one with a hand-made quilt for the cover of the bed. Second, I am stuck at the two-year old level of wanting to “do it myself”. If I am treating someone to dinner it will be a dinner I have prepared myself! When I see something beautiful in a gift shop I want to figure out how to make it—more than how to have it! So it is no surprise that I love getting to make pottery. The big surprise is that it took me so long to discover that I might do just that! Perhaps I realized that with raising a family and helping to run the Montessori school we started I had not the time or the money to get into such an avocation. That was the surprise waiting for me at my retirement! And what a glorious treat it has been for this end of the journey. The challenges and the successes are constant joys. I consider myself incredibly lucky and fortunate to be doing what I am doing and to have the support of Jim, my husband.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The week in review:

I can’t believe it has been a week since the last entry! Some significant happenings:

I have applied (and been accepted) to exhibit at the Craft and Music Festival at Northwood Presbyterian Church mid-October. Cat is also planning to exhibit and we’ve been promised to be placed next to one another. The festival is just one day and that is more in line with my capacity right now than a whole weekend! I am enthusiastic about it now but know I’ll be pretty nervous starting around the first of October.

Herb Risch loaned me some tapes of the Bill Van Gilder TV show on pottery making. Each episode focuses on a different form of functional pottery. I am really enjoying watching the tapes. For one reason, I am as addicted to watching someone throw as I am to throwing myself! And I pick up some new clue or hint from each viewing—it is very stimulating.

I’ve been cranking out the greenware! I’m sure I have more than a kiln load now ready to be bisqued. But I have some awful glaze drips on my kiln shelves that I have to try to remove before I fire again. The last firing with all those tests produced some really bad flows down onto the shelves. I tried clearing them this morning using a chisel and hammer—but have some real stubbon spots. Tomorrow I will try using my Dremmel tool—then I will have to try to grind the shelves clean with a grinder. What a pain!

On a happier note, this evening we celebrated as a family of exhibiting artists! Jim has 4 small canvases hanging at La Tuna downtown near Blue Star and Ben has a piece hanging at Studio B not far away. Jim and I visited the gallery with Ben’s piece then we went to La Tuna to see Jim’s work where Ben joined us for dinner. Very pleasant evening—such a newly shared focus in our lives! Has Jim talking about moving into the downtown area instead of out to the country when/if our home sells. What interesting twists and turns life introduces.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

And the results are...

disappointing. There is a lot of good information to be had from this firing--but no treasures! In truth, I only had a very few 'real pieces' in the firing that could have produced 'treasures'--but those few weren't.

My favorite piece is the funky little pitcher from the Jerry Bennett Paper Clay workshop last month. The glazes were painted on with a brush and I had not done that before but they covered well. I painted the underside of the spout with a soft yellow glaze--but it came out so soft that you can't tell it isn't white like the inside of the pitcher.

I had some pin holing on the larger pieces--that I hoped would come out as treasures. I think it may have happened because the glaze was too thick. Seems like there is always something wrong!

On the other hand, the test pieces did tell me a lot. Funny, I did not have any pin holing on the small test bowls or on the plates--just on the much larger pieces. Ron Roy has said that faults do show up more clearly in large pieces. Unfortunately, the test bowls were not on the clay I shall probably be using--so things may change yet. Gives me something to work on!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Yes, glazing and now firing

Later on Wednesday, I decided that I could use the plates that had cracks in the rims or the pop-outs for testing some overlaps of the glazes. I washed them off and waxed the bottoms so they are ready to dip into the glazes Thursday. I should get a lot of good information from these tests—hopefully!

Thursday was a busy day. I did glaze all those test bowls and cracked plates and hope to learn a lot about my glazes. I don’t think I have found ‘my’ palette yet. I also have several pieces that I am going to ‘refire’—mostly Touchstone Red pieces that have crawled spots—also the large salad bowl that is lined with Licorice which has tiny pinholes all over the inside.

I am not a very good observer. I carefully stirred the big tubs of glazes and then dipped my pieces into the tub. Only then did I realize the glaze looked very thick. Then I stuck my thumb into the glaze and could see that it was in deed too thick. Wish I’d get into the habit of checking first! I have several pieces that are crackling and will probably crawl because it was too thick. Touchstone Red is a real challenge—it really cracks and lifts off the other glazes that I put on top—just as it did to the Faux Ash on the mug I am so fond of. I am refiring that to see if it can be saved. Grace’s B Base Green is a maze of cracks as it dries. I don’t remember that it did that before—but then, I’m not a very good observer.

I loaded the kiln Friday morning. I may have made a mistake: I decided to sprinkle some Mt. St. Helen’s ash on the plates to see what would happen, since these are tests I might as well do all the tests I can think of. However, the glaze was already dry and now I am wondering if the loose ash will fly around in the turbulence of the kiln. Well, we’ll see! Maybe everything will show the signs of ‘fly ash’!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Glazeing yet?

Well, I managed to work all day in the studio around glazing without actually doing any glazing at all! It is not just the application that is a challenge—though that is a challenge—but trying figure out combinations and techniques really stymies me. So today I decided to take all the test bowls I made out of Bee Mix 5 and do some experiments. I have 13 test bowls. On 3 of the bowls I put stripes of slip across the inside and onto the outside. I used 3 different slips (all from Tony Clennell) one is black/blue, one is rutile and one is cobalt. I will put clear glaze over these slips—M&M Clear on one half and Glossy Clear Liner on the other half of each of those bowls. This is to see what happens when these slips are applied to bisqued ware instead of to greenware.

On the other 10 test bowls I have painted a stripe of cobalt oxide stain and a stripe of red iron oxide stain. Each of these will be dipped in one of the big tubs I have of glazes. Then on the rim of these bowls I will dip 1/3 in Soft Gloss, 1/3 in Behrens Ash (using Marcia Selsor’s Mt. St. Helen’s volcanic ash), and the last 1/3 in Rutile Wash.

(Interesting to me that these bowls with the simple stripes are very appealing to me—and just because of the repetition, I think. Something to think about as I glaze my pots—making ‘families’ of glazed pieces if only for display purposes—even if you are only buying one it is more appealing when seen as part of a series. Also, the stripes being offset to one side is better than being in the center—or more balanced. )

The test bowls have been sitting around a long time and seemed dusty. So I washed each out with a sponge and lots of water before beginning. They are still damp so I will let them dry today and tomorrow will dip the bowls into the glazes. (Are you wondering how many ways I can find to postpone glazing?)

I have a lot more glazes in smaller batches. If these tests prove as informative as I hope, I will repeat the tests with other glazes. What I am lacking in this project is what happens when I overlap glazes—but it seems like too much going on to try to overlap glazes on this go round.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Another day

Another day of avoiding the glazing project! I trimmed and put handles on the two pieces that needed handles from yesterday’s throwing. And then went downtown—got more Cinco Blanco clay and some Custer Feldspar and some G 200. Had a nice visit with Jenny—about my email to her mentioning the under weighing of their materials.

I hope the texturing on the pitcher does not look as much like a grass skirt after it is glazed and fired as it does right now!

I keep thinking that I have given up worrying about pieces being too heavy and have just accepted that I make heavy pieces. But that pitcher sure does feel heavy! So does the vegetable steamer.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back to the wheel

I did not get into the studio until late in the afternoon today—avoiding that big pile of bisqued ware waiting to be glazed, perhaps! Since it was too late to start on glazing (!) I wedged 3 pieces of Cinco Blanco—one about 2# and the other pieces a little over 3#. Then I threw a batter bowl, a salad bowl and a pitcher. (Yes, Diana, bowls again!) I felt so good about those pieces! Two of them will get handles tomorrow but for now I feel very complete. Maybe I should look into establishing a cooperative where I throw and someone else does the glazing!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A good day...

Well, it was a pretty good day in the studio. Yesterday I threw the body of a ‘steamer’—for preparing and serving steamed vegetables.

Today I trimmed it, put the holes in the base, then threw the lid, made a saucer (that goes under the steamer to take it to the table) and made the handles for the lid and the body. That is a lot of constructing. For some reason I am always intimidated by pieces that have multiple parts, like a teapot with spout, lid and handle or a casserole with a lid and handles. But this went together pretty well and I am pretty satisfied with it. I think it is a little large and think that I will make it again smaller. It might make a nice gift item.

"Real Potters" make tens of pots a day--thirty or forty. Here I am celebrating making ONE pot! Just one of the differences between me and a 'real potter'!

Yesterday, I unloaded the bisque kiln. Now I have a lot of glazing to do. That is something else that really challenges me. In my mind's eye that is the work of an artist—and I don’t know where to begin at being an artist!! But now that I’ve had my day at the wheel I have to get busy with the glazing projects! Wish me luck!

Friday, August 11, 2006


I returned on Tuesday from a little holiday with 4 girlfriends whom I’ve known since the 1960s—some even longer. We drove out to Ruidoso, New Mexico and stayed in the ‘summer home’ of Lani Gary. It was a fun, giggly girl time.
As soon as I could get to the wheel I threw 4 pieces (all from Dillo clay): 2 bowls, a vase, and a coffee mug for the car (maybe). Throwing on the wheel is ecstasy! Decorating and glazing is something else all together!
Today I did address decorating the four pieces after I trimmed them and while they were still leather-hard. I applied some colored slip to the pieces—some over paper cut-outs, some over strings, some with sponge application. It will be interesting to see how they come out.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The eyes have it...

This week-end was busy and I had no time to be in the studio. Yet it was full of good pottery experiences! I spent some time looking at, feeling, and analyzing the test tiles from Diana Pancioli. These are her tests of cone 6 reduction glazes. There are 22 tiles, each measures about 2X2.5, the glazed part is 2X2 below which is a code for identifying the glaze. She also sent the recipes for the 22 glazes with notes on application and results on different clays.

The other interesting experience
was making colored labels for my
glaze materials containers. This was stimulated by a suggestion of Hank Murrow in Clayart. He suggested
making labels with colors to represent the percentage of fluxes, the stiffeners and the glass formers in each of the materials. It was such an eye opener—I guess I am a visual learner because I have read and studied the composition of these materials but never ‘understood’ it till now. The greens represent the fluxes, the blues represent the stiffeners, the yellow represents the silica.

The downer was loosing my purse on Saturday. I don’t know if I left it somewhere or if someone got into my car and took it—though I am quite certain that I had locked the car. I had my car key and wallet with me. But in the purse were my cell phone, check book, another key chain with car key to the Cressida and to the house, a collection of credit cards I don’t use and who knows what all else! I am still hoping to find it somewhere…

Monday, July 24, 2006

Funky fun

Saturday and Sunday I attended Jerry Bennett’s Paperclay workshop at the Southwest School of Art and Craft. It was an interesting experience for me: new clay; handbuilding; and funky styles! But I enjoyed all of it. The paper clay was so easy to work with and lent itself to lots of fooling around because it is so user friendly. But I don’t know that I will do much with it. It is something of a commitment to mix it up in large quantities and it does not keep well for long periods of time. So it would need to be something I would want to focus a lot time and attention on to make it worth the effort. But it was interesting and fun. I might make up a batch and see if Lauren and Conrad would enjoy working with it. They would have a lot more success with the paperclay for handbuilding--which they enjoy more than working on the working the wheel.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Monday afternoon I loaded the kiln for a bisque firing. The heat has slowed me down. Takes longer to act on decisions these hot days!

Tuesday I picked up some supplies at Clayworld and then dropped in on Diana to pick her brain about an idea I have for an independent study project for this fall. She fixed a lovely lunch for us. She said she plans her menus around color combinations on the plate! Looked beautiful.

Wednesday, Jim unloaded the kiln in the morning before I was even out of bed! He had a few pinch pots in the kiln and was eager to see if they survived—I mistakenly put in some that were not quite dry. After I brought all the pieces into the house I set up in Kitchen to wax the bottoms. Generally, I do this on the fly—when I’m ready to glaze I realize that I have not waxed the bottoms and do it in a rush. I don’t allow time to really dry and I don’t take enough care with the application. As a result, the foot ring looks very sloppy on most of my pieces. So today I took care—to the extent that I can control my application. Still I want to remember to check the foot rings after I apply the glaze to make sure I have a nice line. I took a lot of time doing it but realize that I need to give more time/attention to these parts of the work if I want my finished pieces to be nice.

I also mixed up the last 3 glazes that I could not do last week because I was short on supplies I needed. They now need to be sieved and then they are ‘good to go’.

I want to set aside a big block of time for my glazing, too. I can’t be very creative if I am just allowing a couple hours to get a huge batch of work into the kiln! I’ve been trying to collect ideas for glaze decoration—I am tired of my just dipped or sprayed pieces. I want to do something more interesting. Looking through books I see things that I like and want to try. But when I am with a pot in hand, standing in front of a pot of glaze I never can remember any of those good ideas!

Today Kevin and Cat, two of my glaze buddies, came over for lunch and just to chat about glazes. We had no assignments this time. Kevin showed us her new glaze program, HyperGlaze. Cat had brought samples of her glaze tests to show and talk about with us. I had lots of questions about glaze vocabulary (they are being very patient with my never-satisfied quest!) It was nice meeting in the middle of the day when we were not so tired. And very nice that it was such a small intimate group. We pledged to repeat the pleasant experience soon.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Back at the wheel

It has been hard to find time to work in my studio. But today I was back in my favorite place--sitting at the wheel. I trimmed a bowl I had thrown on Tuesday--amazed that it was still trimable. But in fact, it was in perfect condition for trmming--just shows what a good job a little plastic cover can do. And I got to make some test tiles and two colanders from a new clay, Dillo. I am still searching for my perfect clay!
This weekend I will fire a bisque load. And hope to get to do a glaze firing by the end of next week. I am looking forward to taking a workshop next weekend at the craft center. It will be working with paper clay--which I am interested in knowing a little more about. And I am looking forward to working with a group again. I've missed my weekly trip to the craft center this semester.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A day in the studio

A quiet day in the studio—with breaks to sip on a cup of coffee and chat with Jim. I trimmed the mugs I threw yesterday (no foot rings) and put handles on them early in the day. Then I threw a bowl from a scrap of clay left from the handle-making project. It will make a nice “empty bowl” contribution. Then, with another piece of left-over clay, I threw a largish salad bowl that will be a thank you to Steve for his part in my new shelves, if it turns out well after all the next steps!

Then, just to add some excitement to the day, as I was moving the largish salad bowl very carefully to a safe place for drying I kicked over a bucket of slop—lots of water and lots of soft clay scraps all over the floor! What a mess! I had been ‘intending’ to map the floor because there were some clay drips in that area around the wheel—so I got to do it today! Lots more water and the mop to float the clay up and the shop vac to suck it up with the water. Because the floor is that pebbly concrete it is very hard to clean, the clay just settles in between the little stones and does not come up easily. I made two attempts at watering it down, rubbing it loose with the mop and vacuuming it with the shop vac and letting it dry between. You can still see a haze of clay where the slop bucket went over. But I think that is a good as I can get it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

small steps

I unloaded the kiln this morning. Not as successful as I had hoped—but some interesting pieces and some good information on the new glazes and combinations of glazes. I had tried to duplicate the error I had made that produced such a nice dark forest green with lots of texture in it (the Burgundy from June Perry) but got a much lighter color—almost a light turquoise but also with nice variation in it (mug on extreme right). Perhaps the most curious bit of information was the mug I fired with Paul Northway’s ‘Burgundy’. When I had mixed up his recipe and fired on a test tile it came out very purple—very close to the eggplant purple I have—when I showed it to Paul he was convinced I had not mixed it properly. So he gave me a tub of his glaze to test. I put it on a mug (mug on extreme left) and it came out the same purple I had on the test tile! So it is something to do with the firing. Paul showed me a piece he had fired with the glaze and it was very burgundy—almost pink burgundy. Interesting. I guess that the most successful bit were the mugs. I am happy with them—the shape, the handle. I like the ones made with 1 pound of clay best—the 3/4 pound were too small.

Friday, July 07, 2006

a bit dispirited

The glaze making project ran much longer than I expected and my ‘arrangements’ for it were inadequate. My back problems slowed me down a lot and there were other responsibilities/commitments that also slowed me down. So it seemed an inordinately long drawn-out project. Now I have a kiln load of glaze firings—with lots of tests of the new glazes and tests of combinations—and I have my fingers crossed for some good outcomes. But it has been a long haul and past outcomes have not been very positive. Today, with the kiln loaded and firing, I finally got back to the wheel. That is what I love. That is where my enjoyment of pottery is rooted. I threw 4 small plates, a larger plate, a large salad bowl and an smaller altered bowl. So I am a bit up-lifted today. But there is the opening of the kiln ahead of me. I do very much hope to be encouraged by the outcome of this firing.

In the meantime, we have adopted a baby raccoon. We did not know its vulnerability when we took it in. It seem to be in need of help so Jim rescued it and made a temporary home for it in the fireplace. Then Jim brought in our ‘dog cage’ and made a home for him with wood blocks, newspaper, towels—all the comforts of home. He very compassionately feed him, cleaned its pen, and provided water. That was on Sunday and since then the baby has deteriorated. He seems now not to be able use his hind legs—he pulls himself around the pen with his front legs. He was able to get around but seemed to be 'wobbley'. We took the cage out on the porch mid-day today and left the door open. But he has made no attempt to move in or from the pen. Perhaps he was kicked out of the ‘family’ because of some congenital defect. But he is not improving based on our loving attention.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I got pots...

I unloaded the bisque kiln last night and I've got a lot of pots to be glazed![The four little glazed pots in the front are the ones Lauren and Conrad painted last week (majolica).]
So today I will be mixing up glazes. Don’t know about those 5 gallon buckets. Think I’ll go for some half-gallon buckets and some 2 gallon buckets first! I tried to select a FEW glazes to mix—create a limited palette—but the list keeps growing on me! I’d sure rather be looking at a day at the wheel instead of one spent mixing glazes. And then there is ‘applying’ glazes. Wow, what a lot of work! Who said this was fun?

Well, I did not finish mixing up the glazes. I am mixing up 9 glazes and plan to add another one tomorrow. I took it easy—pampering my back which is still in recovery mode—and I ran out of 2 ingredients I need so stopped to make a trip to Clay World(—and to take Kenny to see “Cars”, which was probably made just for him! Cute show.) I am using Lili Krakowski’s system for mixing up the glazes. Some people who looked at her method were repelled by the amount of ‘extra’ work it entailed. I liked it for the fail-safe aspect. But when I did it for the first time I thought it was too labor intensive also. However, this is my third experience with it and I am sold on it! It does take some prep-time but it is a life-saver in protecting from mistakes in measuring errors. I caught 2 errors earlier today that would have been major mistakes if I had been working by earlier, easier, methods. It also makes it possible, and safe, to stop mid-way through the process—like I did today—and return without missing a beat along the way! And the time it saves in measuring up several batches makes up for the prep-time lost earlier.

Monday, June 26, 2006

A real pain...

Saturday morning, early, I trimmed two colanders, when I stood up I had a strong pain in my lower back—just like I had a couple months ago. Curious, I thought. As the day went on, the pain got worse—mostly just standing up and bending over.
I could hardly do anything. I spent the day sitting very upright all morning with a heating pad at my back—but not getting much relief. Certainly could not do anything in the studio. I had intended to load the kiln for a bisque firing.

Well, today, Monday, my back is still very sore—hurts to get up from a sitting position or bend over (like to make the bed, or even to flush the toilet!) But, none-the-less I did load the kiln--and without much discomfort. It took many slow trips to the carport with small loads of pieces to be bisqued. I had a really full load—and loaded the bottom very densely. Of course, the top was not quite as full!! Never can judge well! But the top had a bunch (7?) bottles which are heavy so maybe it is pretty well balanced.

I was surprised by several pieces with cracks in the bottom—not exactly ‘s’ cracks, but close. I smashed 2 bottles and a nice large salad bowl because of the cracks—will recycle that clay. I am having a lot more of that happen than before I began using Bee 5 Mix. I will get some Dillo and some Cinco Blanco and test those—for porosity and absorption—as well as watch for cracks.

Taaffe gave me some more pickle buckets—now have 5, I think. So I am thinking in terms of making up some ‘big’ batches of glaze—and becoming less dependent on spray glazing. There will still be pieces that I have to or want to spray—but if I can dip that will be better, easier. I am trying to determine my ‘palette’ so I know which glazes to make a lot of and which to make smaller batches of. Having a limited palette makes for a more attractive display, I think. The various pieces fit together better without having to match. But this is approaching the artistic end of ceramics and that is where I am less secure.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A smashing good time in the studio...

Lauren and Conrad came to play in the studio this morning. They chose to paint some majolica pieces intstead of working on the wheel--which surprised me. Then we loaded up the pug mill with clay to recycle . While we waited for the pug mill to pug, the kids broke up--with a hammer--bowls and plates that I had selected to dispose of. I was following Chris Campbell's method for determining what to make: select the really good pieces and set out to admire and enjoy, discard the ugly pieces, study the ones in the middle to find the forms you like but need to improve on. I don't know how the advise will work for my production--but Lauren and Conrad had a ball busting up those bowls and plates!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Messing around...

I am feeling a little lost these days. Usually I have a long list of things I want to do--"to get done"--in the studio. But today I did not know what to do. So I followed the path of least resistance--more bottles! The first one I made into a pitcher when the neck got too much out of balance--just pulled the bulge into the spout of the pitcher. That is something all my teachers have frowned apon, "Know what you are going to make when you sit down at the wheel and make that!" But I like it! I had seen some nice pitchers made from bottle forms on Paul Herman's web page recently and was inspired by his work ( . Then I made another bottle that I thought was nice. Still not as tall as they should be: the bottle is about 7.5" tall and the pitcher is 7" tall. But maybe I am ready to work on something else.

Monday, June 19, 2006

99 bottles of beer on the wall...

A friend asked me sometime back, "Gay, don't you make anything besides bowls?" And more recently my teacher/mentor said, "Gay, you've been making bowls since you started three years ago. Make some bottles" So, I've been making bottles. I have not been able to pull anything taller than 7 1/2 inches--and they all feel heavy to me...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The west porch...

My studio is located on a porch on the west side of our home. It is 32 feet long and 7 feet wide. Many years ago my husband, Jim, closed the porch in by inserting vinyl covered wood frames between the roof supports to make a green house for wintering pot plants. But my interest in nursing plants through the winter long ago withered and vinyl panels were stored away. When I got my wheel in November of 2003 we put the panels back up, enclosing the porch, creating my studio. Since that time I have filled the space with shelves of equipment and supplies. Last summer Jim installed an air-conditioner into one of the vinyl panels to make the space workable during the summer--we have already had several days at or over 100 degrees this year!

The north end of the studio houses my wheel and throwing paraphanalia.

The interior wall has my work table and shelves holding my glazes and pots ready to be glazed. I don't have a water drain system YET so I carry used water outside in the orange bucket.
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The west wall has storage for my glaze materials, clays and miscellaneous supplies. At the far end of the studio I have display shelves that house my "work well done".

Today I was in the studio making bottles when Jim came out to let me know he was going to the gym to work out. A little later, when I had finished my bottles and begun to clean up, I realized I needed to go inside the house for a "potty break". That's when I discovered that as Jim had walked back into the house he had unconsciously locked the door to the studio behind him. I was locked in the studio--no way into the house or out of the studio. I was in a real pickle! The studio has no outside door--only 3 sets of French doors leading into the house. We use only the door that Jim had locked as he left, the other two are draped and have furniture in front of them. I did discover that the door into a bedroom was unlocked though obstructed by a lamp and beds inside and storage boxes and such in the studio. I got the storage out of the way and with some fancy wiggling I was able to squeeze in between the lamp and the bed--to my great relief.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Starting my own blog...

I enjoy reading potters’ blogs—no matter what they write about. So I have toyed with the idea of starting my own blog. But “fear of failure” has kept me from it. Finally, yesterday, I bit the bullet and created my blog site but when it came to writing something--I froze and left the site without making an entry. But I am going to make an attempt. So here goes. I have two recent experiences to share.

The first was a recent trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had been told by two different friends that there was a Japanese ceramic exhibition at the Folk Art Museum there that I “MUST” see. So when Jim was contemplating a trip to Santa Fe to connect with a friend for a train trip to Los Angeles I claimed a ride to Santa Fe on that trip. We drove out together and I drove back alone—which meant that I could take as much time as I wanted for visiting the exhibition. I made 3 trips to the museum to peruse the collection—which was not extensive. There were about 100 pieces in the whole exhibit which covered 50 centuries of Japanese ceramics—from about 3,000 BC to the present—all a part of the collection of an American who now lives in Switzerland. I have a strong affinity for Japanese ceramics so it was a real treat to see the development of that art over such a long period of time. Beginning with the Jamon period pieces the collection moved through periods of emulating Chinese blue-and-white ware and into what I think of as the real Japanese ceramics. At the current era of the exhibition there were pieces by Hamada, Kawai Kanjiro and even by Bernard Leach. What a treat!

I stumbled onto another rich experience through a comment that Ron Roy made recently on Clayart. He mentioned getting out his copy of Michael Cardew’s book, “Pioneer Pottery”, to look for a bit of information. Then he mentioned how much he enjoyed re-encountering Cardew’s work and appreciating what a wonderful writer he was. So I ordered the book sight unseen. When it arrived I was a bit disappointed. It had few pictures—I’ve come to expect lots of pictures in the ceramic books published these days—and it looked highly technical—over my head. But when I was browsing through the book I began reading in the last chapter—and was captivated. It is such a wonderful discussion of the “art of the craft” and set in an historical perspective that was very stimulating. I had read that Cardew had had an exceptional education and that certainly showed in this writing. Prompted by this rich experience I began re-browsing the book and found it much more approachable and helpful than I first thought.