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!