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.