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.