Saturday, December 29, 2007
But the windows are going to be wonderful! From the outside--even from the living room--it makes the studio look like an inviting and interesting place--no longer a garage!
Pardon our mess while we are constructing!
From the inside it is even more exciting. My wheel will be sitting right in front of the window, so that I look out on the wonderful terrace while I am throwing. I can even see into the living room directly across the terrace from the studio. Today a mess, tomorrow (almost) a dream come true!
I recall seeing Japanese potters sitting where they are facing out the window--the wheel set up right next to the window. That seemed like such a luxury. What a lucky lady I am!
This is where Hamada sat to throw pots at his home studio in Mashiko.
The other potters in his studio also sat in front of a window. Keep in mind that these potters are sitting cross legged at the same level as their wheel. Oh, the aching back and legs!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Justin, son number 3, sent me a photo of myself taken at the Christmas gathering at his home last week. He suggested that I exchange it for the one I was currently using on my blog--he thought it a better picture. Ben agreed that it would be an improvement! So you have it--an updated photo for my blog! A new me for the new year.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Today Jim and I are pushing each other to pack boxes--books mostly--since that is mostly what we own to pack! Years ago, when Ben was 5 or 6, someone broke into our home and took every electronic thing we owned. When the policeman was here taking inventory of what was stolen, Ben expressed his surprise that they had not taken any of our books--our real treasure! The policeman said to Ben, "Kid, those guys don't know how to read!"
We don't have a moving date yet--it depends on the completion of the work at the house. We are thinking we may actually move on January 11--a day after my birthday. But in the meantime we will be putting our household goods into cardboard boxes! I probably will not have much to write about in the coming days.
In the meantime, I send wishes for your joyful, peaceful, healthy and happy holidays!
Monday, December 17, 2007
The refire did change the other bowls, but did not transform them. They are still ugly ducklings. The kiln is reaching the target temperature on the top but the bottom shelf is underfiring. I probably won't try to fire again before we move. Time to pack up the studio.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I got the over-firing because, in my determination to get one more good glaze firing from the almost spent elements, I set the top temperature a bit higher than usual, soaked at the top a bit longer than usual and then soaked again on the way down—as for a red firing. It just got too hot for everything except the Tenmoku.
So, lessons learned: 1) when I want red I should have a whole kiln full of pieces glazed with the same glaze; 2) when I want glossy, I need to let the kiln cool naturally without a hold on the way down; 3) I have got to know my glazes better than I do now. I have been firing all the glazes in pretty much the same way—and always pretty slow.
It was great to get such a nice red bowl! But a great disappointment that the other pieces are unusable. I feel like I understand the glazes a bit better now and that I can probably get the red again when I want it again.
As we reviewed the bowls just out of the kiln Jim suggested that I refire them--they are nicely formed pieces. I said, "NO". My last attempt at refiring was totally unsuccessful, I'm not going to do that again. Well, on second thought I AM going to try to refire! There was a suggestion that if you heat the pots before applying the glaze you can get the glaze to adhere. So I will test out that suggestion. Well, what do I have to lose? Can't (won't) use the pots as they are. And after all, the mantra of the potter is, "Test, test, test", or "experiment, experiment, experiment" and keep good records! Think I can get 'one more firing' out of these elements? Yeah, I think so.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Now, back on subject. In the midst of all this confusion and uncertainty I have tried to do a little potting. On Friday I did get the kiln loaded and firing for a bisque load. It seemed to go OK--with only one mishap, see below--but the cone packs tell a different story. I filled 4 shelves and put in 4 cone packs (generally I only put in 3 but I know the kiln is not firing consistently and I wanted a good check.) Here is what I got: top shelf: ^06 & 05 down, ^04 @ 2:00, and ^03 no movement; next shelf: ^06 down, ^05 @1:00, ^04 & 03 no movement; next shelf: ^06 down, all else no movement; bottom shelf: no movement in any of the cones. I set the kiln to fire to ^05 (1880 F) with no soak. It took 12 1/2 hours to complete (electronic kiln). I knew I need to replace the elements as soon as we move the kiln, I don't want to replace before the move. What I want to do is to be able to glaze fire some of these pieces. So, the question is can I just put pots in the top to glaze fire? Do I leave the lower areas empty? Or do I put kiln furniture there to even out or hold some heat? I think that I could do everything I need to do now in two runs of the top shelf. Any suggestions?
The one little disaster in the bisque firing was a glazed pot I put in to refire hoping to smooth out a scratched area where I had to grind off a bit of kiln wash on the bottom of the pot. It did smooth out the scratched area but there must have been some trash flying around in the kiln and some of it landed inside the bowl leaving two ugly spots inside the bowl--an otherwise smooth, even glazed blow. So that lovely bowl is now a 'second' which we will enjoy using.
Monday, December 03, 2007
We have spent a lot of time running back and forth between the two houses since the closing and I expect that we will be doing a LOT of that for the next month or two. When I'm not there I am trying to think through what needs to be done, what I want to do, and what we can afford to do!
Clay work is suffering. I intended to load the kiln this morning--have some work I want to do before Christmas. But, instead, I have spent the morning drawing plans for the studio to give the contractor when he comes by today. I have the 'whole' garage for the studio--but am discovering that that is not a lot of room for what I need to put in there. And, since Kenny is sharing the studio with me, I have to allow some space for his easel and painting paraphernalia! He and I spent several hours yesterday working over the plans to be sure what I have imagined will work for him. He is a dear person and is so happy about the move that he agrees to anything I propose. But he does come up with questions and suggestions I have overlooked.
I have the feeling that with the demands of the move and the holidays coming up I will not get to do much clay work and probably will not feel that I have much to share on the blog. I don't know how to put the blog on hold...I hate to be absent-with-out-leave and thereby to loose the friends I've made via the blog. So I'll try to post a bit from time to time.
Thanks for asking, Andrew!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The second report is that I have been a bit active in the studio. I've been just dabbling there recently but did spend Sunday and Monday making a more concerted effort at making at least a kiln load of new work. Today I got a request for a special order so that gave a new impetus to my time in the studio. It felt good to have a real goal in terms of work. And I felt good about what I was able to accomplish--though I almost always like my work when it is still in the wet greenware stage!
Today Doug Fitch mentioned his catch of sprig molds and had a photo of a bowl of his favorites. That stimulated me to make some--which I've been intending to do for some time. So this evening I carved about 9 of them. I carved mine in plaster. I don't know why I chose that in stead of carving into clay. I think the clay will last longer. So if I like any that I have made I may reproduce them in clay later.
I expect to sleep better tonight than I have been sleeping recently. Unless I am ready to start worrying about all the work to do between now and the move! Maybe I can postpone those worries a bit...
Monday, November 19, 2007
Jim’s father, George, acquired a nice collection of pre-Columbian artifacts from Mexico in the middle of the last century, before there were laws prohibiting the export of these antiquities. He has many figurines and many bowls—almost all made of clay. A year or so ago, George called me asked me to stop by his house on my way home from ceramics class. When I got there he had put out a small selection of his bowl collection—6 or 8 select pieces. He told me pick out one, he wanted to give it to me. I was thrilled and have really loved having the lovely bowl.
After I selected my pick from his collection, George called the director of the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) and offered them their choice of his whole collection. SAMA chose the rest of his bowls! They said lots of people had collected the figurines and had donated them to the museum but they did not have a nice selection of bowls. There was one bowl that George did not offer to me or to the museum—it has always resided on their dining table. I mentioned to George that I really coveted that bowl and he promised that it would be mine one day but he intended to keep it as long as he had a dining table where he could enjoy it. Well, they are moving into a retirement home this week—and have no dining table! So Friday he gave me that beautiful bowl. What a treasure!
And speaking of treasures I got two more from Ruth and George this week. Neither one is the treasure that the pre-Columbian bowl is, but I am happy to have them in my collection. One is a pitcher with a nice mottled turquoise-blue glaze—made by Harding Black.
I had no idea they had that piece—nor did they. Neither Ruth nor George had any knowledge of Harding Black’s work and were very happy that I was excited to have it. The second little treasure is a small vase (5” tall) made by the Newcomb College women in 1930. It is the “Vase with Drooping Leaves” in blue and green matt.
I like the work of the Newcomb College women and am delighted to have this small vase from their china closet. (See the moon peeking through the drooping leaves?)
There is one more gift from the china closet. Toby Jugs! Not really treasures, but fun to have!
Not so nice, nor so English, as Doug Fitch's wonderful slip ware but they did belong to Jim's English grandmother, Violet, so they are special to us.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
The ‘acreage’ is 30+ acres owned by Jim’s father, his 3 nieces, one nephew and our 1 acre. Getting the family together to agree to the sale terms was a huge hurtle which was accomplished about 3 years ago. Then there have been many hurtles getting the legal changes required to allow commercial development here. We expected the closing on this property to occur early in October, but it was postponed to early November, then to the end of November.
The sellers of the house we found in August agreed to a contingency contract to be closed by early November. We had to renegotiate that closing to the end of November, which the sellers were not happy about but reluctantly agreed to do. I guess the down-turn in real estate has worked in out favor. However, the new delay is not a happy situation.
Last week, the buyers of the acreage sent out a notice that they could not close before December 7th. That threw Jim and me into a tail spin. We are the only ones hanging on the closing of this sale to move forward—all others are already out of here! Jim has managed to get the buyer to agree to close on our one acre part of the sale on November 28 as we expected, allowing us to close on the house purchase on the 30th as planned. That was a great relief—but an uncertain one since there have been so many proposals and so many changes.
That is the short version of the last couple of months. The uncertain conditions of our life have left me bewildered, discouraged and unhappy. I have wished I could escape into the studio and ignore all this around me—but I have not been able to manage that escape.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Another little touch of clay: Visiting an acquaintance's home Friday night I spied a beautiful carved wooden block. I was itching to have a stamp from it so asked the hostess what it was. It is a family treasure. Once belonging to the grandmother in Greece, it is a stamp used for making the host for the communion service. I asked if I could make a pencil rubbing of the surface--thinking I might try carving the design into wood myself to make a stamp. However, the rubbing did not come out well so the hostess insisted I take the piece home and make my rubbing then return it to her. How incredibly generous! So I made an impression from the wood block into a thick slab of clay. I will let it dry slowly--all wrapped up--then bisque it to use as a stamp. The impression in clay looks great. I will return the wood block tomorrow. The wooden circle is about 4 1/2" across.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
And I am dying to get out to the studio. But I know that it is not a one hour break kind of thing. Once I get set up, wedge clay, and get to the wheel the hours roll through my fingers without notice. It is certainly not an hour break kind of thing. Maybe the solution is to give myself one day a week to be in the studio. Maybe if I can look forward to that one day a week it will be easier to focus on the sorting and packing business the rest of the week.
It looks like the closing on the sale of this property is going to be delayed. We expected the closing to be next week--on the 8th. But we have been informed that it is unlikely to be that soon (soon? this has been going on for years!) but maybe within a couple weeks. How discouraging. We are eager to get the contractor busy replacing the roof and refinishing the floors which have to happen before we move in. But that can't happen before we close on that property. And that can't happen before we close on this property. Does that sound to you like we are going in circles? It does to me. We are not looking at doing the work that Andrew is doing on his house--I hope we are not facing that!--and we are not doing it ourselves like he is. Still it seems like a huge challenge ahead getting from here to there!
In the last few weeks I've begun enjoying a cup of green tea in the morning instead of coffee. I had tried before to like green tea--I liked the idea--but somehow could not cultivate a taste for it. Recently I found a tea shop near by and decided to give it another try. The packages of tea come with very explicit directions--the amount of tea per cup, the temperature of the water and length of time for the steeping. Well, it seems to have made all the difference. I make one cup at a time and carefully (obsessively) follow the directions and I love my green tea. I was using too much tea, too hot water, and not steeping the tea long enough. I am using handle less tea cups. I want to call them "tea bowls" because that calls to mind the Asian tea cups. But I've been corrected several times being informed that "tea bowl" is a ritual item for the tea ceremony. The "yunomi" is the Japanese word for the handle less tea cup for everyday use and the translation of that word is "tea cup". But who would know what I am talking about when I say I like using a yunomi for my morning green tea? "Tea cup" brings to my mind a lovely porcelain cup with handle and saucer!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Today I went to Waring, TX to participate in the fall festival at the Guadalupe Crossing Market. Again, a beautiful day. There were not hundreds of people there but it did feel more personal. It seemed that most, but not all, visitors had some connection with someone at the gallery. The gallery had several of their artists there to meet customers and visitors. It had such a nice, country, down-home feeling. I enjoyed being part of the celebration and grateful to have been included. But I am mighty tired tonight!
Many friends and family ask me regularly, "Have you started packing?" Well, as of this week I will be able to respond, "Yes!" As that will be my focus for the next 2 months!
Monday, October 22, 2007
The potters guild sale was Saturday. It was a beautiful day--though we were inside and did not really get to enjoy it. But there did not seem to be a good crowd at the show--maybe it was just too pretty a day to be indoors! I sold some pots and got to see lots of friends so it was a good day.
I had planned to close up the studio once the guild sale was over and focus on packing and moving. But, I spent some time with a potter friend yesterday looking at her glaze tests and talking about her processes for glazing and decorating. Well, I came home wanting to clean up the studio and make some of the glazes she shared with me and do some glaze over-lapping experiments--that is much more attractive to me than starting to pack. Oh, dear...
We are going to make the garage into a studio and I have to plan it out. I want to get the best advantage out of the space but am not satisfied with my plans so far. Need to think outside-the-box to get everything to fit into-the-garage! So I am off to pack? pot? plan? full steam ahead!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I've been thinking about how much I appreciate the opportunity to see into other potters lives (through their blogs) and how interesting it is to discover the commonality among us potters. It seems that our inner experiences are incredibly similar in spite of the wide discrepancies in experience, skill and talent. Even the potters who produce fabulous work write about pressures to produce work on time, of good quality and wide appeal. In a way, I guess I most enjoy reading about the disappointments and challenges because they reassure me that I can keep on struggling and not fret too much over my own failures.
I will have a booth in our guild's pottery sale Saturday. I have really struggled to get work made for this show even though I've known about it for months. It seemed just like the year-end theme for a college course: you know all semester or year that it will be due in May. Yet for some reason (or none) you can't determine the subject and how to develop it until there is almost no time left. Then finally you are off and running just hoping that you get to the finish line before the due date has passed. That is how it has felt these last couple of months. I seemed unable to produce anything until just a week or so ago. I've had to have the kiln running non-stop--and of course that is when it began not firing just right. It has fired so consistently ever since I got it 2 1/2 years ago but now it is very inconsistent. Well, I take care of that after the move. For now, just gotta get the work done and packed for the show on Saturday.
Monday, October 08, 2007
I really enjoyed my day with Ruthanne Tudball. Besides being a fabulous potter she is a lovely, charming lady! And generous, too. The above are some pieces of her work that she bought to show and to sell. Then she demonstrated making each of these pieces in great detail. So here is a little outline of the evolution of the charming bottle you see on the left.
She throws a nice bottle.
Then squeezes it between to small masonite boards.
With her 'cheese cutter' she cuts her classic swirls into the soft clay.
She adds a 'kick' in the skirt...
and lugs for 'arms'.
Voila! Here it is!
It is so exciting to watch someone work with clay who has such confidence and such an alive relationship with the clay. She does all sorts of manipulation of the clay while it is still soft on the wheel--no time letting it set up and no use of a heat gun to dry it out. She stresses that she is not working with wet clay--she does not add much water as she works--but soft clay. Yet, in spite of all the handling of the soft objects there is no indication of that handling--no finger marks or indentions in the clay other than what she wants there!
Her opening piece was my favorite--though I do love the bottle:
I am sorry it is not a better shot--it is such a graceful form! Ruthanne talked about the value of drawing for any artist--it trains one to see. She does life drawings--has for years--and in August had her first showing of the drawings. She did not draw with the intention of showing her drawings but just for her own development. Can't you see the dancer in this pot!
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
A blogging buddy in England speaks highly of her work, too. So when I heard about the possibility of seeing her work I jumped at the chance. Fortunately, there is still room--because it is a demo and not a hands-on workshop which is always very limited.
My interest in this event is enhanced by the focus on throwing and how she works in such a way that she does little or no trimming once the piece is off the wheel. Her work has a very fresh and relaxed look because of the way she works on the wheel and I am intrigued to learn something about that, too. I am really looking forward to this special opportunity.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Leaving aside those personal connections, of great interest to me was her connection to Harding Black, the San Antonio potter who made a name for himself through his exploration of glazes. I remember hearing of the potter Harding Black when I was young but since I had no connection to clay or pottery-making at that time it had little significance for me. Over the last 4 years I've heard references to Harding Black frequently and his outstanding work with glazes. Several months ago I acquired a video of Harding working in his studio and recounting how he got into clay work and what it has meant to him.
I was amazed to learn that my hostess was instrumental in making the TV show/video in the '90s. She has several pieces of his work and wonderful stories to tell of his generosity and gentle nature. She also has several of his glaze recipes which she has offered to share with me!
Recently my niece had mentioned to me that she and her husband received a piece of Harding Black pottery as a wedding gift a few years ago! It is intriguing to me that she mentions that and then a week or so later I have this encounter with that potter's life and work. Isn't life wonderful!
Saturday, September 22, 2007
This should keep me busy in the studio--gotta live up to the advertising! This is not a great reproduction of the card--I scanned it in from my printer/scanner and it looks a bit fuzzy.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The first and third are glazed with Berry's Rust and the second and fourth are glazed with Temmoku--very hard to tell any difference.
The plate is glazed with the Temmoku glaze. I had three pierced pieces in this firing and this the only one I like. The other two are glazed green--and the glaze is OK but the plates themselves are unsatisfactory.
I tested 2 new glazes that were suggested on Clayart. They are totally unsatisfactory on food-carrying pieces but I think would be great on vases or sculptural pieces (which I don't make!) But I will make some vases to see if I am right in thinking they would be nice there.
I had fun experimenting with making these little tripod footed vases and soy pitchers. They have a lot of personality! Look quite saucy!
Even though I am not happy with any one piece, I did learn a lot from the experiments! Now I need to get busy doing some 'real' work!
Friday, September 14, 2007
Another plus is getting to share my enthusiasm for pottery with members of my own family. Some of them are in San Antonio--and they probably get an overdose that already! But others are far away: my sister in Maine; my niece in Arizona; another niece in Spain. On the downside, I don't hear from my sister in Maine nearly often enough because now she keeps up with my doings via the blog--but she does not have a blog so that I can't keep up with her doings!
Well, the friends that the blog has brought into my life are definitely another of the blessing I celebrate daily! Thanks for checking in!
Monday, September 10, 2007
Tomorrow I glaze and hopefully I will fire on Wednesday. It is always exciting to get things into and then out of the glaze firing! I keep intending to do some 'developmental' work--throwing a LOT of test bowls to improve my throwing skills AND to have lots of bowls to test glaze-overlapping on--but I have trouble finding the time to do the 'developmental' work because I get carried away wanting to see 'real' things come out of the kiln!
Reading about Andrew moving into his newly purchased home, studio first, has me wondering. I have laid out a plan for my new studio-in-the-garage. I don't need to have a lot of work done before I can get in there but some: some electric outlets, a couple vents and the windows. But I am wondering if I should get more help in planning this than just what I can figure out. I plan to take some of the cabinets and counter tops from our kitchen to use in the new studio--but they gobble up the wall space. There is a lot more space in this garage than I currently have in my studio but not a lot more wall space which is where shelves and such go! A great studio space is a terrible thing to waste!
Sunday, September 02, 2007
The house does not grab one's attention from the street--it is unpretentious but pleasant. The whole street is covered with the wonderful Live Oak trees so the neighborhood feels quiet, calm and settled.
But the view inside, from the front door, takes my breath away.
The house has a detached 2 car garage in the rear which will be entirely mine to convert to the studio where I will pot and Kenny will paint. You can see a tiny bit of the wall of the garage through the glass door. We will put windows in the wall of the studio facing the terrace so that from my potters wheel I will have the same view as this from the living room. I am very busy figuring out where each piece of equipment, each shelf and table will go. Where do I glaze? Were is the kiln? Where do I store my materials and clay? What work spaces can I create? Where does Kenny work? Where are his paintings stored? I have pages of graph paper with sketches of the space and cut-outs of the equipment and furniture to arrange in the best way. Not getting much pottery made--but I am very excited about my future in this studio! And our lives in this new home!
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The second is a book of photos of Phil Rogers' pottery published by the Pucker Gallery in Boston who features his work. I know of Phil through his book on throwing--which is a wonderful guide to this craft/art. Recently I was visiting his web site and saw a note that a book about his work was about to be published. Off I went to Amazon and found that they did have it listed but it had not yet been published--it was expected to be published in July. So I placed my order and began my wait. A few weeks ago I got a notice that the publication date had been changed and I might not get my copy until sometime in October. OK, I can wait. It arrived yesterday. If I had known what a treat it would be I would have had a hard time being patient. It is filled with beautiful color photos of his work which bears a strong similarity to Japanese pottery. A really beautiful book!
What an incredible blessing--being part of the pottery community. I love all of it: the presence of pottery going back into the prerecorded history of man; the incredible literature that has accompanied pottery through the ages; and the wonderful people that make up that community--all of these riches freely available to each of us. I cannot believe my good fortune to have found my way into this world of pottery and to have been so graciously welcomed into it.
"The world is so full of a number of things, I ’m sure we should all be as happy as kings." Robert Lewis Stevenson
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I am torn between being excited about the new possibilities--especially planning a 'real' studio in the garage--and dealing with a deep sense of loss. We love our home and it has our whole life-together history in it. The move was not our own initiation--extenuating circumstances forced it--so there is a lot of regret entailed. However, I am trying to focus on what we gain in making this move and convert the regret to happy memories. Not easy!
No single picture does credit to our wonderful home--but you get the idea! We will be leaving the deer wandering through our yard, eating the shrubs, gardening attempts and flowers, and the raccoons dancing on the roof over our bed at night. We've complained about that--but we will miss it all! We built our home in 1979--we moved in 10 days before our son Ben was born. I thought I would be buried in the back yard...
One of the great pluses will be that my son, Kenny, will live with us and work with me in the studio. The studio will house a potter and a painter! Kenny is 46 and has been painting for maybe 15 or 20 years. He is cerebral palsied and it is incredible what he has accomplished in spite of his handicaps. He has been living independently for many years but his physical condition is deteriorating and I believe that he needs closer supervision than he has at this time. It will be great getting to share the enthusiasms of our art with each other. I am so happy that we can make this change now and so grateful to Jim for being as enthusiastic about the project as I am. Lots to look forward to--but in the meantime I am having trouble focusing on my pottery!
*This sparked by Robert Genn's newsletter this week.
Friday, August 17, 2007
I had expected to be back in the studio today working full steam ahead inspired by our 6^ glaze group get-together last night. It was the first attempt at getting a group started since the group I initiated a year or so ago fell flat on its face! I had imagined a sort of research group studying glazes and glaze materials. That was not what the others had in mind. Lives are so busy these days, few are looking for more to do! This time Herb suggested that we just get together to talk about glazes and our experiences. No high tech, no assignments, no work--just good fellowship! And it was very pleasant getting to visit with people who are as enthusiastic as I about their pottery experiences. Unfortunately, several perspective members were unable to attend because of the rain and flooding. Nonetheless, we were a group of 7--a nice size group for conversation. And it was stimulating to see and hear about the work others are doing and the different ways that they approach their work.
I might have gotten into some potting if Jim had not come out to the studio as I was finishing my trimming project to suggest we go over to the 'new' house and check on leaks after the heavy rains yesterday and last night. So, I cleaned up and we took off--stopping for lunch on the way home an hour or so later. Now it is nap time!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Even before the rain began this morning I was unable to pot--just could not get anything to come out right. After several attempts at different vessels of different sizes I just gave up. I don't think it helps to push the river. For the last week we have been negotiating to buy a house. I think that preoccupation--or occupation--has had me so distracted and somewhat anxious that I am suffering a potting block! Those negotiations are complete and now we just wait to see if the sale on our property is going to be realized. We will probably spend the Christmas holidays moving!
UPDATE: In the last 3 hours we have had about 7 inches of rain! That is a torrent of rain, right?
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Today Abbie Cotrell came by to pick up a few more pieces to display in her gallery, Guadalupe Crossing Market in Waring. She is always so complimentary and enthusiastic about my work that it is very inspiring! Back to the wheel! I've been a bit of a slacker the last week or so.
I am still a bit perplexed by the last firing--the one in which I was testing all my red glazes. I have to do that again. I can't understand why I would get such great red's one week and none the next! The only difference that I can identify is the rain we were having--giving very high humidity. Last week was dryer--more typical of our summers. I read a quote from Abe Lincoln that I have now added to the layout of the blog as I think it especially appropriate for all us pottery addicts: "Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." So I shall enthusiastically get going on another 'red' firing!
Thursday, August 09, 2007
I was especially eager to see the pots because I was testing all my 'red' glazes to see which responded to the new firing schedule. I had made 8 small 'vases' to put the various 'reds' on to compare the results on similar pieces. And I had glazed several larger pieces with the glaze that had produced the glorious red in the last firing. I called home Tuesday evening to have Jim open the kiln and describe the contents.
The results: disappointing.
1) Only one part of one of the vases produced the desired red. It was just right where it had been dipped twice--thus was thick--the lower portion is gritty, unevenly colored and not very red.
2) The greatest disappointment--and embarrassment--was the large pieces that should be gloriously 'red' were not. I apparently mis-labeled a new batch of glaze. What I thought was "Touchstone Red" was "Cream Breaking Rust"! It is cream and it does break rust--but that was not what I was wanting!
Expectations kill me every time!I did not get ANY of the glorious red of the last firing. Back to the drawing board....
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
This morning I was reading the blog of an English slipware potter, Douglas Fitch, that I found very encouraging even though he was describing his frustration on the opening of his last kiln load! I think he has been at his pottery-making for a long time yet today he describes mishaps in his last firing and how discouraging it was to him. Yet, he is charged up to solve the problems and get started on the next round of work! The potter's universal story. I should find it discouraging that such a successful potter is still having these kinds of experiences. Yet, instead, I am encouraged to know that even an experienced potter has these disappointments! How to explain that--even to myself!
I am busy throwing a lot of pieces that I want to use to test out my recent success at getting an iron red glaze. I plan to use several different glazes that have NOT produced the expected red to see if it is true that the most significant factor is the firing schedule--my current theory.
Monday, July 23, 2007
But, hey, the pots were packed and still in the car maybe this is the time to take them to a little gallery in Waring, Texas that a friend from long ago, Abbie Cotrell, has opened--the Guadalupe Crossing Market. Though Abbie had not seen my work she had invited me to show/sell my work in her gallery. We would take the pots to show her and see her gallery.
We could not go on Saturday because the low-water crossings were flooded but by Sunday the water was down enough to cross--so we went.
Waring is just a bend in a country road in the heart of the Hill Country. There are probably less than a dozen buildings. But some interesting things are happening there and Abbie's little gallery is one of the bright spots. She has 3 buildings that she is slowly restoring and turning into a gallery, a coffee shop and studio space. A cute, country place open only on Wednesdays and the weekends.
She liked my work and selected about 3 dozen pieces to show. After we re-packed the remainders, Jim and I went across the street to the General Store where Abbie said they make the best hamburgers in Texas--and they were great. We were sitting under giant trees enjoying our hamburgers and a gentle breeze. Jim was pointing out that there is not a lot of traffic going through Waring, sales might be pretty slow, don't get too excited yet--when Abbie came over to give me checks for the first pieces already sold!
So I am all fired up to start making pots for Clay Ole--the San Antonio Potters Guild show/sale in October--and for the Guadalupe Crossing Market!
Friday, July 20, 2007
And I did get some good work done. Two great happenings over the last week or two. One, I have made a giant step forward in my glazing skills! The last 3 kiln loads had not one disaster! Not even a disappointment! I am hugely happy about that!
And then, two, the final load that I opened this morning was full (not really full, it was a light load) of RED pieces! I've been trying to get RED in a cone 6 glaze for 2 or 3 years without success. Now I've got red! I was not really trying for red--just a nice rich brown but I did use a new red iron oxide and I did use the firing schedule that my friend, Sandy Miller, suggested for getting red--and low and behold I got red. (Can you tell how excited I am about that?) This is another of the pierced bowls that I am enjoying making these days--but this one is RED!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Of course, there are folk who would wish for a run or something that would make this piece a bit more interesting! I am sure that will come--but for now I am so happy to not have things I don't want on the pot that I am not too worried about what I might wish it to have
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I came to the conclusion, while working this morning, that my real problem--besides poor technique--is that I am not an artist. I am a craftsperson. I have no idea about color or design. And glazing is all about the art of ceramics. Throwing and trimming pots is about the craft of it. And since I don't know what to do decoration-wise I just slap something on the pots and pray for a happy surprise! And that is probably why I like the glazes that are so uncontrollable--they offer a chance at a happy surprise--or a huge disaster. I've had both!
I will have to wait till Saturday to see the fruit of my labor. I will be saying a prayer to the kiln gods as I load these pieces into the kiln. They come through for me sometimes! I worked as conscientiously as I know how--now they have to take over.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
My tulip vase is very pleasing to me--even though it does not hold the flowers very well--it tends to break the stems where they bend over so far.
Lots of ‘family’ activities the last few weeks. Very little ‘production’. But lots of opportunity for reflection on my pottery work—what gives me joy in doing it, how can I stay in touch what has real value for me. One thing I see—which kind friends tried to point out to me earlier—I don’t want to be a ‘production potter’. The question that remains is do I want to sell my pottery at all. My friend, Herb, stays so involved with his pottery work—lots of experimenting and exploring—yet he does NOT sell his work. He gives it a way to any one interested in having some of his work. He contributes to a lot of ‘auctions for good causes'. My great joy is in ‘one off’ pieces where I have let myself explore and experiment. I don’t find much pleasure in producing lots of similar pieces in order to have an inventory for sales! But it is wonderful stumbling into making a piece I really enjoy making and am pleased with even after the firing.
My niece, Margaret, said she thought I was too negative about my work when I write about it in the blog. So here are some of the pieces from the last firing that satisfy me!
I like this bowl a lot. Even though I have been complaining about the glazes 'curtaining', I really like the way it works in this bowl, it is very subtle.
And I like the foot on the bowl, too. (Same bowl, interesting how the inside glaze is darker than the outside glaze--both same glaze.)
And I like this casserole. Even though the inside has a 'flaw'--the green glaze dripped down on top of the white interior glaze. For me it is OK--shows the hand of the potter. We'll see what others think!
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I had tried to fill the kiln on June 12 but could not "fill" it. Our friend Mary Allman arrived that afternoon and was here for a week. I did not try to complete the pre-firing work while she was here. I had found it very frustrating when I tried to get enough pieces glazed on the 11th and 12th to start the firing so I knew I did not want to try to do it while we had company--and besides we were enjoying her visit too much to spoil it with that frustration. After she left, there were several family demands that prolonged my procrastination. Monday morning Jim left for Santa Fe--to be gone for about 10 days--and I got busy filling that kiln! Finally!
Today I unloaded the kiln. And it was a very happy experience. Finally! There were NO disasters! One disappointment but it was the fault a poor choice of glaze combinations and not a fault of a glaze not working right or the kiln over or under firing! So I am a happy camper today. Unfortunately, Jim took the camera with him when he went to Santa Fe so I can't post any photos. I may do that after he returns if it still seems appropriate. In the meantime, I am trying to glaze another kiln load and get it fired before his return. I've also returned to the wheel--my reward for finally getting the kiln loaded and fired! I've had a good time yesterday and today working on the wheel. I should try to analyze what it is about throwing on the wheel that means so much to me and is so satisfying! Perhaps I'll do that one day and post the result of that inquiry here!
Friday, June 08, 2007
I made some little "soy ewers" that I am fond of--four of them--and, happily, 2 came out very nice. The 2 that I had put the new 'red' glazes on came out very stony--unpleasant to touch. I would have been happy with them if they were smooth even though they are brown! I would have thought that the overfiring might have made them glassier instead of stony. Oh, so much to learn. But right now it feels like I am on a pretty fast learning curve!
And there was one more 'learning piece' in this firing. It is a large pedestal bowl--a fruit bowl or even a punch bowl, maybe. I messed it up with my glaze application--of a second glaze over the first. But I am happy with the details on the pot and will probably repeat that design. Here is a look at the details I liked.
If I had not put the second glaze on top of the first I think I would have been very happy with this piece. As it is, I am not!
On the brighter side there were some successes. I have 6 nice salad plates and 5 nice rice bowls that fired very well. And they are a nice weight and have smooth rims--techniques I've been having a lot of trouble with lately. So that is satisfying! To be continued.