Monday, February 26, 2007

a beautiful day

Such a beautiful day! I was in the studio setting-up for a big day at the wheel. My son, Justin, had called to say he and his wife and baby son were going out to the lake. Jim decided he should go and show them around a bit—really he loves any excuse to go out there. Suddenly I decided that it was such a beautiful day that I should go along to enjoy the day, get a little sun and enjoy my family! And I did enjoy it all—until I stumbled crawling through a fence, tried to catch myself by grabbing a cedar fence post which stabbed the palm of my left hand. It did not bleed much but I knew it was a deep wound. I could not clean it well, we put some ointment on it and covered with a bandage. On the way home I decided I need to go to a clinic to have it checked and cleaned. Four and half hours later I left the emergency room with several stitches and a boxing-glove looking bandage.

No clay work for a while! However, the doctor said I could be back at the wheel in 7 to 10 days. Well, it was a beautiful day to be out at the lake!

Friday, February 23, 2007

and the results are...

I emptied the kiln last night before going to class. I had thought I might want to take some of the pieces to class. But, as usual, I was disappointed with the outcome and did not take any of my work with me. Our class puts a big emphasis on the group 'critique' of the work we are producing. At class I was comforted by seeing that I am not the only one whose work looks better in the greenware stage than after being glazed. And today, after a closer and cooler review of the results of this last firing, I could see that I have overcome some of the biggest hurdles. I have no pinholes or crazing or crawling or shivering. Wow, that is a lot of improvement! I am still left with the artistic challenges--but to be on the winning side of glaze making and appling is a huge step forward! It is due, of course, to the change in clay.

I am still disappointed in my finishing of the greenware pieces. I don't see the little bumps and grinds on the clay when it is wet--and easy to correct--and only see it after the bisque--when it is very hard to correct--or after the glaze firing when there is no correction possible. That demands more attention to detail than is my nature to give. I seem to be of the school of 'good enough'! And that is really NOT good enough!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

it's not all about pottery

Yesterday Jim and I celebrated our 30th anniversary. We had considered making a little trip to celebrate because we've enjoyed many wonderful trips together over the last 30 years. But as we analyzed each idea we saw that we really weren't interested in making a trip right now. Jim had just returned from 3 weeks in New York and I am looking forward to a trip to Louisville to attend NCECA next month (a national ceramics convention). In the end we decided just to splurge on dinner at a really swishy restaurant--something we don't do. We had so much trouble trying to make a reservation at our first choice that we gave up on it and booked a restaurant we'd visited before but only when hosted by someone else. In the end, we thought we had chosen the very best restaurant. We ordered the "chef's surprise, a four course meal of just whatever the chef wants to cook this evening". In reality, it was 6 courses with a nice tawny port thrown end at the end of the meal. Each course was an appropriately small serving--just enough to taste how yummy it was! I think my favorite course was the grilled quail served on gnocchi. But the pasta course was also very special. The entree was a delicious "cast iron grilled fillet of beef" and was very good--but not as special as the other favorites. In spite of the modest servings, we were both uncomfortably full as we left the restaurant. It was a real treat!

To get back on theme, I was aware that all the dishes were white with no decoration--no distraction from the artful servings. Some of the plates were squared, some were shallow bowls, most were significantly large. It reminded me of an article I had just read in "Studio Potter" in which the author was a chef's apprentice as well as a potter. The chef he worked with absolutely wanted only white dishes as he felt they best showed off the food he was serving. I'm not sure I totally agree with that. I like the look of colored dishes on a table or buffet. But they do have to be chosen to compliment the colors of the food served--and that might require more dishes on hand than most homes would have storage space for. It is something to consider as I struggle with glazes, colors and decorations on my pottery. I am always happier with the pieces I make just after they are thrown than after they have been glazed. Ben once suggested that I just glaze my pieces with a white glaze. I am beginning to consider doing exactly that.

Today I have mixed up 5 different base glazes to try out on my clay. Then I plan to add colorants to the one or two bases that best fit my clay. Maybe I will also test making white glazes--some glossy, some satin, some matt. Wonder if that would solve my dilemma?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

lids and sprigs

I have been working a little since last week. Now to try to retrace my steps.

Monday I loaded the kiln for a bisque firing. The firing went very well. No ‘S’ cracks in bottoms of the tea caddies—which I had feared. I fired this to ^06—until now I have been firing to ^04. I wondered if I might have better luck if I bisqued to a lower rate. This was also a very long slow firing. Eager to see if it benefits my glazing projects.

In the meantime, I have been doing a little work at the wheel. I am trying to keep up with the class work. I made 2 pieces that I have made lids for and a self-lidded box (squared). And I’ve put sprigs on two of the pieces.

This shows the relational sizes. I think they were all made from 2# of Blackjack clay.

The project here is lids and sprigs.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

emotional ups and downs of this potter

Yes, I’ve gotten some things thrown but I’m not feeling great about it. Don’t know why exactly—but maybe because nothing turns out like I imagine or want. The little box that I was happy with is not so nice now that it has dried! And the larger one I tried to make crashed!
Tuesday I made a tall bottle-shaped vase from 3# of clay. I like the shape. It is still too wet to tell about the weight. However, it is pretty ‘plain jane’. And I threw a casserole from about 3# of clay and the lid from about 2 1/2#. I carefully measured the opening in the casserole for making the lid. BUT the lid is really a bit too small—it may work but it is not ‘right’.

Wednesday I decided to make some ‘tea caddies’ with ceramic lids. I made a 'tombo' to measure the height of the caddies and width of the neck openings. I made 8 balls of 1# each—some may have been 1 oz over or under the 1#. I took lots of time and was a careful as I know how to be—yet the 8 cylinders are NOT the same or even very similar.
Then I carefully measured the opening with calipers for making the lids. I made 10 lids 'throwing off the hump'--which means putting a huge mound of clay on the wheel then shaping a lid from just a bit of clay on the top, then pinching it off the mound. Then you are ready to shape another and another without having to start over with a new ball of clay for each lid. I used the caliper to measure each lid as I made it to be sure they would fit. BUT I think they are ALL too large! Everything is wet so I can’t really tell. They don’t even look the same diameter! In both cases, though, as much as wanting to make the tea caddies and the lids I wanted to work on the skill of forming the gallery inside the caddies and the throwing the lids off the hump.
In the evening, I thought that perhaps I could trim the outside of the lid's rims so they would fit. And, I was able to do that, not easily, not quickly, but effectively. This morning I trimmed the tops of the lids (the part where I pinched the lid loose from the hump of clay)to make knobs for the lids. OK, they are finished and are satisfactory. We'll see how they look after they are glazed and fired.

Finally, I made a small bowl from the last of the clay hump I was using for the lids. It is a small bowl and there was not enough clay for a base. I decided since we are working on putting 'outrageous' feet on our pieces I'd trim the bowl without any base and then attach feet from the plaster molds we made last week. I am surprised that I kind of like it!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

back in class

After the visit with my sisters, Thursday I was back in class at SSAC. In this class we are focusing on the attachments to our pieces: feet, handles, lids and such. We have started with the feet—in the class I missed they experimented with attaching feet to some bisqued pieces we had made at the first class. Last night we were making plaster molds for sprig-feet. Diana had told me to make some pieces to add feet to—so at class I made 3 or 4 largish pots. And I made some clay forms for the plaster foot molds.

Friday those pieces were ready for trimming and attaching feet. Diana wants us to push our comfort zone—be outrageous—then we can retreat to a more comfortable realm but will have expanded in the process. I can’t say that I am pushing the envelop but I am putting feet on things I never would have otherwise—and I like some of what has come of the experiment!

I took a little side-step yesterday at the SSAC studio. I saw someone had been making sprig molds from small plastic animals and insects—lizards, beetles, frogs and such. And I was intrigued. So I began making my own molds from the box of plastic toys sitting out on a work table. (Sprig: clay is forced into the mold and then pressed against a wet clay piece to which it becomes attached, leaving the raised form on the pottery piece.) Dennis, director of the ceramics studio and program, came out and began working—it was his work that I was admiring. He graciously showed me how to make the molds and how to attach them to greenware. Really, I should not have gotten into his work and certainly he had no obligation to take the time to demonstrate all the steps to successful transfer. I was both grateful and a little embarrassed! He is always very gracious and generous.

This evening I made my first ‘box’—from a completely enclosed form. I cut the top off and with a little trimming had the lid. It is very small—made form 1# of clay—but nice and I think tomorrow I will try making a larger one.
All in all, it has been a good start for getting back into the studio and producing some work.