Thursday, May 24, 2007

and then today...

I was sailing along on a bit of a high since determining my palette thinking that I now had a handle on the work for the July show. Then this morning as I was doing my morning stroll through the pottery blogs and Clayart listserve I saw a lot of beautiful pots that are not “just thrown and dunked into a pot of glaze”. And now I am insecure again. I guess it was Tony Clennell’s website that especially got to me. Lots of loose throwing and textural work, wood fired, beautiful “interesting” work. So down I go. But now, thinking about “work that I like,” I get in touch with how much I like the work of Gwyn Hanssen-Pigott and Edith Heath—both very simple, pure lines and color…

I trimmed the 10 bowls I made yesterday. Then, after trimming the bowls, I took a 2 1/2# lump of clay and threw a bowl that I intended to be the top of a pedestal bowl. And then I threw the pedestal. Got them together this evening. I segmented the rim and then pinched the segments together at intervals of 1/8 of the circle. I repeated that on the base. Later I decided it called for some sprigs at the pinched point. Then I attached it all together.

I like the look but the bowl may be a bit small. It would make a great punch bowl if it were larger. The cut edge and the sprigs give it a very festive look, I think. Again, I hope it does not slump in the firing. The first one did not slump in the bisque firing but I have not glaze fired it yet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

getting focused

I have been stuck trying to plan for the show/sale in July. I’ve asked several people for help—but we just got into disagreements about my motivation: art vs. sales. It was discouraging to me because I did not see it the same way others seemed to interpret my quest. Yesterday, over lunch with Chris, I tried again to get some help. Chris seemed to understand—but he comes from the selling/display angle where the others I asked came from the art perspective. He could relate to my wanting to create a cohesive body of work for the display. Which I think is compatible with my focus on functional ceramics. Setting the table or arranging food on the plate are also acts of creating a display—a creative expression in itself. Anyway, after lunch I looked through some magazines to try to get some focus. The point of focus turned out to be my color palette. That led me to “Calico Corners” where I looked at fabrics for an integrated color palette. I found 2 pieces of fabric that helped me determine what I want in my color palette and I am pretty fired up now! I have been doing lots of glaze testing but it has just scattered me all over the map. Focusing on these colors gives me some sense of continuity—and they are the colors I like and have had luck producing! I would still like to get an earthy red glaze which would be a nice complement to the greens and blues I am focusing on.

The other interesting thing I've encountered is some research about glaze making. I discovered in Val Cushing’s “Handbook” an outline of various glaze types—calcia, magnesia, zinc, etc—and the effect the glaze type has on colorants (besides determining the surface quality of the glaze). Wow—that was news—and I think it is news I can work with. Then in the new Ceramics Monthly magazine there is a VERY interesting article on the effect various cooling cycles have on the colors obtained from iron oxide. That was big news, too. And it may help explain how/why I’ve had such varying results from some of my glazes. I’ve been experimenting with different firing cycles but have not known how to evaluate the results: why or what effect the changes were having. So there is another big help in learning to understand my glazes! Very exciting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

a universal experience, it seems

I enjoy keeping up with some potters around the world through their blogs. It seems to keep me stimulated and encouraged. Yesterday an English potter, whose work I like and whose blog I enjoy, wrote about opening his kiln. His experience was familiar:

"As ever when unpacking a kiln I tend to look upon the losses rather than appreciate the successes, so it'll be the next couple of days when I get to know the pots, that I'll be able to make a valued judgement." Douglas Fitch

Douglas has been potting for many years, I believe, and he does very nice work so it was encouraging to see that even the seasoned potters have the same ups and downs I have. Though now that I think about it--perhaps it should be discouraging to see that even seasoned potters have the same ups and downs! No relief in sight!

I have been throwing a bit. Have several pieces from the end of last week and now a few more from this week. These are larger pieces so I will soon have enough for another bisque firing. I have enough pots already bisqued to fill the kiln for a glaze firing--but I guess it will wait a bit longer! It is just too close to the last glaze firing to do another round of glazing, it seems.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

reviewing the results

I seem to go through the same cycle with each "kiln opening". At first I am very pleased--nothing exploded, the kiln reached just the temperature it was programed to do, and some of the pieces look nice. Then I carry them in the house and begin to look more closely at each piece. Then I see the flaws--and there are ALWAYS flaws. Probably I have not yet produced a flawless piece. So I get discouraged. Then I start making notes about the results, one piece at a time. And then, maybe, I begin to be a bit more pleased with the results. This firing was no different.

To begin, I peeked into the kiln before it was OK to unload. I saw to my horror that the kiln had not reached the desired temperature. The firings are measured by "heat work"--time and temperature figure into the final achievement--which we measure in terms of "cones". I am firing to cone 6--a mid-range temperature. But the cone pack showed that I had only reached cone 5 in this firing. Oh bother, as Pooh would say. I expected to need to refire the whole lot. But when I could open the kiln and begin unloading an hour or so later I found that ONLY the top shelf had underfired. The other 2 cone packs--one in the middle and one on the bottom--had reached a perfect cone 6! OK, so now for the results:

The piece I was most interested in (excited about) was my carved bowl. It came out fine--the glaze did not perform as I wished and there is a little problem with glaze cover on the rim, but it is satisfying. The bowl is about 10 1/2" across and about 3 1/2 high.

Another bowl that I like a lot is one onto which I applied the glaze decoration in the style of Harding Black, one of San Antonio's great potters. This bowl is about 9 1/2 " across and about 4" high.

And I like this little box--much smaller than the image would suggest--it is about 4 inches tall and 4X5 across the lid. It did not come out at all as I had imagined but it is pleasing to me anyway.

Of course, there are a lot more pieces in the kiln of varying degrees of satisfaction. But all and all it feels like a good start. How is it, after 4 1/2 years, I can still think of myself as just starting as a potter?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

glazing all day

and not finished yet. I began setting up my spray tables in the car port and carrying out the pots and some glazes yesterday. I thought I'd do the spray glazing today. But I spent the whole day glazing in the studio. The small pots I can dip-glaze in the studio. It is the larger ones that have to be sprayed. The piece I am most eager to fire is the bowl with the cut-out design around the rim. But I have to fill the kiln before I can glaze it! And it is one that will be spray-glazed.

I am also still making test tiles of the glazes I have on hand. I have such a long list of glazes that I have tested--yet still have not been able to select a few to be my basic palette. I think life will be much easier for me when I do have an established palette. But I can't make it over the hurtle--deciding on those 5 or 6 glazes. Like trying to decide on the menu a week ahead of the party--just can't do it until there is no more time to consider possibilities. What will be the circumstance that pushes me into a choice?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

rain, rain, go away

come again some other day. We don't expect to be thinking such thoughts here in Texas. But we have had an incredible amount of rain this spring. I think it was Monday that we got 4 inches of rain in less than an hour. And I think I had 2 inches in my studio! The pedal for my electric wheel was sitting in water before I discovered the flood out there. It is not working properly yet--but it is working and I can adjust it if it does not get well all by itself!

In the meantime, I am doing another bisque firing. Usually I do alternate firings: bisque then glaze then bisque, etc. But I wanted to glaze the carved bowl so I've done a second bisque. Now I need for it to stop raining so I can glaze these pots. I will be spraying the glaze on most of the pots--and I do that outside--which I can't do if it is going to rain. It was bright and sunny a few minutes ago but is grey and dreary looking now. It is expected to rain more today.

I got the gift of a glaze booth last week. With that I could be glazing inside as it has a fan that draws the over-spray and fumes outside. BUT it is not yet installed--and won't be until I have a more permanent studio. Jim managed to install an air conditioner in the vinyl studio walls--but he is not interested in trying to do that with the glaze booth since we are so close to leaving. The promise of a real studio connected to the home we plan to build is what sustains me through the trauma of leaving the home we built 28 years ago and love so much.