Monday, December 21, 2009

holiday party

We had family members--Jim's brothers with mates, his parents and my boys with mates--over yesterday afternoon. I did a bit of cooking--just hors d'oeuvres--for the party and we were inspired to do a bit of holiday decorating outside as well as inside. We have not put up a tree for several years but do have some other decorations to pull out of storage. And we use lots of candles, too.

As I was putting out food yesterday in various of my ceramic wares I thought of taking some pictures--but got busy and forgot to do so once the food was in the 'pots'. It really was fun seeing the tables set with my own work--food and pots! That really is what drives me: making it myself. Just like a two-year old! I never out grew my "I want to do it myself" stage!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

in working condition

The last couple firings have not gone so well. One clearly my fault as I made a mistake as I programed the kiln. But still not firing well. I discussed the problem with a guy at Armadillo Clay in Austin last week. As I described the history--I had only fired the new elements 32 times--he suggested that it might be a faulty relay instead of bad elements. I called a repair person I had not used before--Tony, our trusted and capable repair person had retired--and she came over and checked the kiln and agreed that it probably was the relays. We ordered relays from Austin--none available in San Antonio--and she replaced the relays on Friday evening. Today I loaded a bisque firing and it is climbing right on up the scale!

I watched over Linda's shoulder as she replaced the relays and I think I could do it next time. Of course the secret is knowing what the problem is--more than knowing how to replace parts! So far I have participated in replacing the elements and now overseen replacing the relays. Sometime back Jim and I replaced the thermocouple. Maybe I am on my way to a new career. NOT. I'd rather make pots than fix kilns!

Yesterday Jim brought in an old kitchen cabinet to install the used extruder I bought sometime back. The extruder came on a nice metal stand--but it needed to be attached to the floor as it wanted to topple over whenever I pulled down on the extruder level. Now it is happily installed on the cabinet and very secure when I pull the lever down to extrude from a big pug of clay.

PS The bisque firing has completed without a flaw. So now I face a day--or more--of glazing--my least favorite part of potting!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hey, Tracey...

I think these candlesticks, made by Suze Lindsay, look like they came right off the stage of "Lion King"! Can't imagine getting any closer to recreating the spirit of LK in clay. In a way, it is a shame that I have them and can see the relation to the stage production because now my mind is locked on these pieces as best shot.

They live on the dining room table next to the wonderful Chupicuaro (circa 100 BC) my father-in-law gave us which he collected years ago in Mexico--when it was still legal to bring this work into the US. I love the pairing of these pieces--separated by 2000 years in age yet with the same spirit. Or so it seems to me.

Unfortunately, not the best picture.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

what a day this has been...

Up at 5 am to get Kenny to the clinic by 6:00. He was having a 'test run' of the effectiveness of baclofen injections into his spinal column to relieve his extreme spasticity. This has become so bad that he suffers muscular convulsions whenever he tires to use his legs (standing and walking) and lately even in his hands. So that is a long story but hopefully there is some help on the horizon. That was the beginning of the day.

Then I had a long-ago-established date with my 5 years old grandson, Reed, to attend the local stage performance of Disney's 'Lion King'. I looked forward to it because I knew that Reed was very fond of the 'Lion King' DVD and it would be fun to take him to that. I was not prepared for how much I enjoyed the program. It is so attractive! I wanted all my loved ones to get to see it, too!

As I sat with Kenny at the clinic this morning I was reading a ceramic book I had just purchased: "Ceramic Design Course" by AnthonyQuinn. An interesting book--pushing me to take a broader look at my 'creations'. He talks about collecting pictures and text that appeal and creating 'mood scenes' from those collections and, from that, developing an idea(s) for ceramic creations. He also pushes sketching your ideas for new projects--which I am trying to due currently. (Of course, I've left out way too much of the book to be fair to it.) BUT, here is the connecting link, during "LIon King" I kept thinking how I might incorporate or take inspiration from the performance for a piece from the scenes I was was watching! It was so beautiful and so incredibly creative! Hats off to Disney!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

a good day in the studio

Yesterday was a good day in the studio--except for the backache I went to bed with! Probably too good a day after a while out of the studio! But it felt really good to get some work done.

I started off working on a dinner plate that I have been asked to make a set of for a friend. I want to make one (or some) to show her before I get too far into the project. And I want to see if I can really make a set (~16) that are similar in size, design, weight, etc! The first one I made I added slip on the rim to make it into a sort of test tile. I painted slip onto the rim--two different colored slips--and left a section unslipped. Then I will apply the glaze that she thinks she wants and see the effect of the slip.

I made 4 more of the same plate--and will do that again today--to see how similar I can make them, After that, when I was tired of throwing plates, I made a vase that I like a lot.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

what a difference a day makes

Today Kenny got up on his own and into the shower. That is great news! I was afraid he had taken a big backward step--but it looks like I was just trying to go too fast! A great feeling of relief--you may feel it all the way over there!

Yesterday it was still colder in the studio than I wanted it to be. So I gathered up my brush collection and a sketch pad and played with brushes for a while. I want to be able to 'make marks' on some of my work but need a lot of practice first. I've collected some brushes--some made for me by a friend, some I bought for a majolica class, some I just bought with this project in mind.

I just played around with the brushes, making marks on coarse paper. I took a brush and 'doodled' with it making different kinds of strokes then made a note of which brush produced those marks. I went through my whole collection--now I have a reference for which brush does the best job of which kind of marks.

Then I tried copying a painting from a China painting book I have. Lots of fun. Maybe even helpful in moving me along the path of 'making marks'!

Friday, December 04, 2009

that's the way it is

Kenny has been sick since the night before Thanksgiving. He is feeling better now but his poor body is not functioning very well. He is very stiff--hard to raise his head, stretch out his arms, or take even a step or two. Very rigid spasticity has always been a problem for him (from his cerebral palsy) but this is so much worse. Next week he will undergo a test to see if injections into his spinal cord might help reduce the spasticity. If not, his life and ours are in for a big change. He is in his wheel-chair all the time now, not able to walk at all even with help.

On Thursday, a couple friends and I drove to Austin to attend a 3 hour lecture on working with ^6 glazes. We were very disappointed. It was really just a 3 hour presentation on a new line of commercial ^6 glazes--for which we paid $20 to attend, not to mention the 3 hour drive over and back.

This morning I went out early to the studio to turn on the heater. I am eager to get back to work. But when I went out again in a couple hours it was still too cold to work out there. We were told we might get snow today--crazy since most of our days lately have been in the 70's and it was not expected to freeze today. But apparently the snow missed us and hit Houston instead. I was not sorry about missing the snow--but I was sorry I could not work today. Maybe tomorrow.

Pretty gloomy post--sorry--but that is the way it is right now!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

just a pointer

I was not going to post again until after the holiday but...
I just have to tell you about a wonderful blog post this morning.
I met Euan Craig when I was in Japan with a group of potters. We were invited to his home studio where we met his lovely family, watched him throwing pots for an upcoming show and admired his kiln. I have enjoyed reading his blog regularly since then. In today's post he tells a charming story about his just-turned-13-year-old daughter. I think you'll like it, too.
Again, Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

today it begins

..the race to Thanksgiving. Wish it did not have to be such an intense push to get there. But since I am a committed member of the "don't do today what you can put off till tomorrow" group, that is the way it is and always has been! I'll be in the kitchen cooking up a feast with the help of lots of great chefs--the guests! Everyone will bring some wonderful something to offer to the feast. Just the way it all began, or so the story goes! I'll do turkey, gravy, dressing and rolls. Plus linens ironed and tables set. Today I'll make a couple desserts to add to what others are bringing. We are having our largest group this year--18 or 20 plus more just for dessert! It is my favorite holiday--our great family gathered for a day together. So much to be thankful for. Now off to the kitchen.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Friday, November 20, 2009


The visit to the museum led me to want to place my 'amphora' in the historical line. I feel a connection to a potter in the 7th century BC who made this wonderful amphora--very similar to mine except he decorated his with geometric motifs in red and black on a terracotta clay.:

While looking through the catalog (for the collection at SAMA that Roy loaned me) I found interesting differences and likenesses. I'm probably not a keen observer and this little exercise has really been an eye opener.

The book led to a serious web search of 'amphora' and turned up some wonderful pieces.

I can see now how I would like to make my next 'amphora'--with some subtle but significant changes. I don't want to copy the examples I've found but I think I will see mine differently as I am making it.

The education of Gay, the potter-in-the-making!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

another rich experience

Today my friend Lani extended an invitation from her son Roy to visit the San Antonio Museum Of Art (SAMA). Roy focused on Art History in his college work and has worked at SAMA setting up some of the exhibits. At the guild sale a week and a half ago he and I were looking a the form of the large vase I had there. That prompted his invitation to look at similar forms in the Greek collection.

At her workshop last weekend, Suze Lindsay spent a lot of time taking us through slide presentations of work she admired--ancient and current. She really encouraged us to study various traditions of forms and decoration.
It is always interesting to see art through another's eyes. I enjoy visiting SAMA but always spend most of my time there in the Asian Wing--looking at Japanese and Chinese ceramics. I have ignored the Greek collection because I am not going to paint designs on my work--the Asian collection is focused more on the glazes. Both, of course, feature form. It was a very rich experience--seeing the collections through his eyes. I came home inspired with lots of new ideas! So many ideas and so little time!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

what a special weekend

I took part in a workshop here at Southwest School of Art and Craft (San Antonio) given by Suze Lindsay. She was great! It was a small group--3 days, hands-on--and so very rich! Just what I needed right now: very stimulating and pushed me in new directions. I found everything she presented to be just right for me right now! She wanted us to work in 'sets'--cream & sugar, salt & pepper, candlesticks and such. And she spent a lot of time introducing us to surface design. I made a set of 'sipping cups' with a tray. After I fire them I may post a picture of them. I am very pleased with them now. Others in the class made MANY sets of things! But I got lots more out of the class than what I made!

There was a down side to the weekend. Saturday afternoon I began to feel bad, then I was feeling awful--like getting the flu. Oh my gosh, if I get the flu I might give it to everyone else AND I'll miss the rest of the workshop. I left mid-afternoon, went home and straight to bed. I kept wondering if there might be such a thing as a 12 hour flu--because that would let me return to finish the workshop. I was running fever and felt achy and all that awful flu stuff. But I was not sneezing or coughing--those germ spreading aspects of the flu. When I woke at 7:00 am I was not sure I could go to class. But 8:30 I thought I could--maybe not for the whole day. I felt better and my fever was just about gone. So I loaded up my pain killers and vitamin C and got to class. Did not have much energy but could stay all day. Did not DO much but was able to take a lot in.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eva's photos

Thanks, Linda. When I re-read your instructions I found the step I was missing--now it works!

a nice showing

The guild's sale was very nice. There was a great collection of work--mostly ceramics but a bit of textiles and some jewelry, too. My friend, Eva, and I shared a booth. She took pictures of our booth and sent them to me but I don't know how to take the pictures from an email and get them into the blog. I took these snapshots here before I packed the pieces to take to the show. We both had 2 shelves--one tall and one short.
I enjoyed seeing potter friends that I don't get to see very often and got to see the work they are doing now--beautiful work. I met a potter, not from San Antonio, whose work I've seen on the web before. Wonderful work. You can see her work at Linda Nowell Pottery
I guess the best part was being fired up to get busy in the studio again. I was flattered that some of my work sold and honored that some of the purchasers were artists whose work I greatly admire!
As I was preparing for the show, I put in more concentrated time in the studio and realized how badly I need to do that consistently. I want to spend lots of time experimenting and exploring. Bur first I've gotta get the studio back into working order!

Friday, November 06, 2009

some of the fruits of the fire

I did not have a packed kiln. Here are a few of the pieces from the long, slow firing.
A compote--about 6+" high and 10" wide

A serving plate: about 10 1/2" wide

A gravy boat: about 4" high and 5" wide

A small pitcher: about 7" tall

well, the firing was fine

Here are the cone packs from the 3 lower shelves (the stand alone was on the top shelf that was very shallow). BTW, I had only one ^7 cone--so what you see are ^5. ^6, and only one ^7 on the middle shelf. Bottom pack on the right:

None-the-less, I will check the lower elements this afternoon. I guess this is an interesting example of 'heatwork=time and temperature'.
The pieces in this firing are fine--I am grateful and very relieved!

PS after the firing

which took 29 hours and 23 minutes, I 'reviewed' the schedule (kiln still too hot to unload). I found that I had made a slight error when I entered the firing schedule...I thought I was telling the kiln to advance from 250F to 2000F at a rate of 300F/hr at which time it would advance at the rate of 108F to 2185F. But, unfortunately, I really told it to advance to 200F at a rate of 300F and then to advance to 2185F at a rate of 108F. Get it? The kiln crawled from 200F to 2185F at a rate of 108F per hour. Well, that does make for a long, slow firing! Once the kiln is empty I will fire it up again so I can see what the bottom element is doing. Hopefully, there is no problem with the elements--which are pretty new--and the whole problem was my careless mistake. Usually I 'review' the schedule if I change it--but not this time! I peeked in and saw that on the top shelf the self-supporting ^6 cone was bent to about 2:00. So I have yet to know what the rest of the kiln achieved. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

if its not one thing...

...its another! A favorite saying between Jim and Kenny--they break into peals of laughter as they chant that over some new challenge. For me, today, it is the kiln. It has been firing for over 24 hours and has not reached ^6 yet. I am wondering if is because I made a mistake entering the schedule or if the kiln has developed a new problem. At ~2140 F there was a bright, glowing yellow light coming out around the rim of the lid and out of each of the peeps EXCEPT the bottom peep--it is dark.

(I did not think to take a photo until the kiln was on the way down--about 1945 F--but it still shows. There are 6 peeps--but only 5 show. And the photo shows that the top 2 peeps are not as bright as the middle two and that the next to the bottom peep is very dull. I do have element problems. Drat...)
Didn't want it to be the elements--they are so expensive. I am so sorry that I don't know enough about electric machines and their care to be able to take care of my kiln. I am totally ignorant in that area (not just that area, unfortunately!)

I had a funny thing happen in the last (bisque) firing. I always put cone packs into the kiln--usually 3, sometimes 4. I have never had the fallen cones break except if I carelessly put then on the table when emptying the kiln--I line them up on the edge of the table to take a photo of the cones to put with the record of that firing. When I was emptying the kiln, I found that the top cone pack had a broken ^5 when I picked it up from the shelf. Curious. The cone was placed near the edge of the 1/2 shelf in the middle of the kiln so the fallen cone melts down over the edge of the shelf. When I removed that shelf I found the broken piece on the shelf below. Strange. Then the next cone pack had done exactly the same thing--^5 broken and sitting on the lower shelf. Very strange. Then I got to the bottom shelf and the ^5 was also broken off--but it was not sitting on the edge of a shelf and there was no broken piece near it on the shelf. Then I saw the broken end sticking out of a element grove. Very strange--so the broken piece had flown across the shelf--inches--to land in the grove. Perhaps that burned out the lower element. But what would cause those cones to break? The ^6 cones were all flat but none were broken. The broken ends of the ^5's were not melted, they looked as if they had just been snapped in two.

Sunday is the San Antonio Potters Guild show/sale. I am participating--sharing a booth with a friend. I don't have much work to show and not enough time to make a lot. So I've been working pretty steadily since early October. (t won't be the end of the world if I don't get anything from this long, strange firing--but I'd like to have this work to add to what I do have.) As I've been working for this deadline I've been very aware of how much I need to be spending time experimenting and exploring in the studio. Maybe I feel guilty spending a lot of time there and neglecting family things--with the show coming up I could justify to myself (and family) disappearing into the studio for most of the days, most of the past month. But I see so clearly that if I want to 'be a potter' I've got to commit to it on a more regular basis. Having the show as a deadline is a great excuse/motivator to be working away. But to really grow in my work I've got to work at it more consistently--without the deadline. I loved the line in the new issue of "Pottery Making Illustrated" on the editors page: "If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done." That is my story, for sure!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

what do you do?

It seems like each piece I fire has a lesson to teach me...that is great...but I was hoping to have something I could be really proud of. The really bad part of that is that the problems can't be attributed to the firing! They are all 'hand made' by the potter!

I like the teapot...but I messed up the foot: wax mess and too shallow a foot so the glaze touched the shelf and made an ugly mark.

A pretty little sauce boat...but I think the glaze was too thin and I mended a crack with paper clay and it left an ugly scar that the glaze accentuated. I'm going to remake this one because I do like the idea.

Three compotes that work alone or stacked up. Nice. But I learned why it is not a great idea to get the stoneware pots too thin. Two of the three sagged a bit in the firing so they do not have a nice bowl shape. The largest one did well--probably not so thin.

I am not happy with the cane handle. I can cut it off and remake it. I have not mastered the skill yet! So the answer is to make lots of cane handles till I have mastered the skill--and might as well take advantage of this opportunity make another cane handle! And maybe redo the one on the teapot which I'm not so happy with either!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Kenny has been sitting (in his wheelchair) by the front door for a couple hours waiting to serve little visitors their treats--but so far no callers. I just spoke with my daughter-in-law who lives just a couple blocks away to see if they have had any callers yet. She said they had just turned on the lights. So we were a bit early over here! I thought perhaps with all the scary stories these days that perhaps the trickers would come around earlier. Do hope we get come trickers--Kenny will be so disappointed if he has sat by the door all evening with no callers AND then we will have all that candy left over that I am sure to get into!

Besides waiting for the trickers, I am waiting for the kiln to get cool enough to open and empty. This is the second glaze firing in a little over a week. Our guild has its annual sale/show November 8 and I foolishly thought I'd have some work by then--but it has been a big push to try to get some things to offer. What I learn from this last minute push is that it is NOT the way to work with pottery-making. I need to have lots of experience behind me to crank out work on such short notice. I need to do lots of exploring and experimenting in a more leisurely fashion. There are so many 'tests' I want and need to do. I have one week to get another bisque and glaze firing done. I have greenware drying out right now. Just a bit disappointed that I am not able to do some more interesting work. Guess that comes later--I hope it does come later!

Well, I hope you are having a nice evening with family and friends. Boooo.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

what's up?

First, I blamed my failure to post to my blog regularly on my inactivity in the studio. (I can't believe it has been 2 months since my last post!) I blamed my inactivity in the studio on other things--but that is another story!
Then, I have blamed my failure to post to my blog on being so busy in the studio that I haven't had time to post!
Then I thought it was because I was not doing anything interesting in the studio.
Come on, girl. What's up? Maybe I just got out of the habit. Maybe I'm just a bit lethargic emotionally. Maybe it was too hot, too long. Maybe because once it started raining it has not stopped. And now the mosquitoes have moved into the studio and taken over...

Our guild, San Antonio Potters Guild, is holding is annual sale on November 8th. Months ago I was sure I would be back in the studio soon and would want to have a booth. Well, I was not back in the studio soon and I have almost nothing to put out in the booth. So now I am in frantic, around the clock frenzy of making, glazing, firing. After a few days of throwing, I went into clean up mode before I began a round of glaze mixing. I washed all the tools I'd been using and laid them out on a towel to dry. I was astonished at how many tools I'd used. I know I am a tool junky but was rather pleased to see that at least I use the tools I've collected--not all of them, mind you, but enough to justify the collection to myself, at least. I am always impressed when a potter says he/she only uses 4 tools to make all the wonderful pots he/she produces. Well, I'm on the other side of the spectrum.

You see my name on those tools--because I was carrying them back and forth from the community studio for a couple years. Just like in school, everyone had the same tools and it was too easy to get them mixed up, so mine are marked!

I had fun the other day blowing up some of my closed pots. It was the first time I had tried that and it was amazing. I used a straw to blow into the almost closed pot and it expanded so easily. I had weighted out several balls of clay the same weight and was making similar closed pots. After I had made the first one I tried blowing into the next. The difference in the pots was amazing. In the photo, the first pot (not blown into) is in the middle of two pots I did expand by blowing.

Well, it looks like once I get started I can't stop. Nice of you to drop in after such a long dry spell!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

just a test

I made some dogwood flower drawer pulls. Originally, I thought of them to replace what is in the kitchen. Then I realized that my bathroom has the same drawer pulls as the ones in the kitchen and would make a great place to test the pulls--not sure how Jim is going to like them in the kitchen. So I made some have put them up in the bathroom so I can test to see if they are going to hold--they are--and to see if I am going to like them--I do. Now the test is to see if Jim likes them--so far he seems not to have noticed--or is he just playing dumb?

I do see some adjustments I might make to the ones I might make for the kitchen. Mostly I'm not too happy with the long stems. We'll see.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

a strange thing happened

Yesterday I pulled a handle on a small sauce bowl. I thought it was one of the best I've done--I'm still trying to accomplish this basic task! I covered it, loosely with a soft cloth and then with laundry-bag plastic to ensure slow drying. This morning when I uncovered the pot I found that the handle had broken in two. Not at one of the attachment points--they were in good shape--but about three-quarters of the way down the handle. The upper portion looked like it had sprung up away from the lower section. Wish I had taken a photo before I cut the two pieces off the the still leather hard pot. This is an approximate positioning of the two pieces but in reality the upper part had more of an upward spring.

The line I drew on the table is an outline of the side of the bowl. You get a sense of the 'spring' of the upper portion.
The break is slightly ragged but you could match the pieces for a perfect repair--but not while attached to the pot! The pot is still moist enough to attach a new handle....which I will now do!

Monday, August 31, 2009

friends and mentors...via web

It is so amazing the relationships that are developed via the web--primarily, in my case, through our blogs. I have friends I feel very close to that I have never met--may never meet face-to-face--yet they are closer to me than friends I see frequently. Part of it is the shared passion--clay--but it is so much more. My blogging buddies are the ones who encourage me when I am discouraged and who celebrate my successes. They are also the ones who mentor me--though they may never know that. The comments section of this blog has so many examples of support through dry times. It is amazing how significant that support is to my work.

Not so easy to see is the mentoring I receive. In several instances, blogging friends have read of my struggle with some problem and sent me solutions--glazes or techniques that might solve the current impasse. In other cases, something someone wrote about or showed in photos inspired some activity in my own studio. Thinking about this so many instances came to mind--too many to mention in this post. Maybe I need to write a series of posts on my blogging mentors. Today, just one--who does not even know me or my blog! June Perry recently described and photographed her "command Center". I liked that idea so much that I set up my own version:

My "command center" is on the side of a rolling cart. When I'm not throwing, it is rolled up close to the wheel--out of the way. When I am throwing, it moves to an easily accessible position.

I have long felt myself to be in June's debt for her incredible study of ^6 glazes. I've tested several and one is my favorite glaze that I use over and over again. That site is a gold mine of information on glazes.

June has also inspired me to join in the search for the perfect pizza dough. I have not actually begun the search but every time I read about her pizza supper I am encouraged again to start the search!

Thank you dear friends and mentors!

Friday, August 28, 2009

change is in the air

Today is the first day in a LONG time that the weather prediction is under 100 degrees--it is to be 99 degrees today. Moreover, we got a little rain last night. When I stepped outside after dark and it was cool--for the first time in a long time I thought of sitting outside for a bit. Oh, gosh, we are eager for autumn! What a long HOT, DRY summer it has been.

I like to tell myself that is why I have been in such a funk lately. I threw a couple pots last weekend and have not done anything since. My studio is air conditioned and I have running water there--I know how lucky I am. But I just can't seem to make myself get out there and stay out there long enough to get some work done. Besides, I'm not trying to make a living, this is supposed to be fun. So my hope is that it is the hot, dry days that have taken their toll on my spirit and with the coming of more accommodating weather I'll regain my enthusiasm for my clay work.

As I leafed through the new Ceramics Monthly yesterday, I began imagining work I WANTED to make! That is a good sign. I even got out my studio log book and began sketching some of those images so I would not forget them. I don't sketch my plans for work--or anything else! So it was quite remarkable that I was doing that. Don't you think that portends a renewed enthusiasm for studio work? Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

clear glaze

On to the less successful products of the last firing!
I have become interested in working with slips. But when I put my clear liner glaze over a piece that had been slipped before the bisque, it became cloudy where thick--as in corners. So I mixed up 3 new 'clear' glazes and fired them over slipped pieces in the last firing. Only one of the four clear glazes gave a really clear cover--Kate the Younger from Lana Wilson's book. The others were cloudy and made the colored slip look pastel--or changed the color completely. The really clear (Kate) was very high gloss and it did the most amazing thing to the slip. I had covered the piece (bowl and platter) with an iron slip--painted on in 3 coats, in 3 different directions. Under 'Kate' the iron slip became bright yellow with dark brown streaks. This striation did not occur with the clear glazes that became cloudy. I guess I am looking for an explanation AND for a clear (^6 electric) glaze that does not go cloudy and reveals the true color of the slip. Any ideas?

These are the glazes that clouded over. There is a stripe of red iron oxide on the right side of test tile.

Here is the test tile for "Kate'.

And here is the bowl:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

at long last

The pagoda is fired. And it is nice! Whew.

The kiln was about as full as I can get it--but I have not much to show. That's OK since I am happy with the way the pagoda came out. There is a small pagoda, also, but it is not as nice--I may refire it, not much color. Funny because the small one gave me all kinds of trouble from start to finish. Had that been the experience with the original I'm sure I'd have thrown in the towel long ago.

It is just the top section of the taller one--the bottom section collapsed while drying. The top part was still intact so I just went ahead with it!

I've made some dogwood flower drawer pulls for my bathroom. Hope I can figure how to attach them to the drawers! (I want them for the kitchen, but I have to go slowly there!)

Otherwise, the kiln was full of tests: testing 3 different 'clear' glazes--not all clear glazes are clear! And a new slip with various colorants--under the new clear glazes--not all clear glazes are clear. And 3 variations on a new black glaze. So lots to study now.

BTW, the firing was much more even top to bottom. It did over-fire a bit--but only one of the clear glazes screamed about that (by way of lots of pin holes).

All in all a good firing.

Oh, and one more thing. I also made a small batch of John Britt's new glaze, Gnu Blue ( It is nice--almost a satin glaze, nice feel and great variation. It does not look much like his--but that is the way of pottery, right?

Friday, July 03, 2009

now I know

Just how I will finish my pagoda. The little test pagodas came out just fine and show clearly how I might get the results I want on the pagoda. I tested 2 glazes, one over a red iron slip, and 2 overglazes. The results are similar but there is a clear winner in my opinion.

On the front of the little pagodas I used Pete Pinnell's "Weathered Bronze" and on the backs I used "AA Cooper" attributed to Val Cushing. In the pagodas on the left in both images I painted Clennell's red iron oxide slip overall before the bisque firing. My preference is the Weathered Bronze over the rio slip. I also dabbed on "Soft Gloss" over the glazes on the roof (front on the WB and back on the AAC. I like the variegated look the Soft Gloss gave to both glazes.
So now I am off to put the slip on the original pagoda. Then I have to get busy on the wheel to have wares to bisque with the pagoda!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

working at it

I just got the kiln started. It is loaded mostly with tests. Test pagodas and lots of test tiles. I am working at learning about my glaze materials. therefore have lots of 'buttons' of materials in little dishes, a long line-blend of a glaze with lithium from 0 to 20 gms, and lots of glaze test tiles to enrich my empirical knowledge database! The last time I fired the kiln (bisque) I got very erratic results--underfired on top, overfired on bottom. I think it was because the kiln was very unevenly loaded--lots of empty space at the top. So I worked very hard to try to load the kiln more evenly. We'll see how that goes, too. In this kiln load, I am refiring 2 pieces that were very disappointing from the last firing. Wonder what luck I will have. Others have commented that it is not a sure thing--works sometimes, not worth the effort other times. Guess I am just curious to see if I can save them before I throw them away.

I'm discovering that I don't want all the glazes in the world--but just a couple that I really like. And one that is especially nice and takes various colorants well. Right now I have lots of large and small buckets of lots of glazes and glaze tests. Yet when I get ready to glaze pots there are only a couple that I am comfortable using.

I had my air compressor repaired recently--and I can't get it (or me) to work well. It had preformed so well until it didn't! And now I am struggling with trying to get the regulator set properly (never had to fool with it much before) and also all the controls on the spray gun seem to be off. Maybe I messed them up trying to use the compressor when it was not functioning well. Any way it is very frustrating!

Monday, June 29, 2009


I am glazing now, trying to get to fire all my tests. Because glazing is the part of the process that I am least comfortable with, least successful at and most dislike doing--I get there very slowly. My temptation is to rush through it all--just pour/paint/spray some glazes on the pots as quickly as I can and get everything into the kiln. But then I always regret it when I open the kiln! Of course!
Besides the little pagoda tests I have lots of test tiles I am eager to see. I am engaged in a glaze chemistry study that I am very excited about getting to do. I've wished for this opportunity for several years and tried to get a small group together to study glazes with and share the testing part of the process, but could not find anyone wanting to pursue the study with me. I have all the books, have read lots but it just has not worked till now. Now I have a programmed study and it is making all the difference! I am suddenly able to look at glazes in a totally new way. Suddenly what is in a glaze has some meaning for me. I have a load of tests related to that study and I am so eager to see what they will show me. I am almost more excited to see those tests than the little pagodas that are also going to tell me a lot--I hope!
For the pagodas I have 2 glazes to test, one pagoda has a rio slip bisqued on all over the other is plain, then I have two overglazes that I am testing over the two glazes. So the pagodas will look like patch-work quilts when fired--each side of each building will have a different variation on one of the two glazes!
So I am off to the studio to see what I can get done today before I fold up from the heat. We are having a terrible heat wave--over 100F everyday for a week. Perhaps we will get a bit of a break tomorrow with a little rain--fingers crossed. Our studio has a little air conditioner unit, which runs constantly when we are there (off when we are not) but it does not get the studio temperature much below 85F. It is great that it does that--but I wish it got a bit cooler!

Friday, June 19, 2009

a brief detour

So many questions and decisions about how to glaze my pagoda led me to make two 'test' buildings.

I was not as careful as with the 'real' pagoda and I had my patterns from the original, so these went together quickly. I really did not want to take the time to make them or to fire and glaze them before getting to finish the original. But I want to test a couple glazes and also am considering applying a stain or engobe to the pagoda before bisquing it. In spite of how dark the clay appears when wet, it dries very light--not white but a light buff. So this seemed the way to go.
Now I've got to get busy and get a kiln load of ware made so I can do the bisque firing and then glaze these 'tests'.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

a good day

The first of the month, Jim and I went to Maine to visit my sister and her husband. We had a wonderful, restive, restorative week with them. I came home resolved to get back into a regular routine in the studio. Yesterday was my first 'working' day. I threw a couple bowls, some small vases off the hump and a small pitcher to warm up and get back into the swing of things.
Today I decided to tackle a project that I have long wanted to do but did not have the psychic energy to attempt. I am enthralled with a couple 'pagodas' that are in San Antonio Museum of Art's fabulous collection of Asian arts. I have longed to make one similar. So that was today's work--and I am very happy with it so far. Just hope I can be this happy with it after it is glazed and fired!

I worked on it from about 7:30 am to 4:30 pm, am dog tired--but it feels so good to be back in the groove again!

Friday, April 03, 2009


Things are looking up for me these days. I did do a bit of re-organization in the studio and some clean-up. That was good! But the most helpful thing I did was clear out a lot of pottery that I was not proud of but was hanging on to 'just because'. About half of what was on the shelves 'got the hammer' and the other half was boxed up and sent off to GoodWill. The empty shelves look GREAT! Don't know why it is so hard to give up the stuff that feels so good to be rid of! It feels a bit like the start of school in the fall--clean slate and new beginnings. And so, back to the potter's wheel.

Dale Neese, local potter, brought his Chinese friend, Jiansheng Li (alias Jackson Li), to San Antonio this past week. J Li offered us three opportunities to learn something of the heritage of Chinese ceramics. Tuesday evening he showed a film he made of men working in traditional (ancient) methods making and firing huge storage jars. J Li is dedicated to preserving the traditional crafts that China is know for both through a school he has established in Jingdezhan and tours he offers to visit other craft sites in China. ( If I were younger I'd be on my way to join one of his tours!) On Thursday he led a group from our potters guild through the Asian collection at San Antonio Museum of Art. The museum has a wonderful collection of Asian art--Mr. Li was very complimentary of the collection. I have spent a good deal of time wandering through the collection and I found J Li's remarks were very enriching. He also offered a workshop at University of Texas at San Antonio on Saturday which I was not able to attend. All and all a very stimulating week.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I am a little bit. Friend and fellow blogger, Judy Shreve, asked if we like the color blue and wondered why is has such a bad reputation among potters. I do like blue--one of my favorite glazes is blue and some of my favorite pots are blue. It is said that if you paint it blue it will sell. Not sure that is really the case.

Well, back on topic. I am a bit discouraged from the last firings. I am pretty sure I have figured out the problem and that should mean I don't have to suffer that failure again. But for some reason that does not lift my spirits any. Guess I just need to roll up my sleeves and get busy filling the kiln again. Maybe I can lift myself out of the dumps by making some great stuff!

I spent a couple hours Thursday and again today at SAMA (our art museum). We have a terrific collection of Asian art--lots of ceramics, ancient and more recent. For the first time I sketched pots that I particularly liked. I am not a 'drawer' and do not keep a sketch book of ideas as so many other potters do. I found it very agreeable. I look much closer, see much more when I am trying to draw the object. I suspect that it might have a significant influence on my potting--possibly in ways I won't be able to recognize. I am very attracted to the older, more primitive pieces-- pieces that depend on form and glaze for their success. I am not so attracted to the more refined work with intricately drawn/painted designs.

One of the pieces that I am happy about from the last firing is a salt & pepper set:

They fit into the tray like this:

I am pleased with this serving bowl:

It is nicely squared and seems to fit the red/black color combination.

So, back to the wheel. Happy Spring--we are buried in leaves! And it is so windy, they fly everywhere and in any opened door.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Oh, my gosh

I've been very reclusive lately. Not just with this blog. Let's see if I can't get back in touch with life!

Kenny is doing very well. He functioning as independently as he was when he first moved in here last year. Around Thanksgiving he discovered Legos and the little box sets they have for building vehicles--his life long love. He has put in thousands of hours working on his Lego projects. We are all amazed at his enthusiasm for constructing with the tiny blocks because of the restricted use he has of his hands--especially his right hand. He spends his mornings in the studio (week days only!) and the afternoons and some evenings working with the Legos. His TV watching is greatly diminished--a good thing!

On the pottery side of the studio, I just completed a glaze firing--first since my last post. I was so disappointed in the last firing it was hard to generate enough enthusiasm to get started again. Unfortunately, this was not very successful either. At least I understand what happened--something I caused and can control next time. I made a mistake in the firing schedule--something I thought I had read but maybe I dreamed it up all on my own! Anyway, on one glaze in particular, but to a lesser degree almost everything had a 'gritty' feeling surface. It was not grit but tiny craters with rough edges on my glazes. Everything with the new black glaze was covered with this 'grit'.

My 'red' glaze held up the best through the bad firing. I am particularly fond of the compote.

I made another of the gratin dishes with a bit higher side (deeper dish). But really messed up the inside. I thought I'd like the inside colored--not white like the last one--so I painted on a slip at the leather hard stage. The slip was supposed to be a medium green. After the bisque it looked black but it was supposed to be medium green so I put a green glaze on the outside and a clear liner glaze on the inside. Weill the slip came out BLUE and clear liner glaze left a white ring around the inside edge--where the wall meets the base. Boo Hoo.

Well, back to the studio. I am going to try refiring the black glazed pieces to see if they will smooth out--I don't have great expectations but do have big wishes! And I'm still trying to think of some way to save my gratin dish...