Sunday, January 30, 2011

bits and pieces

During the holidays I treated myself to two new DVDs: Nan Rothwell's Throwing demonstrations and Sandi Pierantozzi's Slab and Texture work. Both are very inspiring--they each do such wonderful work and so different! It has inspired me to get started back in the studio a bit. Supporting that urge, the weather here has been wonderful--today it got up to the height 70s--so it is not daunting to be out in a cold studio!

This week I started by impressing some slabs with texture--some just to fire and use in the future for texture sources, and some on a small pitcher and others on a recipe box I'm trying to make for my collection. I'm not crazy about slab work--even with a slab roller--it just seems so boring. But adding texture as I go makes it more fun and more interesting.
This little pitcher began as a slab that I impressed texture on, then rounded into a cylinder and pinched the tripod feet. In the past I had thrown baseless cylinders the pinched the tripod feet onto. Not sure which I like to do better but I do like getting to impress texture on the slabs.

Last year I make a jug from a video that Nan Rothwell demonstrated on her web page. The jug (she made a pitcher, I made an amphora) was one of the more popular pieces I made all year! And I've intended to make another ever since. So now I have thrown one and I want to do another before I bisque the first so I can work on them both.

In the category of failed projects--and serious discouragements--is a pierced pot I was working on. I worked on it over an extended period of time so was keeping it covered and moist. One evening I over wetting it so that in the morning, when I first touched it, half the pot fell apart. I want to get another started before I totally loose touch with the impulse. This the end phase of that sad tale.

Monday, January 17, 2011

now, after the holidays

We've had a longer holiday season than most. Ours began with the celebration of Kenny's 50th birthday the week before Thanksgiving. Then there came Thanksgiving and then Christmas and finally my 74th birthday celebrated last Monday with a visit from my sister Catherine and her husband Wayne who live in Maine. Tomorrow Catherine returns home to Kennebunkport and I plan to be in the studio for the first time since these holidays began so long ago!

I have not touched clay in so long it will be like starting all over. And I am really not sure where or how to begin again. I've spent a lot of time before this break working with earthenware clay but I think I am about to return to my BlackJack clay which I fire to ^6. It is sold as a ^6 to ^10 clay--which I know does not exist! I have considered firing it a little higher--it is not vitrified at ^6 and vases do weep if left standing with water for a length of time. But to change the firing temperature will also require adjusting the glazes I've used--or be willing to accept the change the higher temperature will cause in the glazes. Actually, my vases weep that were fired to ^10 at the craft center when I was taking classes there. So maybe I should just give up making vases! I am not satisfied with what I've been able to do painting designs on my pots and that might be best done in the majolica style--which is low fire again. I think I need to satisfy that quest before moving on. So you see I'm not at all clear about what I am going to do nor what I want to do.

The most exciting thing in my ceramics life right now is a new book I bought for myself--as a birthday present.

I heard Robert Piepenburg speak at NCECA several years ago and was very moved by his presentation. I have another book he wrote--a very small book that left me wanting more. When I saw the ad for this new book I was very eager to get it. Because it was written by him but also because I've been wishing for some instruction about 'ceramic design'. I expected this to be something of a 'how-to' book, but it isn't. I'm half way through reading it and have just come to the discussion of the 'elements of design'. The book is very inspirational, just as his talk was years ago. For me, it is a treasure. But it has not been easy reading. He is dealing with intangibles: design, spirit, and love. The essentials of life and art. But not easy to define and I have to re-read parts to be sure I am understanding his words in the way he is using them. It does make me eager to get back into the studio and see how reading the book may affect what I do with the clay.

When Jim and I were in Oaxaca for my niece's wedding last August we saw a rug/tapestry on the wall of a small shop and fell in love with it. After much discussion, consideration, and some haggling we bought the rug. Not until this January did we manage to get it up on the wall. We are delighted.
And so my new year begins!