Monday, December 2, 2013

Second Ceramics Course : More Containers and Bowls and Lids, too!

Continuing on my from my previous post with some of the bigger pieces from my "Get a Grip" handles-oriented ceramics course...  These are all made from white stoneware, which has been a delight to work with.

As before, please let me know which pieces, if any, you find appealing or amusing, or have any comments or suggestions for what to try next...

 #19 - One of the exercises in the class was to form two bowls (which don't require trimming) of the same diameter and height (as you see, I managed to get the height to match, but not the diameter).  While still soft, the bowls are set on strips of newspaper, so you can pull them together, press the walls to join, and form a simple handle by cutting and stretching a slot on the joined wall.  (Sorry my photo doesn't show the handle in action, but it does work fairly well.)

I was not very excited by this piece, but surprisingly my husband liked it, and commented on it that the colours were good, and it seemed pretty practical, too.  It could easily hold dips (e.g. salsa and sour cream), or candies, or other snacks.

We use Cone 10 glazes, and surprisingly, my notes say that I dipped in Copper Red (!) at the bottom, then Deep Blue inside and at the top.  I can't see how this is Copper Red, it looks more like a Clear or White, although there is a trace of a reddish smudge between the two bowls (barely visible in the bottom right photo).  I have found the glazing a bewildering process, and one of the most challenging parts of the learning so far.  You never seem to know what you are going to get.  And, despite my instructor's suggestion to stick to single glazes, I find that I need to experiment with layering different colours, and the result is quite unpredictable.

#20 -  Someone in our class decided to try joining 3 bowls together, and I liked the look of it, and the opportunity to try a hollow handle to add on top.  I was really pleased with how the handle turned out.  It is quite sturdy, and the whole piece seems quite functional, although almost too big and heavy to handle, especially if filled with dips or candies.  I have been surprised previously by how much the pieces shrink during firing, so I made it extra large, but then this one didn't seem to shrink!  (Thanks to my classmate Ayaka, she tried firing - at Cone 6 - a test piece of 10 x 10 cm, and it shrunk to about 9.5 x 9.5 cm.  Subsequently, she informs me that the Cone 10 firing shrunk it further to 9 x 9 cm, so about 10% shrinkage overall.)

Anyhow, my oversized candy bowl was dipped with Bamboo inside and on the rim, then dipped the outside in Matt Green, and the handle (which was mostly done with a brush) in Deep Blue.  I really like the bamboo and Matt Green combination.  I'm not so sure I like the contrast of the Deep Blue, but at least the colour is stunning.  What do you think?  What colour would you have picked for the handle?

 #21 - I love this bowl.  I am super pleased with the result.  It was one of my lessons in forming a hollow rim (I love the look and feel of that rim), and for some reason, I was discouraged (I seem to remember I was trying for a totally different shape, like a cylinder, and ended up with a bowl), and amused myself by adding turquoise slip to the still-wet bowl on the wheel, and twirling this lovely pattern.  My instructor was a bit concerned that I was adding wet slip to a wet bowl, apparently I should have waiting for the bowl to firm up to leather hard, before doing so.  But the result was okay.

I dipped the whole piece in the "revived" Celadon.  There is a whole story behind this glaze, which was lost on me, but my classmates who have been doing ceramics for years remember this older recipe for the Celadon, which was replaced by a newer Celadon, but people liked the older Celadon, so that one has been revised.  Anyhow, the combination of the Turquoise and Celadon is really lovely, in my opinion.  What do you think?  I'd try this combination again.

 #22 - I forgot what I was trying to make, with this one, but I do like the result.  It is Deep Blue inside.  Then Bamboo on the bottom, overlapped with Matt Green on top.  I guess I overlapped the Matt Green on the Deep Blue on the wide rim.  It is interesting that the Deep Blue appears to have crept up into the Matt Green, although I think what actually happened is that the Matt Green sank or disappeared into the Deep Blue.  The overlap on the outside is pretty pleasing, to me.  I don't know what this vessel will be used for, but we'll see.  It will find its destiny.  I stamped the inside bottom of this one, and the stamp survived nicely the glazing.  I think this is a winning technique, since it is often too difficult to get to the bottom while still soft enough (without warping the whole piece by trying to flip it over) and then the piece can be too dry to stamp by the following week.  I'm still learning how to balance between these too states.

#23 - This was one of my first attempts at a lidded container.  I think it turned out okay.  I guess I threw the lid as a bowl, flipped it over when leather hard, and then threw the knob on top of it.  The knob cracked off during the bisque firing, but my instructor, Jay, suggested that I glaze both pieces, and then they'd set them in the kiln together, where they would fuse.  He was right, they fused nicely, except that the knob is a little off-centered.  But better than a missing knob!

The piece was dipped in Matt Green at an angle, then the whole piece dipped in Deep Blue.  I like that combination, even though it is a bit strong.  The lid fits fairly well, although it is definitely not circular.   It has one orientation which fits better than the others.

#24 - I am really liking this little oatmeal bowl / soup bowl.  I experimented with liquid latex, creating little stars (which would be white/unglazed) at the bottom.  Then dipped the whole piece in Bamboo.  Then added another row of stars above (which would be Bamboo), then dipping the bottom of the bowl into Deep Blue.  Then the latex is peeled off before firing.

I learned a bit more about the glazes.  Look how the stars at the bottom have pretty much retained their shape, the glaze pooling around them, but not running over top.  The stars on the top seem to have melted/run.  I bet there would be a different effect also if I had sprayed only a thin layer of glaze.  Fascinating. 

I used pretty much the same technique in bowl #18 (see previous post), but the Deep Blue over Ash Yellow ran even more, leaving only smears behind, instead of stars.  I think I like the stars better!

Just after I took the photo in the top left, I realized that my 12 year old had discovered that the 3-bowl container #20 could double as a drum set.  I was amused, so have included this photo in the mosaic, even though he will be annoyed at me for doing so.  As his mom, I think I have the right.

 #25 - One of the benefits of glazing later in the course is that you get to see some initial results before you need to decide on glazes.  In this case, someone else had experimented with Deep Blue followed by Oatmeal, and I liked the result.  It is reminiscent of enamel cookware, which is why I selected it for this piece.

I don't know what to think of this little piece, it looks like a very small bathtub to me.  It was one of our class assignments, to create a "casserole dish" (not that I can appreciate what to do with that, especially such a miniature version of one).  It was thrown as a round bowl, and then the base cut on two sides while still fresh, the sides pushed in gently, and reattached to the base. Then the outside edge trimmed off.  All while the clay is soft.  Pretty cool technique.  The bowl also features a hollow rim, which gives the piece substance without become heavy.

 #26 - The pieces started as a bowl which failed.  It started to warp on the wheel, so I pulled it off, let it dry to leather hard, and then carved it into a lily-like flower.  It seemed to me about the right size for a candle holder, and sure enough, fit a tea light, but then I remembered this chocolate-scented candle, which is a bit taller than I would pick, but a perfect colour match!

This one was dipped in Carbon Trap Shino.

 #27 and #28 - When I asked my friend Lily, what ceramics could be useful for her, she mentioned a soap dish and matching tooth brush holder.  Actually, she asked for 2 tooth brush holders, which I made, but one of them went missing when I sent them for bisque firing, and never did show up again.  Mysterious.  It wasn't even that significant of a piece, so I was surprised.  If it was more impressive, I would have been flattered that someone wanted it.

Anyhow, I made them at the end of a day when I was too tired and my wrists hurt too much to throw more pieces.  They are just cut from a slab, and imprinted with a patterned roller.  I didn't do a great job at finishing them, because I ended up pressed for time, and was tired, and since I got hooked on the wheel, can't get myself excited about hand building any more.  So I'll offer them to Lily, but won't be disappointed if she doesn't find them useful.  I didn't even ask her what shape she wanted for her soap dish (there are many different kinds out there, and I'm not used to any of them, having used liquid hand soap for many years myself).

These were also dipped in the "revived" Celadon.  I think it is a very pleasant and natural colour, and the texture shows through quite well.

 #29 - This one is a lid I spent a lot of time trimming so it would fit on top of an almost spherical container.  I was really happy with the result, and the fit.  Then the container went missing, and all I found was the lid.  So I glazed it anyhow with Deep Blue.  But the container never did reappear, even though I looked for it many times.  I am particularly fond of spherical shapes, so was sad to lose this one.  Perhaps it's like socks in the laundry, it will resurface one day.  Hopefully I'll be there to find it.  I have the matching lid to prove that it's mine.  :-)

#30 - The inspiration for this bowl was my glass bowl shown on the top left.   It is a really practical size for chips or potato salad, or fruit salad...  Since the glass is textured on the outside (bottom), I decided to bring it to class, and try to form a bowl by pressing a slab overtop.  It turned out to be more complicated than I thought, but I learned how to roll a slab properly (had forgotten from my first course), how to use corn starch on the mold to prevent the clay from sticking, and also learned that as the clay dries, it shrinks and pulls away from the mold, so would be probably be more appropriate for the inside of the bowl.

Anyhow, I wasn't sure how much the pattern would show through, since I could barely see the indentation on the raw clay, and even the bisqued piece.  So I cut a fluted/scalloped rim, so at least the shape would be interesting, in case the texture wasn't.  I discovered this glaze combination from a classmate, who used Ash Yellow dipped in Deep Blue to a wonderful effect.  I decided to go with more reddish tones for my rose bowl, so tried Ash Yellow then Khaki.  The first time, it failed completely, and the Khaki wouldn't dry, even after waiting 20 minutes.  I suspect I hadn't stirred the glaze adequately.  Anyhow, I ended up washing the glaze off, and waiting for the following week to try again, this time successfully.

I really love the richness of this glaze combination, and the texture is beautifully accented.  The Khaki has pooled a bit in the inside bottom, and it is clear even on the outside that the Khaki is thicker or darker at the bottom of the bowl.  So I may try a similar combination some time, but spray on the top layer, to see what that does.

I would love to hear from you what your thoughts are, and if you are a friend or family member, please hint at me if you'd like to receive any of these for Christmas or other occasions.

I will post the final 3 pieces after Christmas, so I won't ruin the surprise.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Second Ceramics Course : Vases, Jugs and Bowls

A few of my bigger pieces are starting to come out of the kiln.  I am hoping to collect the remaining ones this weekend.  In the meantime, here are a few I can share (i.e. not Christmas gifts, that I plan to keep secret).

I'm numbering my pieces, continuing from the first and second set of mugs.  Please let me know which, if any, you find appealing - or amusing.

#16 - This jug is pretty fun, even though it didn't turn out how I had hoped.  Since this was a handles course, but I'm a bit of a rebel, I decided to create serpentine handles.  I wish I had a photo of it before it was glazed.  The snakes had a really realistic texture, created by rolling them in a plastic mesh (like the bags used to hold marbles or mini oranges).  I had hoped the glaze would bring out the texture, but instead it hid it entirely.  I realize now that I should have applied a dark glaze or underglaze, removed it with a sponge (so it would remain in the texture lines), then coated with a thin coat of light glaze, or none at all.

I had played with some ideas with adding an underglaze design at the front of Adam and Eve and the original Serpent.  But once it was fired, I realized the surface area was a bit restricted, and I had so many pieces to glaze I didn't want to spend the time.  Now I'm glad I didn't.

The snakes were brushed with Tenmoku (all our glazes are Cone 10), then the whole piece dipped in Bamboo.  I'm quite happy with the Tenmoku and Bamboo, but without the snakeskin texture, the fun of this piece is really lost for me.

 #17 - This pitcher or jug is pretty weighty, even when empty, but I like the result anyhow.  I used White glaze inside, which I am pretty happy with.  Then I waxed the rim & top 1" of the inside when I dipped the outside.  First Khaki on the top, then Deep Blue from the bottom, overlapping the Khaki.  I really like the greenish colour formed by the Deep Blue on Khaki.  Another time I wouldn't leave the Khaki at top, since it is not as glossy as the Deep Blue, and I'm not sure I like this matte effect here.  But it's all good.  I'm learning lots

#18 - This bowl was probably one of my first where I achieved a hollow rim.  I dipped the whole pieces in Ash Yellow.  Then I painted little hearts with latex, dipped the Outside in Deep Blue, and removed the latex to reveal little yellow hearts.  It looked pretty good at the time, but when it was fired, all that is left of the hearts are some funky looking smears.  Oh well, lots of learning again.  I'm guessing the glazes would need to go on thinner (and my hearts larger) to achieve the effect I was aiming for.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It's Just Dirt

In case you're wondering where I got the name for my blog, this song is my inspiration.  It is one of my favourite country songs at the moment.  I hope you'll enjoy it too :

Friday, November 8, 2013

Second Ceramics Course : Mugs 2 of 2

Continuing on with the remainder of my 15 stoneware mugs, which I just hauled home this week from my ceramics course focusing on making handles....

#8 - I forgot why I pulled a spout on this grey stoneware piece, I think it was because the top was not level, so it didn't make a convincing mug.  Anyhow, it turned out pretty good, I think.  First I dipped the whole piece in Bamboo glaze, then brushed Amber Celadon onto the handle.  It's interesting that the Amber Celadon covered nicely the Bamboo on the handle.  As opposed to the Matt Green on Bamboo (see #6 from previous post), which seemed to slide away and mostly disappear.  The signature stamp shows fairly well, although I found a challenge that the bases were mostly concave, so my "Lily" in the middle is not impressed as clearly as it could.  I guess the ideal stamp would be slightly mounded, so it could be pressed into a slightly concave surface.

#9 - This one is a "fail" (that's what the kids seem to say now, instead of "failure").  But I've learned from it.  I filled the inside with Matt Green first, then dipped the whole piece in Shino.  I've since learned that Shino is a finicky glaze.  When I dipped it, it became all bubbly.  I waited until it was completely dry (as my instructor warned me not to touch it up while still wet), then smoothed some of the bubbles on the outside.  I left the bubbles inside.  I added a few Matt Green highlights on the handle, hoping to pick up the pattern more clearly.

The Shino glaze sample on the wall is a pleasant salmon colour, and little bits of that colour seem to have come through, at least on the handle and rim.  But it's as if the colour slid off the remainder of the mug.  Perhaps Shino needs to be sprayed on, so not as thick?  Or maybe I will avoid this glaze until I get a better understanding of how it behaves.  I don't have a good photo of it, but the inside bottom is kind of unappetizing, it is all bumpy.  (Funny thing, my 12 year old commented that he liked this one best!)  I've since heard that Shino doesn't play well with other glazes, so again, I will probably hold off from using it until I have some more experience (or can see what others do to tame it).

#10 - This grey stoneware mug / teacup was dipped in Tenmoku.  It looks like a mixture of milk and dark chocolate.

I think this was the handle which was formed by attaching and pulling directly on the mug.

#11 - This grey stoneware mug was also fully dipped in Tenmoku.  Another time I would try White on the inside and Tenmoku on the outside.  That could be a good combination.

#12 - This grey stoneware mug was fully dipped in Bamboo (I am starting to really like that colour, it is so relaxed and natural), then the inside and handle dipped/brushed in Matt Green.  When I poured out the Matt Green, some of it dripped down the side of the mug where the handle is.  I knew that would drive me crazy, so I embraced the mistake, and dotted Matt Green everywhere, to make it look intentional.  I'm not sure I like how the spots turned out, but it has given me more indications of how these glazes work together, so it was a good experiment.

#13 - This grey stoneware mug (a pretty tiny one, in my opinion) was dipped/brushed with Bamboo on the inside and handle, then the whole mug was dipped into Clear glaze.  The colour combination is not stunning, but the colours seem to go quite well together.  It looks quite earthy and natural.

#14 - This grey stoneware mug was fully dipped in Matt Green, then dipped in Deep Blue at a diagonal so it filled the inside and half the outside.  I quite like that effect, and think I will want to remember this.  This was one of the first mugs I glazed, so I learned that I needed to add a bit more wax resist to the others, to prevent the glaze from sticking to the signature stamp.  Although if it stuck to the full signature, that could be a pretty cool effect, but that would be pretty difficult to control.

I seem to remember this was a pulled handle (as opposed to many of the others, which were formed from a coil), but made separately then attached.

#15 - Finally, this grey stoneware teacup (it seems to me a child cup, or maybe an espresso cup), was glazed with Tam's Green on the inside and handle.  Then I poured Shino over it while upside down.  Again, the Shino decided to misbehave.  I like the one side, with the light salmon colour and the dark spots from the grey stoneware.  But I don't much appreciate the big patches of white on the reverse side, and near the handle where I touched it up with a brush..  Oh well, that's Shino, I now understand.
I like the swirls inside the teacup, formed by the throwing process.  I can't remember if I intentionally pulled those lines, but I suspect so.  Anyhow, I like the effect, and the Tam's Green glaze still shows off the lines very nicely.
Sadly, I have only one ceramics class remaining in this course.  I think I have something like 20 larger pieces (pitchers, vases, covered bowls, etc) which still need to be glazed and one lid which needs a knob added.  So I'm hoping to catch a couple of open workshops to get that all done before the glaze firing deadline in a couple of weeks.   I also had a few items in my head which I was hoping to attempt, but didn't even get to them.  That's what the course in January will be for.  :-)
Which mugs do you like best?
Stay tuned, I'll have more photos, probably by early December.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Second Ceramics Course : Mugs 1 of 2

I was happy to see the first 15 of my pieces emerge from their glaze firing, although not sure what to do with them all, now that I have them at home, and on my kitchen counter.  Ha.

I am posting them in probably what is a reverse order to how I made them, since I'm starting from biggest to smallest.  The biggest mugs probably started as about 700 or 800 g of clay.  The smallest ones were the recommended 400 g, I think.  But they are much to small for me to consider them as practical.  I'm a BIG mug sort of person.

These are the first 7 pieces.  I'll post the other 8 another day.

#1 - This white stoneware piece started as a failed attempt at a mug, which I decided to cut off and style into what could be a jewelry container (the earrings can be set into the holes), or a candleholder.  It was fully dipped in Deep Blue glaze, then the bottom dipped again into Matt Green.  I really love the colours of this piece, and it has a chunky weight, but seems to be pretty evenly distributed.  I'd have to say it is my favourite so far.  My signature stamp was pressed into the inside bottom, but it is barely legible, since the glaze has filled it in.

 #2 - This grey stoneware piece (I've since moved away from the grey which was quite gritty, to the smooth-textured white stoneware) is pretty heavy all around.  I can now throw a lot finer walls.  But it has a pretty satisfying feel to it, the colours are great, I like the swirl at the base, and I managed to fit in my signature stamp okay on the inside.  So I'm pretty happy all around with how it turned out.  It was dipped fully in Deep Blue glaze, and then Matt Green brushed onto the top part, and the handle.  I like how that turned out.

#3 - This grey stoneware mug turned out pretty good, after a near disaster.  When I was throwing it, I decided to inscribe the spirally lines with a wire loop sgraffito tool, but that left an awful mess of clay bits, that I tried filling it in with black slip, but that didn't do much to clean it up either.  So finally my classmate Roma lent me a rubber-tipped tool which helped to clean up the lines, and then I scraped off any black slip which was outside those lines.  The inside is Deep Blue.  The outside was dipped up to the rim in Ash Yellow.  It is a bit messy for my taste, but I like the overall look, and how the lines on the handle fit with the lines on the mug.  (I don't remember the handle being so wonky when I attached it, that must have happed during the firing.)  I also added swirl at the base.  I guess I couldn't find a good place for the signature stamp, so I ended up adding a blob of clay inside the handle, and pressing it there.  If the Deep Blue glaze were not so thick, it would be more readable.  The weight of this one is quite reasonable, and evenly distributed.  I could imagine using a mug like this one.

This handle was formed as a coil, the lines indented with the edge of a ruler or stick, and then slapped on the table to widen one end.

#4 - This white stoneware mug turned out surprisingly rich and beautiful.  Too bad the bottom was too thin that it cracked through (I was asked to throw a base I wouldn't need to trim, but then I think I cut too much off when I used my wire tool to remove it from the wheel).   But perhaps it could be used for a dried flower arrangement.  It is probably too nice for a pencil holder.  It was fully dipped in Amber Celadon.   Looking back now, I see that I preferred dark glaze for the insides of my mugs, but my classmate Ayaka used white glaze for hers, and when I saw them, I think I would try that next time instead.  But that's the learning process.

This handle was formed as a coil which was pressed with a patterned roller.  I really like the pattern.

#5 - This grey stoneware mug is pretty nice and chunky.  Maybe a bit too heavy at the base.  The shape is very "natural" - looks handmade.  It was mostly dipped in Amber Celadon, with a few touchups with the brush (which are the spot inside and near the handle which look like a different colour - I may want to avoid that in future).  Then the handle was dipped (and touched up with the brush) in Deep Blue.  Fairly pleasing, although another time I would have sprayed the Amber Celadon - so it was have been more even and a lighter coloured.  My stamp worked out fairly well at the bottom (although I had a tough time pressing it up into the base, where the clay was generally the thinnest.

 #6 - This grey stoneware mug is a fairly light weight, and comfortable to hold.  I like the decorative handle, and the overall shape is interesting.  I would have liked more of a foot on it, but we were asked to avoid too much trimming.  It is dipped in Bamboo, and then I added some Matt Green highlights on the handle and on the rim (I guess they should have been below the Bamboo instead of on top, since they have pretty much disappeared).  The stamp worked out pretty clearly on the bottom.  It is interesting how the spots show in the stoneware.  I think this is a property of the grey stoneware, which will not be visible in the white stoneware.  I'll have to try this Bamboo glaze again.  It has a relaxed, natural look which seems to suit handmade pieces.

#7 - This grey stoneware mug turned out a little bottom heavy, but still quite useable.  It features a hollow handle which was pressed with the edge of a rule before bending it into shape.  The inside and handle were filled / brushed with Deep Blue, then the whole piece dipped in Matt Green.  The Matt Green has largely prevailed, but there is still a hint of the blue, which is a pleasant effect.  I like how the star stamps are visible, even with a pretty thick layer of glaze.  I can't find my signature anywhere, so I believe I tried, but couldn't find a flat (or concave) surface to apply it to.

By the way, if any family or friends are reading this, let me know if you see anything you like.  I think many of these will need to become Christmas gifts, so I will have enough room in my house for my third ceramics course (I'm already signed up in January, since the current course ends next week!).

Heaven is a Ceramics Studio

I am so fortunate to be able to take Wednesdays off work, and enjoy ceramics all day - first for my class, then open workshop.  It is the closest part of my life to what I imagine Heaven will be.  It is filled with creativity, wonderful people, lots of laughter, and learning.

This is my second class in ceramics, so I am still learning so much (and I hear from the more advanced students that there is always more to learn).  Mostly from my mistakes, and occasionally from the mistakes of others around me.  Yesterday I had a number of pieces which have become too dry before I could place my signature stamp on them, and clean up their bases.  So I discovered what a surform tool is, and how to recover from that situation.  I learned from a friend's story about putting her lid on her teapot, both quite dry, but they stuck together and she never was able to separate them.  So I laid strips of newspaper in between mine before testing the fit of the lid.

A lot of my fun in ceramics is that I don't have the control on the wheel that others with years of practice have developed.  So when I set out to make one thing, it quite often ends up being something different entirely.  Which is great, since I am constantly challenged - but in a good way - to figure out what to make of it.  My classmates are absolutely wonderful, and always willing to provide suggestions, and even offer me their tools where I am in a tight spot, and need help recovering.

Yesterday I was able to bring home 15 of my pieces - mostly cups and mugs - which are glazed and finished.  (So look forward to my post, once I have a chance to take photos of them.)  It was funny that the one piece which I like the best, was the one which started out as a mistake.  It was an attempt at a mug which turned out to be more of a bowl, and with a wonky edge too, so I ended up cutting the edge into a wavy design, and punching holes in it.  It could be a candle holder, or - as I saw in a photo somewhere - a holder for jewelry, where the holes could be used to hang earrings.

If, by God's grace, He has Heaven prepared for me, as I trust He has, I hope mine is not one of floating around on clouds and singing.  I hope it is one where I will always have the joy of discovering and learning - even if by making mistakes.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Where are They Now? Part 2

(Aside : I just got a Samsung Galaxy S4 a couple of days ago, so I am trying to be a cool mom now, installing some fun apps and signing up for Instagram and such.  My old phone was a Blackberry, and I had almost no apps, and was hopeless at even sync'ing up contacts and such.  But with the new phone, I am potentially able to take photos, and post them directly to my blog.  Or at least, that was the hope when I downloaded the Blogger app for Android.  But after letting me type in a full paragraph (which is painful for me, using a virtual keyboard now), and figuring out how to add my photo, it gave me some obscure upload error.  I then checked the reviews for the app, and found many others complaining about it also, so promptly deleted it.  So here I am, back at my computer, but at least will pull the photos from my new Dropbox, rather than cable and transfer them - that's pretty cool.)

I am still trying to find homes for all the ceramic items from my first course, before I start hauling more home from my second course.  I was happy to find homes for 2 more pieces, leaving only 4 more waiting on my livingroom windowsill for permanent homes.
ceramic cup as toothbrush holder
A couple of weeks ago, I got out new toothbrushes for my husband and I, then discovered that the handles were too fat to fit into the holes in our old toothbrush holder (seen in background in this photo), so my ceramic cup with the rose imprints (item #18 from my First Course) will fill in - at least temporarily until I can make another cup with more suitable colours.

I was washing dishes a couple of days ago, when I realized that the sink and tiles would stay cleaner - and drier - if it didn't have the scrubbers and lid from the garburator sitting directly on it.  So I put my little cup with the playing card suits (item #9 from my First Course) to use.  I like it, and think it fits the colour scheme fairly well - browns to match the tiles, and the green/blue to match the scrubber.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 5 in Ceramics Course

Today we did some glazing in our ceramics course today.  I glazed 14 mugs.  Most of them using 2 glazes, in various combinations.  My instructor suggested to me that I keep to one glaze each, but since I didn't have time to decorate the mugs as I would have liked prior to the bisque firing, that was not even an option for me.

We also threw some bowls, and then pressed two bowls together (with a hole between them to form a sort of handle for carrying), for serving condiments or candies or whatever.  Someone in the class decided to try pressing 3 bowls together, and I liked the effect, so after I finished the 2-bowl set, I made a 3-bowl set.  Then I needed to make a different handle, so I decided to try a hollow knob, which was a bit of a challenge for me to throw, but turned out great.  I wish I had taken a few photos, but I was so busy during class and workshop - not to mention my hands are always quite mucky - that I didn't take time.

I also tried throwing a bowl with a hollow rim.  It was also a challenge but turned out beautifully.  It will be a small bowl, maybe a cereal bowl size.  It is interesting to try to imagine the finished product, since there is so much shrinkage (something like 10 or 15 percent).

I also set out some of last class's items for the bisque firing.  The vase with 2 snakes for handles (I am not the only one who likes it, one of the ladies in my class thought it was really cool too).  The other decorated vase which will be a Christmas present, so I can't say too much, other than that I was getting quite a few compliments on it today when I set it out.

Sadly, I found out that this was class 5 of only 8 classes.  I thought it was 10 classes.  I don't know where I got that idea.  But anyhow, if my notes are correct, I have some 26 items already, in various states of completion.  I believe we will be making casserole dishes next week.  That should be fun.

I'll try to remember to take a few photos.  At least I am keeping notes on the items and glazes, so if I find a combination I like, I can repeat it.  Although I hear that every time you glaze, you get a different result.  Apparently the final result even depends on where in the kiln the item is placed.  So I have much to learn.  That's fine with me.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fimo Mickey Mouse : Part 1

My sister Rose is a big Mickey Mouse and Disney fan.  So she bought some Fimo clay when it was on sale, with the intent of making some sort of Mickey Mouse figure when she had the chance.  But the other day when I showed her my dragon gloves, where the scales and claws were made with fimo clay, she offered her Fimo to me, if I could use it.  I jokingly said I could make her a Mickey Mouse some time.  But when I got home, I realized that it wasn't a joke, perhaps I could actually make her a Mickey Mouse.  So here is one evening's work toward that goal:

I have to say the result is working out better than I had expected.  I was able to form much of the character, with only my hands and needle tool from ceramics.  But I realize that to make the character stand up will be a bigger challenge.  At first I had problem with the head, it kept drooping forward, and eventually fell off.  Then when I left him propped overnight in a standing position, I found him fallen the next morning, with his feet broken off.  So I think I will need to reinforce the neck as well as both legs with a strong wire.  I'm not sure about the tail, I am thinking of using a strong wire with Fimo wrapped on top of it.  If I make the tail long enough, it could serve as support for Mickey.  My husband was more practical, he said I should make him holding an umbrella.  But I don't know if I want that pose, and then it would be an issue of reinforcing the whole umbrella and arm.

To be continued one day, when I have time, or another insane burst of late night creativity.

On the ceramics side, I have already created or at started 24 items in the first 4 weeks of my 10 week course.  A few of the early pieces have been bisque fired, and I will be glazing them next week.  Although I am full of more ideas, I think the glazing will be a nice break, because today I was so exhausted I could hardly center a 4 1/2 lb lump of clay.  I think I hadn't kneaded it enough, and I must have wrestled with it for 20 or 30 minutes to center it, before I could throw a nice vase.  So I think I will have no problem sleeping tonight, I am still quite exhausted.  But in the most wonderful way.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Leaving My Mark

In my first ceramics course, my classmate Angela stamped her pieces with a beautiful copy of her signature.  I was intrigued, and found out that she had ordered this custom stamp online.  So I was decided to investigate.

It was not hard to find a few websites which offered custom clay stamps.  I spent a couple of weeks playing with design ideas.  I knew I wanted my signature in combination with a drawing of a lily, or at least some sort of flower.  I ordered my 1" wooden stamp from, and received it just in time for this second course.  This is a sample impression of the stamp into wet clay (sorry for the out of focus photo, but I'm too tired to try again tonight) :
It has been a fun challenge to try to include my stamp in all of my pieces.  Especially since we have been mostly making mugs, and I like a trimmed or at least concave base, rather than a flat base.  So it has been a challenge.  I asked Angela yesterday if she had any tips for how to stamp her mugs (my classmates are WONDERFUL for providing advice and tips on anything they have learned - I owe them all so much!).  I discovered that she had an alternative stamp, with just a small "A", which she used for these difficult pieces.  Ha.  Maybe I need to consider that.  In the meantime, I find all sorts of interesting places to squeeze in my stamp.

So far, I have made 13 pieces out of grey stoneware, mostly mugs, and none of them as decorative as I would have liked, since I had a hard time keeping up making so many.  We were asked to make 5 or 6 good mugs, but it took me some tries (the first ones were too small!) to throw 5 or 6 which I was happy with.  Then I decided that since I had them, I would add handles to them all.  So I'm getting my money's worth of experience in this course, which focuses on the art of making handles.

I also ended up with 3 good sized mugs in the white stoneware.  All my mugs have now gone to the kiln shed, to dry and be bisque fired.  I'll need to be a bit more creative with the glazing, since I didn't have time to decorate with slip or stamps or sgraffito, as I would have liked.

This week's assignment was to throw 3 jugs or vases, for which we will make handles next week.  This time, I managed 3 reasonable sized ones on first try.  After throwing the 3 pieces, of about 4 to 4.5 pounds each, I was quite exhausted, and then played around with a few rolled pieces, which I hope will turn out decent enough to be a gift for my friend Lily.  We'll see.

I spend a good part of my non-working hours daydreaming about ceramics, and browsing the internet for ideas.  I am collecting and compiling into a binder, photos of pieces I have seen and liked, for inspiration.  When I am too tired to search for more, I just flip through the book.  I often wish I could increase my "play with clay" days from 1 per week to 2 per week.  But for now, I will enjoy what I have.  Besides, I don't know how I'm going to find homes for all the pieces I am making.  I don't know if I have so many friends.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Ceramics - Where Are They Now?

When I brought home 22 ceramic items from my first course in August, it occurred to me that I'd better find homes for some of these pieces, otherwise my house could easily become overrun with ceramics.  A number of them have now settled into new homes, or into pretty reasonable places in our home.

#1 and #2 and #14 will likely stay in my personal collection, since these were some of my favourites.  They are currently sitting on top of the kitchen cabinets (with a cardboard box holding them up to a reasonable viewing height).  I added the bouquet of dried crocosmia stems / seed heads today:

This one, my #12, was inspired by my friend Helen, so I gave it to her recently as a belated birthday gift.  She sent me this wonderful photo collage of it, now happily serving as a candy bowl :

My sister Rose liked my footed bowl #16, so I gave it to her, and it is also a happy candy bowl.  Here it is on her kitchen table :
Rose also commented that #11 would look good with a dried flower arrangement.  So I decided to take up the challenge, with dried flowers from my garden (and some from my mother-in-law's).  At about the same time, my mom's South Burnaby Garden Club was having its annual Fall Fair, so she suggested I enter it into the Air Dried and/or Preserved Flowers category.  I jokingly replied that then I could give Rose "an award-winning flower arrangement".  Which is what happened!
I can't remember how we got on that topic, but my dance instructor, Lisa, mentioned that she loved handmade ceramics and things.  So she ended up with this little bowl, my #19 :
I love the colours and shape of #10, even though it reminds me of my mistake of applying slip when the clay was already too dry.  But I decided that it could sit on my kitchen counter, and hold garlic for me.  I learned recently that garlic lasts longer when left in a cool dark place rather than in the bottom drawer of the fridge, so this is where I keep my garlic now :
The little items #4, 5, 6 and 7 are in my 14-year-old's room, which is too messy for photos.  :-)
The tiny tiny bowl #22 reminded me of an egg cup, so it is now holding a stone egg in my dining room cabinet.  Notice that behind it is a really cool carved horse hair ceramic vase which we bought in the Southwest (Utah, I believe) :
#17 is my least favourite piece.  But I figured it could sit on my office desk, holding paper clips and other odds and ends, and look slightly better than the plastic container which was its predecessor :
#15 is sitting on the granite windowsill above my kitchen sink, waiting for me to drill the hole, so it can be hung outside on the fence....  But then again, what's the rush to do that for Winter?  It may as well wait until Spring...
That leaves just #3, #8, #9, #13, #18, and #22, which are sitting on the windowsill in our livingroom, waiting for someone to love them and take them home, or for me to find a more permanent place in our home.
Funny, as I write this, I can't remember what happened to my wonky rose candleholder #20.  But hopefully wherever it is, it is happy.
In the meantime, I am creating a number of mugs in my current ceramics course, so I should already start planning homes for them...

First Ceramics Course

This summer, I took my first ceramics course.  I have been wanting to try it for a few years now.  I didn't know what to expect, but very soon after I started the course, I knew I was hooked.  I am now starting into my second course, so I've decided to move the ceramics to its own blog, to avoid overwhelming my gardening blog (which already contains too much of my other craziness such as creating dragon gloves, building fursuits, and breeding my spiny leaf insects).  I hope you will join me on my journey into the world of ceramics.

This is my first ceramics-related post from 3 Aug 2013 :
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As my kids are now 14 and 12, and we have enough highly competent people at work that I don't need to feel responsible for everything anymore, I finally decided this summer to do something entirely for myself.  I have been wanting to learn and play with ceramics for years now, and finally signed up for a course.

It was an ideal course for me, since it was for all skill levels, not just beginners.  I find that I learn pretty quickly, so I wanted a challenge.  It was even better than my expectations.  The instructor, Sabrina, was super helpful and patient, and demonstrated and tempted us to try many different techniques.  The other students were an amazing group.  I owe so much to each of them, for their inspiration, and encouragement, and for being so open with their tips and suggestions.  I signed up for a course, but what I discovered was a community of wonderful and talented people.  I am already signed up again for another course in September, and in January also.

This is a record (probably more for me than for anyone else, and includes my glaze notes) of the many (22 !) creations which I brought home earlier this week, after my 4 week ceramics course (which was twice a week for 3 hours followed by a 4 hour workshop).  I am really pleased that I ended up with a few interesting pieces, but more importantly, each one represents a lot of learning - both of what worked and what failed.  All were made from grey stoneware.

I would love to hear from you if you enjoyed any of these.
#1 and #2 - These 2 pieces are among my favorites.  They represent some of the first vases/bowls which I successfully threw on the wheel, to which I attached lily petals.  In the smaller one, I not only attached the petals, but cut out a small section of the rim (as perhaps seen in the bottom right photo).  For both pieces, the lilies were painted with Red underglaze, Clear glaze applied to them by brush, then protected by wax resist (I forgot to add spots with overglaze before doing so, since I intended for my lilies to be freckled), while the remainder of the piece was dipped in glaze.  The large one (5" across) was first filled with Copper Red, then the entire piece dipped in Matt Green, then sprayed with Clear glaze.  I like the effect of the red showing through the green on the inside.  For the smaller one (4" across), it was dipped in Matt Green then sprayed with Clear.

#3 - This little candle holder (it is spherical, with a hole cut in the bottom so that it can sit on top of a tea light) was inspired by some beautiful spherical creations which I discovered in the Czech Republic during our trip last summer, but didn't dare buy any since I couldn't imagine them surviving the trip successfully, so I took a photo to remember them.  I didn't expect to try to create my own, but I am drawn to the spherical shape, so encouraged by Sabrina, I gave it a try.  I am pretty pleased with the result, although my next ones ( :-) ) will be much bigger, since the piece heats up too quickly with a tea light inside.  I dipped it first in Amber Celadon, then in Clear.

#4, 5, 6 and 7 - These were a few little items I made for my 14 year old.  The pony is Fluttershy from My Little Pony, except that I forgot to make her wings.  For the mane & tail, I mixed Red and White underglaze to make pink.  I had inscribed the eye detail when forming the clay, and dabbed Black underglaze into the impression.  The whole piece was sprayed in a matt clear glaze (I didn't quite catch the name, it was something like Grisly Bore), since I wanted it to look like ceramic rather than shiny plastic.  Same with the little skeleton decoration, where Black underglaze was brushed and then wiped away to reveal the etchings.  The little "rat bowls" were decorated in White and Black slip, then dipped in glaze (Bamboo for the small one, and Clear for the bigger one).

#8 - It's funny, I had expected this bowl to be my favorite, but it didn't turn out as stunning as I had expected at the time (nor did I expect to fall under the spell of the wheel so soon thereafter).  It was formed from a flat sheet of clay, cut and folded to form the bowl shape.  I painted the petal edges and outside of the bowl with Red slip.  The center was a mix of Red and Yellow and maybe Brown underglazes, I believe, and then the whole piece was dipped in Clear glaze.  The result would likely have been more vibrant if a thin coat of Clear were sprayed on, since it seems to have muted the colors, and also filled in some of the textures on the inside of the petals.

#9 - This little footed cup was just an early piece thrown on the wheel, and an experiment in glazing.  I dipped the whole piece in Shino.  Then painted Liquid Latex in the 4 card suits, and dripped Matt Green and Deep Blue while held upside down, and then the Latex removed to reveal the pattern.  This is a technique I would like to explore again.

#10 - This small footed bowl is also an early piece in my throwing experience.  As you can see, I am very fond of the spherical shapes.  The wiggly decoration is Blue slip which was applied when the stoneware was already too dry.  However, the glaze helped to secure it, otherwise it was wanting to break away.  The dots are Black underglaze.  I filled/dipped the inside with Deep Blue glaze, then sprayed the whole piece with Clear glaze.

#11 - My second sphere thrown on the wheel.  This one I didn't have time to make into another candle holder, so instead experimented again with glazes.  The inside is filled with Deep Blue.  The outside was dipped in one direction in Ash Yellow, and then in the other (overlapping) with Deep Blue.  I see in my notes that I also applied some dots of #3 overglaze.  I had forgotten, and thought they were just imperfections.  (Good reason to take notes while glazing.)

#12 and 13 - These 2 bowls were the first projects in our course, allowing us to explore a number of techniques, including paper relief (e.g. the word "Love", created by Blue slip applied to a Xerox copy of the backward word, and pressed into the moist clay), direct writing, stamping, paper relief (the little triangles, protecting Black slip while the turquoise was applied overtop).  The Love/Peace/Patience/Joy bowl is inspired by my neighbor Helen.  The other one, an ikebana vase, was textured on the inside corners (as well as rolled with a pattern on the reverse side).  But now I forgot if I applied Black slip and sponged away around it, or applied white slip on top, but the texture was smoothed by the thick coat of Clear glaze resulting from dipping the piece, and only the color left behind.  If sprayed, I suspect it would have retained some of the texture too.

#14 - This is the piece which got the most attention from my classmates.  After only a short time on the wheel, I managed to throw this large container (8" across and more than 6" high).  I seem to remember I threw the bottom 2/3 first into a curved bowl, and then learned that I could throw on top of that, so continued the curve and wide rim.  I was not quite content with the shape, which was on one hand almost too perfect, yet not perfect enough for me.  So my fellow student Darlene mentioned some technique she had seen on video, where slip / soft clay was applied randomly to create texture.  I dug into the sludge bucket and created my own colored slip/slop, which I enthusiastically slapped on, and I really like the result.  The inside was dipped/filled with Matt Green.  When some of it dripped, I sponged more Matt Green on the outside to hide the drip.  The whole piece was then sprayed in Clear.  I really like the result.

$15 - This little piece I made early in the course, from rolled sections of clay, and handmade flowers.  The flowers were colored with Red underglaze.  The blue leaves were supposed to be green, from a mixture of Blue and Yellow underglaze.  The whole piece was dipped in Clear glaze, which went on a bit too thick.  If I had known, I would have sprayed it on.  The nail hole has filled in with glaze, so I don't know if I will be able to drill that out successfully?  I think I'll need to read up on that before I attempt anything.

#16 - This footed bowl was my first bowl thrown on the wheel.  It looked too ordinary so I tried fluting the edges.  I fought with cracking several times as it dried, but managed to keep the piece intact.  The rings of pink and blue were from a failed attempt at feathering (see bowl further down).  The clay was already fairly dry, so once I added rings of Red and Blue slip, they dried too quickly to do anything with them.  So instead I added some radial lines in blue slip, but then the whole thing looked too geometric, clashing with the casual shape.  So I sponged red and blue and black slip all over the surface.  I liked the effect, which I sprayed with Clear glaze.  But during the firing, it looks like that sponge pattern disappeared.  The back was dipped and brushed with Tenmoku glaze.  Pretty funky coloration there.

#17 - I really don't have any affection for this piece, but I learned a lot from my mistakes on this one.  The main pattern was created in Black slip.  Which of course didn't look black at the time, so when I squeezed on the leaf pattern in Black underglaze, I didn't realize I had picked a color which wouldn't show up.  The black areas were covered with wax resist, and the body of the pot eroded with wet sponge, to create the 3D effect.  Except I broke through the clay (bottom left photo) and needed to patch the pot from inside.  When glazing, I covered the black areas with wax again (so they are unglazed), and dipped the outside in Matt Green then sprayed Clear.  The inside was filled/dipped in Tenmoku, which came out as a rich coffee bean color.

#18 - This cylinder turned out okay.  It started with a simple rolled slab, attached to a flat base.  I covered the whole piece in & out with Turquoise slip, added the dots in Red slip, and imprinted them with the rose pattern (from a button).  The whole piece was sprayed in Clear.  I like the result, and it was quite simple to achieve.

#19 - This was the piece which was successfully feathered, but adding rings of Turquoise, Blue and White slip on the inside while the clay was still quite moist.  Then the pattern was created by pulling a small stem from the center outward.  The inside walls were Blue slip, and the outside walls are Black slip.  The whole piece was sprayed in Clear glaze.
#20 - This candleholders was one of my early mistakes on the wheel, prior to receiving any instruction.  I had started to form a bowl, when the whole thing collapsed.  The effect was kind of cool, and with some additional pinching, ended up being a bit rose-like.  I added a small piece in the center to hold a candle.  The piece was dipped in Copper Red glaze twice (since I didn't dip it completely the first time, so I tried again).  I like how the glaze pulls away from the edges, giving it a weathered look.  But it's not a beautiful piece, I don't think.

#21 - This one is a bit too wide to be a goblet, but is a wonderful little footed container.  If I understand my notes correctly, the inside was filled with Matt Green.  Then I realized I wanted the inside blue, so the whole piece was dipped in Deep Blue (I love that color!).  Then I turned it upside down, and dipped just the top in Matt Green.  So a bit of the blue is showing through.

#22 - I may be listing this tiny bowl last, but this is what was left over from my earliest attempts at the wheel, before receiving instruction.  I decided to let it dry anyhow, and after shrinking during bisque and glaze firings, it is pretty tiny indeed.  But it let me play with some more glazes.  I think it was drops of Black slip or underglaze on the rim.  It was dipped in Celadon completely, then the bottom part dipped in Amber Celadon.
For anyone who actually read down this far, you are either very interested in ceramics, are a very good friend to me, or ??? (fill in the blanks).  But thanks for reading, and please drop me a note or comment on which, if any, of these pieces you enjoyed most.