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.