Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ogopogo / Dragon for the Garden

We played with extruding again.  I finished off some of last week's pieces.   Two of them will become garden sculptures.  I'm looking forward to those ones (although I forgot to take a photo, again).  I may not have much room in my house and cupboards for more ceramics, but I still have a LOT of space in my garden.  :-)

A lot of people were extruding cylinders.  Our instructor, Linda, suggested we could make a pitcher.  I've just finished a course on handles, and another on pots that pour, so I have enough mugs and pitchers and teapots for a while.  I can't remember what my classmate, Debbie, said, that triggered the idea, but suddenly I had to make some bent cylinders, and create a sort of ogopogo or sea monster for the garden.

By the end of class and the open workshop, I had a body and tail I was very happy with, with a reasonably well done scale texture (it was hard to press the bent shapes to texturize them, but I managed okay), and a row of spines along the back :

Then the hardest part: creating a head.  I have a neck formed, in much the same way as the back parts.  But the head proved elusive today.  First I started with one of the larger cylinders I had extruded, and tried darting (one of the techniques Linda was teaching us today) to shape it.  It didn't seem to be getting the result I wanted, so I have wrapped that attempt in plastic, and shelved it.  Parts of it (maybe the lower jaw) may still be useful :

Next I attempted to just create the top of the head, which I will figure out how to add to the neck later.  This attempt seems to be promising, but I ran out of time before I could make much progress :

I am visualizing a dragon head something like this one, although I am not copying anything in particular, just making it up as I go along (image from the internet) :

I was pleased that Sharon Reay (a wonderful ceramic artist, and I believe she is currently the ceramics arts programmer at Shadbolt Center - if she ever teaches a course, I hope I will be able to take it!) came by as I was working on the creature.  I consider her a dragon ceramics expert.  This is the type of sweet dragons she creates (photo from the internet) :
I will miss next week's class, which is starting some hand building.  Then only 3 more classes and we're done.  Wow, it goes fast, but I have also created a lot in the 4 classes we have had so far.  I have some 30 pieces in various stages of completion.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sgraffito Vase in Progress

We had a wonderful day at ceramics class yesterday.  I played with extruding clay, for the first time.  It was like magic, how the shapes came out of the extruder, almost without effort.  I didn't even need to knead (hmmm, what's the ceramics word for that?) the clay first, we just dropped our bags of fresh clay on the ground a number of times to soften them up.  Unfortunately, I was having so much fun, I forgot to stop for photos.  I pretty much finished 3 pieces which are rectangular dishes, they look like small planters.  One has undulating sides.  I also finished 3 vases, which were formed from a hexagonal extrusion, twisted a bit as it came out.  Then I made 2 shapes from a square extrusion, but pulled into an almost ring-like shape as they came out.  One will be purely decorative, and I think I'll finish it for display in the garden.  The other has some potential as a funky sort of vase.  We'll see.  I'll be finishing them, and working on more extruding in next week's class.

I realized that I wouldn't have time to work on the sgraffito vase which was in the cellar from the previous class.  So I smuggled it home, to have more time to work on it.  Last night I looked at lots of photos, trying to decide what white on black design I was going to create.  I looked at lilies, but I like the colorful oriental lilies, not so much the serene white easter lilies.  At least, not for a sgraffito design.  I also looked at other flowers, dragons, winter scenes, and leaves.  It wasn't until I went to bed that the idea of white dogwood flowers came to me.  So that is what I sgraffito'd tonight.  Here it is with just the black (yes, that will be black) slip:
Then the dogwood flowers are outlined :
Then the petals (actually, sepals - the little bumps in the center are the actual flowers) filled in :
The clay was very soft, so it was very easy to sgraffito.  I had to concentrate on not digging in too deep.  I tried to leave the design a bit rough and unrefined.  I really like the effect.  I think it will look very good when the black slip is actually black.  I've stamped it on the side, near the base.  I've started stamping my pieces on the side.  In many cases it has been easier than stamping the base.  Especially on the earlier pieces which had trimmed bottoms.  I wonder whether I should have made a more distinct foot on this one, but I don't know if I'll mess with it now.  It is otherwise done, and just needs to dry and be sent to the kiln to be bisqued.  I will likely finish it with a clear glaze, sprayed on thinly.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First Broken Ceramic and More Pieces in Progress

I picked up the one remaining item from my Pots that Pour course today, it was a small pitcher finished in Khaki and then Clear glaze.  I was so excited, that in contrast to its spotty rough appearance, it had a very nice smooth feel to it, and the handle felt really nice to hold onto.  So I was pulling it out of my bag tonight, with one hand, while talking, and holding my mobile phone (camera) in the other hand, ready to take a photo of it for this blog.  Somehow it caught on the handle of the bag, and next thing I knew, it was in pieces on the unforgiving porcelain tile floor.  (That tile kitchen floor has broken many a glass and plate in its time.)

Here are the broken pieces :
Sad, since I was thinking that this Khaki/Clear spotty pitcher would be a good match to my Tenmoku/Clear spotty teapot.  Very sad.

Anyhow, I had already cleaned up and was ready to leave today, when I thought of taking photos of my bowls, which were already drying in the cellar.  These are the 7 bowls I formed last week, and then trimmed the bottoms (creating a nice foot on each) today, and then played with slip trailing.  I had lots of challenges with the slip today, with the bowls being a bit too dry, and the slip drying too fast, with it clogging or dripping or sputtering from the containers I was using for slip trailing.  So many of these became plan B or C, and I was improvising as I went along.  No two are the same, with various different techniques used on each.  If some look finger-painted, it is likely because they were!  I was mostly using Turquoise, Black, White and Blue, but the colours now don't reflect the final colours they will be once they are fired.

I also made another large bowl, which I was hoping to repeat something like the sunflower pattern I had created earlier (#22 from the last course).  However, the slip dried as quickly as I applied it, and the slip I added on the top edge didn't run at all, so I had to "help" it along with my fingers, creating this funky mottled effect with the Black and White slip.
I think that could look pretty nice.  But we'll need to wait and see.  And I'll make sure when I pick it up, it will be with two hands, and not while balancing my mobile phone at the same time!

I also created a nice vase with a sgraffito pattern of leaves around it.  It is already in the kiln shed, and I didn't want to walk back in the rain to get a photo of it.  But I think it has good potential, if I get the glazing right.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Start of the Ceramic Sampler Course

Today was the first day of my Ceramic Sampler course, which has a number of instructors, each focusing on a different exercise.  In this class, Jay showed us how to throw a bowl using a "cow's tongue" tool to help create a wide bowl (a first for me!), and then use a stencil / pattern to cut a decorative edge on the bowl while it is still fresh on the wheel.  Pretty cool.  Here are some of the bowls which are on their way...

Next week we will trim the foot of the bowls, and I hope to play with some slip trailing or sgraffito, to decorate them further.  In fact, a few of my classmates are also taking a sgraffito course, and I was inspired by their work, so I also threw a simple container, which I brushed with Green slip, and hope to have time to sgraffito a pattern (I'm thinking leaves, but I have a week to decide) on it next week:
I also started another bowl with the Davidii Involuctra leaves, similar to #28 from the last course, since I want to try again with the glazing and hope to achieve a more realistic leaf texture.  I put it together fairly quickly toward the end of the class (when I was too tired to do any more throwing), so I will probably need to touch it up and smooth rough edges next class.

You will notice in the photos that there are 2 colours of clay.  I was advised not to try my usual white stoneware for these bowls, since it is very soft, and liable to collapse.  So I tried the B-Mix, but it was extremely firm, and I had a tough time centering the clay, so that I was exhausted even before I began throwing.  So when Jay offered that we could use some of his Recycled clay (which feels similar to the Grey Stoneware, but is grittier), I tried, and was much happier with throwing it.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Final Set (All but One) From Pots That Pour Class

Well, the rain has changed my plans today, which was to spend some time working in my garden, and I don't feel motivated to clean and tidy the house, so I am going to post the remaining items.  With the exception of more small pitcher which I didn't recognize earlier, so hopefully it is still waiting for me on the shelves when I check next week.  I am looking forward to my next course starting Wednesday.  It is taught by a number of different instructors, to get different perspectives.  I think that will be fun.  Anyhow I have plenty of ideas of things I want to try, no matter what course I'm signed up for.

One thing I have learned is that each person has a very unique style and preference, and so I am not afraid to stick with mine.  In this past course, my instructor Jay tried to discourage me from using the sprayer for glazing.  In his experience, and his style of ceramics, dipping has worked fine.  But most of my experiences with dipped glazes have been fairly disappointing, and the pieces I have been most pleased with have been the ones I spent the time (which doesn't really seem like longer time, other than the preparation and cleanup) to spray.  This became obvious to me in this course, where I sprayed many of my pieces with Clear.  When I've dipped them, the Clear has gone on too thick, producing a pasty finish and very obvious crazing, which  interferes with the colours and design.  These pieces also demonstrate the advantages of spraying.

#23 - This piece was a 1000g bowl with hollow rim (turned out), which flopped during throwing.  So I hung the piece upside down between two stools until firm enough to set downstairs.  I helped it a bit, to end up with 5 distinct undulations.  I really like the effect.  It is sprayed with a combination of Deep Blue, Tenmoku (the brownish parts) and Old Celadon.  I could never have achieved this effect through dipping.  It bears a messy attempt at my stamp on bottom, since it was quite dry before I cut it off the bat.

#24 - This 1400g bowl also flopped during throwing (during the same class), after rolling in and forming the hollow rim.  I also hung it upside down to firm up, and teased it a bit to get the 4 soft undulations.  I didn't manage to stamp it, since it was too dry by the time I cut it off the bat.  I love the soft blending of colours, achieved by spraying with Deep Blue and Old Celadon.

#25 - I forgot what I was trying to achieve with this one, but it started as a 1200g bowl, and the top edge got mangled during throwing, so I experimented with pulling it out flat from the insides, and then cut a wavy edge on the top once leather hard.  I played a little with the glazes, filling with Clear on the inside and top edge, then flipping over, and pouring Deep Blue down the bottom side.  Not too beautiful, but the imperfect lines of the glaze seem to go fairly well with the undulations of the top edge.  It could be a small vase, or holder for pencils or something...  A good candidate for adoption.

#26 - This little guy is similar to #25, in Deep Blue and Clear glaze colours, and also shape, but is smaller.  I was experimenting with flat/oval shapes, so after rolling in a hollow rim, pulled it from the inside to flatten it, and also cut and pushed in the bottom sides, so it also has an oval base.  My stamp didn't work well on the bottom, so I stamped it again on the side (see bottom left photo).  Also a good candidate for adoption.

#27 - This one was inspired by the success of my nut bowl (#30 from my previous course) which was formed by a slab pressed onto a deeply textured glass bowl.  This one was based on a Mikasa "Bountiful" tray.  I love the cherry pattern.  I would have liked to enhance the cherries with bright red underglaze, and the leaves with green, but I didn't have access to the underglazes at the time.  So I dipped the whole piece in Tam's Green, and then my notes seem to say I sprayed the top with Tenmoku, although I don't see a colour difference from top to bottom, so the Tenmoku may have sank inside.  Anyhow, the textures have shown up quite well, so I think this is an experiment I will try again.  The whole piece is very lightweight, so would work well as a serving tray.

#28 - This plate/platter didn't turn out as I had hoped, but I like the idea enough that I will definitely be trying it again.  The plate is formed by a slab of clay (with rough torn edges) in a mould, over which I have pressed leaves formed by my mold which I made previously of my dear Davidii Involucrata (dove or hankerchief tree).  The mold is not deeply textured, but there was some veining in the leaf which I tried to highlight with Deep Blue glaze, as seen in this photo below.
Then I dipped it in Matt Green, and sprayed a light coat of Old Celadon on top.  If I could redo it, I would have only sprayed a light coat of Matt Green.  It seems that the Matt Green has not only not allowed enough of the Deep Blue highlights, but totally removed any texture from the leaves, so they look too smooth.

The bottom of the bowl slumped a bit during the glaze firing and the glazed picked up some of the kiln shelf (which can be scraped/scrubbed off, but will never be completely smooth), so next time I'll know to place the button feet wider, and probably will use 4 or 5 instead of 3.

That's it for now, until I find that remaining pitcher.

By the way, I commented on some of these being adoption candidates, but please let me know of ANY of the pieces you love, or like, or are somewhat intrigued by, and you may find these in your home.

More Finished Ceramics from Pots That Pour Class

Continuing with the finished items I recently picked up...

#13 - This teapot is from my "Floral" set, where I explored using closed forms, and cutting the lid out, this one from 1300g white clay.  This one turned out brilliantly, except the red underglaze has stuck the lid to the pot.  So I am still working on prying it free.  I think I'll get there eventually, hopefully without damaging the lid in the process.  The Red for the flower and Leaf Green for the stems was created with underglaze, brushed on (multiple layers for full opacity).  Then I sprayed the whole piece with Clear glaze, and it was fired at Cone 10.  There is a small vent hole in the lid.  I can't remember, but I believe the spout has a built in filter for tea leaves.

#14 - This one was the first in my "Floral" set, starting as a 1400 closed vessel, and then the lid was cut out, and the 3 petals built up on top of the lid.  Unfortunately, I had dropped the lid off this one after completely finishing it, and had to squish it back into place, so it never sealed 100%, but that has provided an advantage when prying the lid back off since the glaze firing.  Again, I used Red and Leaf Green underglaze, and then sprayed the whole piece Clear inside and out.

#15 - This was the biggest closed form in my "Floral" series, starting at probably 1600g of raw clay.  It ended up being a bit heavy for a tea pot, but I love the look.  The lid is cut out, then the 6 petals layered on top of the lid, and finished in Red and Leaf Green underglaze.  Unfortunately, the lid of this one is also stuck, but hope to be able to free it.  The pot was dipped in Matt Green glaze.  It has a vent hole at the back of the pot since I didn't want to damage the lid (and because it is fairly thick), and it bears my stamp at the base of the pot rather than underneath.

#16 - I think this teapot turned out quite well.  It was based on 1200g of white clay.  I added some profile lines on the side and base, which give it a nice texture, and some matching profile lines on the lid.  The lid has a little jib to reduce the chances of falling out, and sits quite well, although not tightly, on the pot.  I didn't want to poke through the lid, so added a small vent behind the lid (above the handle), which unfortunately filled in with glaze during the firing, since I made sure it was clear after dipping in Tenmoku and then Clear glaze.  I wasn't expecting the spotting, but it is an interesting effect.  My stamp at the bottom picked up the glaze nicely, so shows very prominently.

#17 - Another "Floral" item, starting from 1000g white clay in a closed shape.  This time I only carved in the edges of the 5 petals after cutting out the lid.  Again, finished in Red and Leaf Green underglaze, and sprayed Clear.  The lid gave a little fight, but I was able to pop it free, so the piece is functional as a container.

#18 - This nice little jug was formed from 900g clay, and was a pleasing shape but somehow lacking.  Thanks to my classmate Roma who suggested a gecko / lizard for it, which I was happy to try.  As always, I would love to get more texture to the lizard than the glazes provide, but the colours at least worked well.  I glazed the lizard in Khaki by brush, then added Blue overglaze down his spine, and sealed him in wax.  Then dipped the whole piece in Oatmeal.  I think the colours work quite well.  What do you think?

#19 - This is a fairly sizable jug, formed from 1800g white clay.  I discovered the rim broken after the bisque firing, and decided to go ahead to glaze it anyhow.  If nothing else, I thought I could use it in the garden somewhere.  It is glazed with Khaki inside and out, and then I sponged on Copper Red.  I don't know that I love the result, but it ended up pretty interesting, looking almost like polished stone, with a heavy deposit of metallic-looking iron in it.  I will probably experiment with the sponging technique again, it seems to have good potential.

#20 - I agonized for some while about how to glaze this 2000g pot.  I would have liked the stamped snowflakes white, and the dark blue in the surrounding "sky".  But there was no reasonable way to achieve that.  So I ended up brushing Deep Blue into the stamped areas, and cleaning them up with a wet sponge.  Then I filled the inside with Deep Blue, and dipped the outside into Clear.  It is pretty nice, but reminds me too much of some pajamas I had some while ago, which had a similar pattern.  So if anyone likes this one, it is up for adoption.  :-)  It is stamped clearly on the bottom.

#21 - This little bowl which started as 1400g, has visible throwing lines inside and out which I added with a metal rib, and hollow rim.  The bottom was cut with textured wire, and then trimmed and stamped (lightly), so the base has a nice finished look.  I played with Turquoise and Black slip inside, and Black slip on the rim.  The inside and rim was then sprayed with Clear glaze, and I dipped it in Old Celadon, not quite to the rim.  It is fascinating how a metallic colour and shine appeared on the rim and inside bottom.   That was a pleasant surprise.  This one is definitely one of my favourites, and my 15-year-old's top pick from this set also.

#22 - This one IS my favourite from this set.  I hope to make more similar, one day.  I has a bit of time left in our last throwing class, so I set out to make a wide bowl and decorate it with slip.  I was pleased that I was able to throw this shape, which was not easy for me.   I let it dry a bit before adding the slip, although I was told that I was lucky it didn't flop, and did quite a bit of drying with a blow dryer to increase my luck.  I added first a ring of Black, then dots of Turquoise to force it to run down, and then a bit more Black and Turquoise to get the effect I liked.  I love the little dots of Black in the center, which complete the floral design.  I rimmed in Black using my fingertips.  The inside is sprayed with Clear, and the outside dipped in Matt Green.  My instructors would be proud of me that I left the finger marks (see photo in bottom right) from dipping in the glaze.  My instinct is to "fuss" with it, and hide such imperfections, but I am trying to let go and embrace these as signs that the piece was truly and lovingly made by hand.

Stay tuned for 6 (or 7) more pieces, which I will post when I have another chance.  As always, please leave me comments, suggestions, criticisms, or hints if you would like any of these ceramic pieces in your own home collection.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

3 More Finished Items from the Pots That Pour Class

I picked up all but one of my finished items a couple of days ago.  There are too many to post them all tonight, but I'll post a few anyhow.  Not in any particular order.

#10 - I love this little lidded pot (although I don't what I'd ever use it for).  It was thrown from 1000g of white clay.  The lid sits very smoothly on top, and I glazed it separately, so I could completely glaze the rim of the pot.  That way, it looks good whether the lid is on or off.  The top was dipped in Khaki then the whole thing dipped in Deep Blue.  The lid is also dipped in Khaki then Deep Blue (cone 10 glazes).  I love the rich blue tone which results.   It bears my stamp on the bottom.

#11 - This one started out to be a "pilgrim flask" or "chicken pot", but when I saw what the instructor planned for it (pinch the top closed, and add a spout at one end), I decided not to waste my time making something that horrid looking.  So I cut and shaped the top instead.  So now it almost feels like something which is meant to pour.  At least it looks more usable to me that a "chicken pot".  I dipped it in Khaki, then Clear.  I'm not sure I really like it, but the speckled result is interesting.  I borrowed a twisted wire from my classmate Teena, to cut off the bottom.  I like that textured effect.  It bears my stamp on the outside near the base, so I didn't damage the textured bottom.

#12 - It's funny how something which starts quite ordinary can turn out to one of your favourites, as the case is with this fairly plain teapot.  It has a fairly nicely closing lid with the little jib to prevent it from falling out, a nice textured lid with vent hole, and a built in strainer for tea leaves (see bottom right, although it is pretty hard to see in the photo).  I stained it halfway with Khaki, then Deep Blue all.  This helps to keep the lid oriented the correct way.  It also makes the teapot a little less ordinary.  I fired the lid separately, just to make sure it didn't stick, since I glazed it pretty close to the rim.

I think that's it for tonight.  I'm still tired from my trip to China.  But more on that in future posts.  And more ceramic photos to come soon.