Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Finished Dragon and Final Items from Clay Sampler Course

Today I picked up my dragon (#24), as well as the final items from the Clay Sampler Course.  Here is my dragon, "Shadow Splash", from a couple of different angles...  Straight on :
From the side :
...and in "moonlight" :

She is a very special girl for me.  I was very pleased to be asked if I would lend her to a student exhibition at Shadbolt in Sept/Oct 2014.  Of course I would be honoured.  I hope she will actually be displayed, since she is quite large, some 3 to 4 feet once set up.  Stay tuned whether this goes ahead.

Here are some views of her head.  I am very pleased with the result :
As you can probably see, she is finished in Very Black stain, which gives her a semi-matte finish, with a little metallic sheen to her.  Then the horns were brushed with Amber Celadon, and the fins were brushed with Deep Blue glaze, so they have a nice dark shine to them.  The eyes were finished with the Green slip and Celadon glaze, which makes them look watery.  Lovely.  I can't imagine what I would change on her, at all.  She is perfect, in my eyes.

My other pieces from the course are not nearly as spectacular.  But I was happy to pick them up as well.
#25 - This little mushroom fairy house was dipped in Bamboo glaze.  I have in my notes it was a "big messy dip in Bamboo", since I remember trying to plunge the whole mushroom in the glaze, but then the inside filled up, and ran out of the holes....  I can't remember if I then dipped the top again, but it looks like it has another layer of glaze which has run down.  I like how that top looks creamy, and the stem is a bit darker and woodier.  It has a hole in the base (and a small cylinder in the inside top of the mushroom cap), so I can sit it on a post to anchor it in the garden.

#26 - This is my second attempt at a Davidii involucrata (dove tree) platter/bowl.  The first one is #28 in my previous course.  I learned from that one to set the button feet further apart, so the bowl won't slump onto the kiln shelf.  I also spent more time smoothing the rough edges of the Davidii leaves on the outside edges.  But the colours turned out pretty similar.  I again used Matt Green glaze.  This time adding Deep Blue into the bottom part also, although much of it appears to have sunken into the Matt Green, leaving only hints of the blue behind.  On the back of the bowl, I pressed cedar branches, and highlighted these with Khaki before dipping in the Matt Green glaze, but this also shows up only faintly.  But it does create an interesting, if not recognizable, colour pattern on back.  I'm not sure which one I like better.  Both are fairly good, but still don't capture the essence of the Davidii leaves, because the texture is lost in the glazing.

#27 - I am not one to throw away much, so when I started making a stand for one of my earlier sculptures out of a remnant of extruded clay, and changed my mind, I made it into a rough mini planter instead.  I can visualize it with Sempervivum (hen and chicks) or another rock or alpine garden plant bursting from each of the holes.  It was glazed in Amber Celadon then Matt Green on top.

I also picked up the first 2 items from my summer drop-in sessions, which were finished and unloading from the kiln today.  I'll post photos soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wrapping Up for the Summer in Ceramics

Today was a somewhat disappointing day in ceramics.  I had missed last week's drop in, so hadn't heard that this week was the last drop in session for the summer, before ceramics resumes in late September.  So all the nice leaves I had cut in the garden, hoping to do some more nature-inspired plates, and hosta leaf plates, were not put to use, since I couldn't start anything new.

I had some pieces in the damp room, which I pulled out and finished off, so they will go into the bisque firing, but I won't be able to glaze them until September.  My dear dragon, she was still waiting on the shelf, to go into the final firing.  But I guess someone had moved her, since the tip of her tail was broken off.  :-(  Then, on top of it all, one of the trays I had put in the kiln shed to be bisqued, didn't return from the bisque firing.  I looked all over the kiln shed, and found no sign of it.  As I was driving home, the only thing I could think of, is that I still had it in the damp room, but I didn't see it there, and my notes clearly indicate that I set it out to be bisqued.  In fact, the first photo in this post shows it on the shelves in the kiln room.  :-(  It is the rectangular one with roller and stamp pattern.  Damn.  I hate when that happens.

Anyhow, on a cheery note, I did make lots of progress, and got photos of most of it, just in case any of them go missing, too!  Here are some of the pieces which are heading to be bisqued :
This one just needed the edges cleaned up.  A fellow student, Rob, was so kind to offer me the black tools in the photo, which are woodworking tools he bought at Lee Valley Tools, and do a nice job of cleaning up the edges, while not removing as much clay as a surform tool (like the yellow one in the photo) would remove.  So that made my job of finishing up these bowls much easier.

These two also just needed a cleanup, since I already added feet last time.  I like how the fern imprint shows the little dots from the spores.  I think it has good potential.

What I forgot to take a photo of, was a very large banana leaf platter, which is probably 2 feet long, or close to it.  Surprisingly, it has been a few weeks in the damp room, and was still quite workable, a stiff leather consistency.  I cleaned up the edges and added the groove marks.  I have been warned that it could flatten or warp significantly when fired, but we'll see.

The smaller banana leaf had been bisqued, so I glazed it today.  But first, I brushed Green Overglaze (I'm using it as an underglaze) into the grooves...
....then I wiped it with a moist sponge, leaving the Green underglaze in the grooves, and also a light smear of it all over the leaf.  I wasn't concerned about that, since I am glazing it green anyhow, and I think the light smear will make the colors look more natural and textural than just a flat glaze can achieve.  Here it is, before glazing.  I can see that I rushed the day I was cleaning it up, since there is some imprint of the mould I slumped it over.  With the bigger leaf today, I spent a lot of time cleaning out those marks, and even some of the wrinkles from when the leaf was pressed into the clay :

For my Davidii plate, I used the same technique and Green over(under)glaze.  Here it is, with the lines brushed in, and one of the leaves already sponged :
Here it is, with all the leaves sponged, and before I glazed.  On this one, I ran a line of green (the same overglaze) along the edge/rim, but dipped the whole piece in Celadon.   I think that could look pretty spectacular.  Or not.  We'll see.  Pick up it next week, so hopefully I can make it.

Do you remember the pieces my sister made when she joined me a few weeks ago?  Well, she was planning to finish them next week, but when I learned that we didn't have any more chance until September, I tried to contact her, to find out if she wanted me to glaze any of them for her.  I decided I would at least glaze her 3 coasters, so we could see if they survived the glaze firing.  I managed to get 2 of them done, and had a near-disaster with the 3rd, and had to wash off the glaze, and leave it for September.  So hopefully we can pick these up next week.  They were dipped 2 times in Tenmoku, which is the darkest glaze we seem to have available.

Stay tuned, I hope to have much more to post next week, if I make it to the pick up session.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ceramics : Where are They Now?

When my ceramics pieces started to get too large to keep on my window sills (which are getting pretty full), many of them ended up on my counter.  So I am happy to mobilize them when I need somewhere to store fresh fruit, like these cherries and apricots from the Okanagan (Keremeos BC), and blueberries from my mother-in-law in Agassiz :
My two abstract garden sculptures are now in the garden.  The one on a stick serves as a bumper for the hose, so it won't disturb the garden when I pull the sprinkler around the upper yard :
I hope to add sculptures like this everywhere that I pull the hose, so I have a few more to go.  A number of years ago, I started with this driftwood goose, which has held up amazingly well in the garden, and has not even been repainted (I move it to the shed in Winter) :
I brought home a frog for my garden yesterday, he comes to us from the Okanagan (Osoyoos BC), a few hundred miles from here.  It is a lot more moist here, and we have lots of insects in the garden, so I hope he likes it here.  Here he is before setting him free in my garden :

I set out two bowls of water for him, and this ceramic cylinder, in case he is looking for a place to hide (although I think it may not be big enough for his liking).  Here he is, crawling past it.  That was the last I saw of him last night.  I hope I will see him again, and most of all, I hope he chooses to live in my garden for the remainder of the year.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Botanical Series of Hand Built Ceramics in Progress

I am thinking of it as my botanical set, since I forgot my stamps last week, and instead started some plates and bowls imprinted or formed on leaves.  I finished all but one of them today, and started a few more.  This week, I remembered to take some photos before leaving.

One of the pieces from last week was this rectangular plate / tray, which was decorated by a roller and my handmade fimo stamp of a trio of leaves.

Another one from last week is this tray formed from a banana leaf.  If you follow my gardening blog, you'll know that I made this piece just in time before all my banana plants were destroyed.  It turns out that there was not enough texture on the leaf itself to show those lines, so I carved them with a sgraffito tool this week, once the leaf was very firm.  The other piece still downstairs is a larger leaf, which I hope will not be too dry to work on next week, when I can drop in again.

One of the new bowls this week is this one, decorated with Japanese maple leaves.  After pressing the leaves with the roller, and setting the thin slab of clay into a mould, I sponged it with Brown slip, and then splattered it with Green slip (using my fingers, since I didn't have a firm brush - such as a toothbrush - which would be suitable).
Then I peeled the leaves off.  So the leaves will be rather white, on a background of brown and green.  Although I could also choose to add stain, to bring out the texture of the leaves.  Either way, I think this could look pretty good.

I created also a rectangular tray imprinted with maple leaves.  This one sat face down on the mould, but after I removed the piece, I decided to also splatter it with Green slip.
This is the tray after the leaves were peeled off:

I had made a similar bowl last week, it is waiting to be bisqued.  It was pressed with Davidii involucrata leaves (I love the texture, and those strong veins!!), and slip trailed / splattered with Turquoise and Blue slip.

I know my sister Rose will be reading this blog, so I want her to know how proud I was of her, that she worked so hard and produced six pieces last week.  They were all dry today when I checked on them, so I couldn't touch them up if I had wanted to.

Here is Rose, working away on creating Mickey Mouse coasters.  It was really tricky to attach the ears, and I don't know if they'll survive the bisque and glaze firings.  But I really hope they do.  I thought of it afterwards, that maybe she should have set them into a circular base, but we didn't have a chance to go back, so we'll need to leave it to fate now.

Here are my sister's pieces on the shelf in the kiln shed : 3 Mickey Mouse coasters, a curved bowl with Mickey Mouse icons pressed into the sides (can't see from this angle), a mushroom for the garden, and a flat tray with leaf motif :
Here's a closeup of the leaf motif tray / plate :
With the right combination of stains and/or glazes, I think this tray could turn out pretty nice indeed.

I learned a lot today, as always.  As I found out last week, a slab in a bowl mould can be pretty firm around the edges, and still soft on the inside (i.e. my bottom flopped when I sat it upright, I should have left it upside down after adding the foot).  Today I had some cracks form on the edges, since they were drying faster than the center of the bowl.  So I had to do some creative repairs, as well as occasional moistening of the rims with a sponge.  Finally, I moved the pieces downstairs and covered them, to dry more slowly, rather than exposing them to the beautiful hot dry weather we've been having.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dragon and Bowl in Progress

As I mentioned previously, I have some pieces I glazed a couple of weeks ago, which are waiting to go back in the kiln.  One is my dear dragon girl, Shadow Splash.  Here she is before staining and glazing :

Here she is, on the shelf after spraying with Very Black stain everywhere, and adding Deep Blue glaze on her fins.  Her eyes are literally "glazed over", since I added Clear glaze, and then waxed (since I didn't have any liquid latex, which would have worked much better) so I would be able to wipe off the black stain there.
Among other items, I had a bowl with an impression of a cedar branch on the bottom side.  I brushed Deep Blue onto it, and scraped it off so it would remain mostly in the impressed areas:
Since it didn't scratch off very cleanly, I also wiped some of the smooth areas with a wet sponge, to remove the bulk of the Deep Blue before dipping it in another glaze:
I have not been particularly attached to this bowl, which is good, since it allowed me to experiment freely with these techniques.  But then again, it could pleasantly surprise me, as many pieces have previously.

I didn't take photos last week, partly since I misjudged the time, and was rushing to finish up at the last minute, as I almost always seem to do.  Partly since I was having too much fun, since my sister, Rose, joined me for her first session with clay.  She started and for the most part finished 6 pieces, which was impressive.  I look forward to seeing them tomorrow, to see how they held up, and how much they dried, considering the spectacularly warm and dry weather we are having lately in Vancouver.  I also look forward to the next time she can join me for another "play with clay" session.