Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Happy Day

Today was a very good day for me.  The initial news about course availability had not been good, since I have taken the day off work Wednesdays to do ceramics, and it didn't look like there were any Wednesday-only courses offered during the Spring and Summer terms.  But today I found out that at least for Spring (mid April - start of June), there is a Wednesday morning class, and to my amazement, it was a Raku course, which is what I've been dreaming of for a while now.  I signed up immediately, and have been feeling warm and happy all day since.

I did a drop-in session on Sunday, and trimmed my crackle pots.  Here's one of my favourites, waiting to be trimmed:

...and here they are, some trimmed and sitting upside down to let their "feet" dry.
 I decided to make that not-so-crackled one a part of my yard totem, so added another hole at bottom.  As well, I threw a couple more items which would become part of my totem.

Today, I threw and slab-built a few more items for my totem, as well as a few crackle pots.  I wasn't planning to, but when one of my classmates started making a crackle bowl, I couldn't resist.  I also tried to throw a plate, using the technique of throwing a cylinder, and spreading it out using a "cow's tongue" (new tool for me).  That seemed to work quite well.  But I was so focused today, I thought about pulling out my phone and taking photos, but didn't get around to it.

On Monday, I pulled out some leftover clay I had in the garage, and pressed it onto a beautiful textured glass platter, sprinkling some corn starch in hopes of being able to remove it eventually.  Well, it has been slowly drying since, and doesn't seem to want to let go of the glass platter.  So I fear this experiment may end badly.  I have managed to cut and pry the edges free, but I don't know that it will budge.  Cutting it into pieces and reassembling doesn't seem worth the trouble.  Is there a chance that if I let it dry, it will release itself due to shrinkage?  If so, should it dry fast or slow?  Here it is anyhow, a nice base, but perhaps work which will never make it to completion, and another learning experience for me :

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hooked on Crackle

Our teacher mentioned last week that he was going to demonstrate using sodium silicate to create a crackle effect.  After watching a few You Tube videos on the topic, I was pretty excited to try it out.   After trimming the 6 pieces from last week, I started throwing pieces and trying out the sodium silicate.  After the second piece, I was hooked.  Look at these beauties :
I ended up making 6 vases, which progressively were better shaped and more crackly each time.  The one at the front of the photo above, is my final and largest one.  It was brushed with Brown slip (not reddish orange, as it appears now), then the sodium silicate, which was dried with a hot air gun.  Each time I learned to dry the pieces less, and be more aggressive about pushing out the sides.  The one on the right ("Arizona sunset"), I brushed with my new red and yellow underglazes.  I am anxious to see how they come out, when they are fired.  I think they will be more vibrant if I apply a light spray of Clear glaze, which is what I'm tending toward.  Although the matte muted colors may be very attractive also.  We'll see.

These are the two prior. I really like the shape of the one on the right, with a very distinct "shoulder" to the pot/vase.  Again, I ended up using the full bag of grey clay in one class.  Our teacher was demonstrating how to throw a very large bowl and a pedestal, to build a bird bath.  I'm not sure I will attempt it.  I will probably try throwing some large bowls (especially since I bought myself a cow's tongue tool today, and want to try it out), and if I think any of them are large and impressive enough, then I'll make it into a bird bath.  Otherwise I would love to have a few more large bowls around, even for my kitchen counters.

These are the first three I threw today.  You can see the one at the very back, finished in Brown slip.  It is hardly pushed out at all.  Mostly since I stopped after throwing to watching the teacher's demos, and then when I returned to it, the pot was fairly firm, and I was afraid to break it.  So the next one (on the left), I pushed it out while it was still very fresh.  But thanks to my fellow students (wonderful people!), I was encouraged to continue to push out even more on the next one (at front right).

I was intending to finish one of my pieces as a round ball, to add to my totem, but I liked each of them so much, I finished them all as vases for now.  But I hope to get back to trying out this technique in future.  As do I hope to create more pieces for my totem.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Back in Class and "Springing Ahead" for the Garden

It was a frantic morning, with two urgent issues to deal with at the office, and a number of technical difficulties (like an Outlook error on my main computer, preventing me from sending out important emails).  But I managed to make it to my first class this morning at Shadbolt.  The course is called "Spring Ahead" and is taught by Jay MacLellan.  It combines my two favourite pastimes: pottery and gardening.  We are making ceramic creations for our gardens.

Today was a very productive day for me.  I threw 6 relatively large items, which will combine into a "totem" for the garden.  In fact, I used a full bag of grey clay (approx 20 pounds) :
This was a pretty significant accomplishment for me, since I think I've only tried to throw two pieces since the summer, and I am throwing with grey clay, which I generally find too stiff for me to handle.  But today Jay came by, and watched me as I prepared to spend half an hour centering my first 3 or 4 pounds of clay, and he was able to give me some tips, so I was able to center it in about 5 minutes.  My success with centering continued throughout the day, so after only 5 or 10 minutes each time, I still had enough energy to throw the piece.

Next week we will trim the bottoms, and I may want to do a bit more "decorating" also.  Here are the pieces in close up:
This one will likely be the base.  It was thrown a bit thicker than usual, and then the sides faceted / cut with a straight wire.  Jay had a cheese cutter, which I tried for a bit, after I almost cut through my skin holding the wire tight.   The cheese cutter was easier on the hands, but either cut fine.

This was the first piece I threw.  It is a bit smaller than I would have originally planned, but the shape turned out really nice.  I will probably do something fun with glazing it, otherwise I probably won't mess with the shape.

This next piece was my variation on the cheese cutter.  I threw a thick cylinder, then used the wiggle wire to cut the pattern.  Then very carefully, I "bellied" it out to form that round shape, applying pressure only from the inside, and then I finished off the top part, being careful not to touch the design at the bottom.  I'm actually surprised I managed all that, without really mucking something up.

I knew I wanted to throw one piece that was rather simple, so I could play with some sgraffito design, so this is the one.  I applied Black slip to it, and have taken it home with me, to play with the sgraffito part, which is too time consuming to take up valuable studio time for it.

This one is a larger version, and I was thinking to play with some surface texturing, if it is not too dry next week (I hope not, since I need to trim the bottoms, or at least finish them by cutting a hole).

Finally, this piece could sit on the top, since it is closed on top.  But then again, any of the pieces could be mixed and matched top side up or upside down, depending on what looks good, and what parts fit together nicely.  I tried to roughly measure the openings, and keep them a similar sort of diameter, but I didn't get too specific about it, since I have a feeling I will want a more sizable totem for the garden, not a stack of 6 pieces.  In my garden, that would feel too small.  And since I'm having success with throwing, this is a good way to practice and create more.  Jay joked that we should throw 20 pieces, so we can throw away the 15 we don't like, and keep the 5 that we do.  He doesn't know me well enough.  I'll eventually throw 10 or 20, and keep them all!  :-)

Next week we will trim, but also start on bird baths.  Then pedestals for the bird baths.  Later in the course, I think we will be making lanterns, maybe planters, I don't know what else.  But I have a big garden, and lots of ideas, and look forward to lots of good things coming out of this course the next couple of months.

After the 10 - 1PM course (in which I think I only threw the first 2 pieces), I stayed on for the 1:30 - 5:30 workshop, throwing until about 3:30PM.  After which point, I spent a lot of time cleaning up, and finishing up some small details, such as applying my signature stamp.  I needed to leave by 5PM for my son's soccer practice, but by then I was happy to leave.  I was quite exhausted, and now have some pain in my neck and shoulders.  But it's for such a good reason, I don't even mind some pain and stiffness.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Mickey Bowl Christmas Surprise

I wasn't able to post it earlier, because one of my ceramics from the Fall was a bowl which I wanted to surprise my sister with at Christmas.  She loves Mickey Mouse, and seems to like my ceramics, so I knew she would appreciate it.  Here is a few different views of the bowl :
#28 - It started out as a bowl with 8 Mickey Mouse heads, but during the process of drying, one of the Mickeys popped off, and then it dropped and broke on the floor.  The bowl turned out okay, since that provides a nice spot to hold the bowl.  I played a little with the foot also, making it a Mickey Mouse shape.  It thought that was quite clever.  The Mickeys and the back are finished in Tenmoku, and then the bowl was sprayed in Clear glaze.  It's interesting that the grey clay finishes so speckled, but I think that the speckles go nicely with the Tenmoku.

Here it is, put to good use holding chocolates on my sister's granite island :
It looks like I should have made her a bigger bowl!  :-)