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.

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