Sunday, May 31, 2015

Garden Totem Surprise Residents

It is 3 months since my initial set up of my garden totem beside my then-bare Davidii involucrata (dove) tree.  Today I finally went out with more of the pieces, most significantly the base piece, to replace the overturned plastic plant pot.

I started removing piece by piece, and was surprised to find the pot and the bottom three pieces completely filled with sandy soil, and a colony of ants.  So I installed the base piece, dumped the soil from the pot into it, and replaced the other 3 pieces in the same sequence, to hopefully restore the poor colony without too much disturbance.  Poor things were frantically running about, and one brave ant had already bitten my hand (he was tiny, so it wasn't much of a bite).

I have changed up the top of the totem a bit, I think it may look a bit better now.
Handmade ceramic / stoneware / pottery totem in my garden.
I was glad that the base piece fit nicely.  It looks much better than the plastic flower pot.  The funny duck head on the other side of the tree is a piece of driftwood which I enhanced with a bit of acrylic paint for the beak.  Both the totem and the driftwood duck serve as stoppers or hose guards for my water hose, when I pull it about the yard.

Here's another view of it, looking toward my other ceramic pieces in the garden.
Handmade ceramic pottery garden totem in my garden.

I have a couple more pieces which I am still waiting for final glaze firing, so hope to have another small totem in the garden soon.  I have lots of small trees to navigate around with the hose, so I have many locations which would benefit from another hose guard.

Just for fun, I put a few left over pieces in what is left of my poor peach tree, which got very diseased this year, so I cut it down.  I plan to replace it next year.  But for now, at least I get the ceramics off my kitchen counter.  Hopefully I don't have any residents move into them before I assemble them into a totem!
Ceramic pieces await their turn to be part of a garden totem.  BVB bird house in the garden.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Really Ready to Raku - Next Week

Today was the first of two raku firing sessions, except we didn't do any firing, since there is construction going on near the raku kiln.  So we just prepared a number of our pieces, and will fire all of them next week.

I prepared two pieces for saggar firing, using various organic materials, and some metals, such as bottle caps and copper from a kitchen scrubber.  Here is the first pot being prepared :
Hand thrown pottery vase prepared for saggar raku firing.
The bottle cap is from one of my favourite drinks, the Old Tyme Jamaican Style Ginger Beer.  It has a nice bite to it, but is also very sweet and delicious to drink.

This is the second pot being prepared for saggar firing :
Hand thrown pottery vase prepared for saggar raku firing.
This one had a few fresh rhodo flowers tied to it, as well as horsetails (I have thousands in my garden).

We also prepared one piece for naked raku firing.  Mine was finished in turquoise terra sig, and will feature a black top and bottom, and black stripes which were created by taping off those lines.
Ceramic hand thrown pottery vase prepared with sacrificial slip for naked raku firing.

Ceramic vase prepared with sacrificial slip for naked raku firing.

We also prepared some pieces for glazing.  I am making some pendants, with taped off patterns, and various glaze colours in between:
Ceramic pendants taped off for glazing and raku firing.

Ceramic pendants glazed and ready for raku firing.
Since the pieces are small, my instructor Linda provided a wire basket which we will use to remove them from the kiln and place them in the combustibles.

We have been told to wear full shirts with long sleeves next week, for the firing, and no polyester or fleece or other fibers which would melt from the heat of the raku kiln.  So I actually stopped at a thrift store today and picked up a rayon button up top, since I don't have any full long sleeves, and the 3/4 sleeve tops I have are all polyester or other man made fibers.

So I had to do some quick reading about rayon.  Even though it is man made, it is created from cellulose in trees, so it is based on a natural source, even though the fiber itself is artificially created.  So hopefully I'll be okay.  The alternative would have been to steal one of my husband's cotton dress shirts.  Too bad we just donated a large bag of his shirts to a thrift store last week.  Although I think this rayon shirt will look a lot better on me.  It is a Chico's shirt, so a good brand.  I will probably only wear it the once, and then can donate it back to that thrift shop.  So a good deal for everyone.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Visiting My Swirly Platter

My husband took me out for dinner tonight.  It has been a very long time since we had a date. After dinner we walked around Deer Lake in Burnaby, and visited my swirly platter which is on display at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts.
Lily with her slab built pottery ceramic platter with swirly hand stamped pattern.
Lily with her slab built pottery ceramic platter with swirly hand stamped pattern.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Applying Terra Sig and Student Exhibit

Today was a long day.  I applied terra sigillata (basically a very fine clay slip) to 14 of my raku pieces.  The 15th I only trimmed today, so it was not dry enough to apply terra sig.

Here are 9 of my pieces, waiting on the bisque shelf, after the terra sig was applied :
Ceramic pots ready for raku firing, with terra sig already applied.
The star-shaped plates, I finished in coloured terra sig.  One in turquoise, and the other two in yellow.  The vase at the back, which I plan to use for the naked raku, is also finished in turquoise.  The others are finished in white.

Here's my little penguin, the part I finished in terra sig is still gray (moist) since the photo is when it was freshly applied.  I didn't try to polish the terra sig, I don't think the penguin should be shiny, just smooth, and I didn't want to take a chance that I would break off his beak.  I was fortunate that none of my pieces broke during polishing, but a few classmates were not so fortunate today.  The penguin's tummy I plan to finish in crackle glaze, and the remainder of him will turn black from being placed in combustible materials.
Raku pottery penguin in progress - after terra sigillata has been applied.

Here are the next 4 pieces, also waiting on the bisque shelf.  For the sodium silicate crackle vases, I didn't apply terra sig to the vase at all, since I want it to be rough for the obvara raku, but I applied terra sig (at least I think I did) to the bottom/foot, so it will be smooth.

Finally, my "princess for an evening" lady, whose dress will be finished in a glitzy glaze, and the rest of her will either be black (if I am able to remove her from the kiln with tongs, and place her in combustibles), or white (if I can't lift her out, and just leave her in the kiln to cool down).  I finished her skin and the base of the sculpture in terra sig.
Raku sculpture in progress - after applying terra sig, and leaving the remaining areas for later glazing.

I had time left after applying the terra sig, so I glazed two of my pieces from early April.  One of the big vases was cracked on the bottom.  Probably since I left it too bottom-heavy, should have trimmed much more.  But I glazed it anyhow, just to see what happens.

I found that my rolled plate/bowl also was cracked.
Crack in slab made roller pattern ceramic bowl.
I was not too surprised, since I knew about this weak point when I was forming it.  On the advisement of our instructor, I decided to let this one go, and not finish it, even though that is a strong instinct of mine.  So I took a photo of the bowl, and placed it in the discard area.  I have to say, when I did that, it was a nice feeling, not to feel obligated to save it.  I need to learn how to let go.  Today was a an important first step for me.
Pottery bowl with roller pattern which was not meant to be.

Next week I will terra sig that final raku piece, and glaze a few of my remaining pieces.  Then I'll be ready for the 2 sessions of raku firing.  I can't wait.

Oh, I almost forgot, I also visited my large swirly platter / bowl which is on exhibit at the moment at the Shadbolt Center in Burnaby, BC.
Swirly pattern stoneware pottery bowl / platter by Lily, on display at Shadbolt Centre in Burnaby.
Here it is in its display case.  It was surrounded by a lot of really talented work by fellow students, many of whom I know and consider to be friends.

Here is another shot of it, from behind :
Back of stoneware platter by Lily, on display at Shadbolt Center in Burnaby.
That's a bit plate holder!  I should find out where I can buy one like that!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mostly Trimming, Some New Pieces

I don't know why I threw so many pieces with a heavy bottom, so I spent much of the class today trimming.  I am not very good at trimming yet, so I found it tedious and frustrating.  But I was glad to declare 10 of my pieces "done", except that I'll need to apply terra sig to them next week when they are bone dry.
Pottery drying in preparation for raku firing.

The little penguin is looking more like a penguin now that I have sketched a line around his belly, which I plan to glaze with crackle glaze.  The remainder will be left unglazed, so will turn black when placed in the combustibles.
Wheel thrown pottery penguin prior to raku firing.

I didn't want to leave class with no new pieces, so I took advantage of some little plate-making molds provided by my classmate, Bev.
Moulds for making slab-based ceramic plates.

They work like magic.  You cut a slab a bit bigger than the moulds, and clean up the edges.  Then you place the slab on a thick foam, and press it with the mould.  The process was really quick.  In about 10 minutes I had 3 plates to show for my efforts :
Slab-made ceramic pottery plates, pressed into foam to create the shape.

I have only 1 more piece to trim, but ran out of time, since I couldn't stay for the drop in session.  I had an appointment to go to, and since I had some spare time in between, I stopped by my 14-year-old's District (city) track meet, to offer him a ride home, and was very happy to be able to watch his last race, a 4x400 meter race.  He was amazing, and led his team to victory.  But not only that, I found out that he had won all 5 of his short and middle distance events that day.  So he advances on to the next level.  Wow, the fastest boy in his grade in our city.  I am so proud.  I can take no credit for his ability whatsoever, but I was so excited for him and proud.

Anyhow, back in the pottery world...  I have also 1 sculptural piece still at home.  I was going to keep her a secret, but I have to share a sneak peek.  I am hoping to finish her dress with a glitzy / iridescent glaze, and let the rest of her turn black in the raku firing.
 Ceramic sculptural piece - lady in ball gown - prior to raku firing.
Ceramic sculptural piece - lady in ball gown - prior to raku firing.
She's not very beautiful, but she has a great dress.  I think I'll name the sculpture "Princess for the Evening".

Sunday, May 3, 2015

More Pieces for Raku

I guess I forgot to take photos last week, but I threw a couple more vase shapes, and trimmed some from the previous week.  Since I had to run off to work and couldn't stay for workshop, I attended workshop today, so I could make more pieces for the raku firing.

Today was a pretty productive session : I threw 4 pieces, glazed 2 from the previous course, and picked up 2 finished pieces from previous courses.  Here are the 4 I threw today :

I knew one of my raku pieces would need to be a penguin.  It would be great with a crackle glaze tummy and the remainder black.

I started a second penguin, but the head went wonky, so I cut it off and finished it as a vase :

Then I threw 2 vases with sodium silicate to create a crackle effect.  I have seen these finished in an the obara raku (yeast mixture), and they look great.  I left the neck of the vases intentionally textured also, hopefully to pick up some nice colour effects.

The two pieces I glazed were from my Spring Ahead course.

The big birdbath (footed bowl), I decided to finish similar to the Large Swirly Bowl which will be showcased in a student pottery exhibit at Shadbolt next weekend.  Except this time, instead of just Deep Blue, I filled the swirls with Deep Blue and Tenmoku (dark brown), and sprayed with Clear instead of Celadon.  Here it is after I brushed on the glazes, before scraping them and sponging them off to reveal the swirly pattern :

The other piece was that big hollow bowl, which is thrown upside down, and then flipped over and slumped.  The glaze colours are a surprise, they are a new colour combination for me, which I hope will have an interesting effect :

Finally, here are the two finished pieces which I picked up today.  The first one was from Fall 2014, but has been on the Rejected Pots shelf, since it slumped, and was threatening to attach itself to the kiln during glaze firing.  So I added some of that kiln support clay (forgot the proper name of it), and finally sent it in for firing.
Fall 2014 #31) I think the result is very nice, although the shape is very wonky.  Perhaps it was not dry enough when I pulled it out of the mould, and added the foot.  I can't remember now.  Anyhow, it was sponged with Blue and Green slips before removing the leaves.  The bottom/outside is finished in Matt Green, and then the top/inside is sprayed in Clear glaze.

The final piece is my Turquoise and Black slip marbled plate / bowl from Feb 2015, from the Spring Ahead course :
Spring 2015 #31) The top is Black and Turquoise slip.  It is sprayed in Celadon glaze.  I like the foot with the little swirl carved inside.  That is becoming my signature for trimmed feet.