Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Continuing with My Pierced Vessel and Much More In Class Today

I was able to trim the foot on my pierced vessel today (I'm calling it my tribute to Eric Stearns, since his work was the inspiration for this attempt).  So tonight I brought it with me to my son's soccer practice, and sat in the car, cutting little squares...  I continued again when I got home.  I think it is progressing really nicely - what do you think? :

I was trying to hold the vessel very carefully as I carved, not just with my left hand, but cradling it in my left arm, and holding it against my body, so I wouldn't put too much pressure on any particular spot.  So now my left arm and neck are a bit stiff, but the result was worth it.

With only 7 diamonds left to cut out, I broke one of the connecting segments, but I think I was able to patch it successfully with paper clay (I mixed clay from one of the cutouts with water and a bit of paper towel).  I'll find out soon enough.

Now I will be nervous about returning it for the bisque firing.  After so much work, I'm scared to break it.

Our second class went very well.  A bit slower today, since I was finishing up pieces from last time.  Such as adding the handle (it took 3 attempts before I got it right!) to this beer stein :
Our teacher, Jay, had a sprig mold available, and I couldn't resist adding a sprig to the stein also.  I tried to pick a "manly" sort of design, as many of the others were a bit too floral for beer drinking.

I threw 5 new pieces, in addition to a rough "head" for my sculptural piece (not pictured) :
On the right is a vase with what I hope will be a matching lid, behind it, for my raku drop in (I will be allowed to fire 3 pieces).  If all goes well, I will apply terra sig and prepare it for horsehair raku.  I think that could look pretty awesome.

The one at front is also potentially a vase for raku, but probably I'd glaze that one.  I threw it with a double rim, which I hope to pinch into an interesting pattern.  We'll see.

On the left is a piece which I threw with a very dramatic shoulder, partly experimenting with how far I could push the wet clay before it would flop.  Partly because I thought some interesting pattern could be created from this.  Stay tuned.  I'll probably experiment with it a bit more next week.

At the back is a piece which was thrown as a very big vase (I didn't want to make the pitcher which our teacher demo'd, but still wanted to make the basic bellied out shape).  But it ended up wonky around the belly (my bat-mate moved on me somewhere during the throwing process), and wonky around the rim.  So I decided this would be a great piece to alter and carve, somewhat in the style of Jennifer McCurdy, although not quite as elaborate.  I am planning to continue altering and playing with it next week, but I am already pleased with the result so far, and got a lot of comments from people in the afternoon workshop :

Monday, September 28, 2015

At It Again - This Time a Sculptural Piece

I couldn't wait until Wednesday to do my trimming and piercing of the piece I started last week.  Tonight I got my hands into some leftover sculptural clay I had in the garage, and started to play.  The fun thing about still being a newbie to pottery, but being fairly confident in my abilities, is that I will attempt anything, not knowing how difficult it could possibly be.  Then I'm pretty determined, so once I realize how difficult it is, I can't stop until I conquer it.

Recently I have been inspired by the sculptural works of John Brien, "jbrien145" on Instagram.  Look at this beauty:
I normally wouldn't know where to start on something like this, but one of his comments indicated that he usually built these from coils.  I'm never even built a coil pot before, but I figured, how hard could this be?  So I started to build a sculpture of my own tonight.

To this point, it was going fairly well.  I found that instead of adding coils, I was adding sections of clay which I had flattened with my fist, and then tried very hard to smooth out the seams from the inside and the outside :
I could start to see the shape emerging, just needed to work my way into the neck and head :
At this point, it became less clear how I was going to be able to add the head...  But I made an attempt anyhow :
But I could see that the weight of the head was going to collapse the neck, no matter what I tried...  How would John Brien do it?  Would he stuff it with paper for support?  Or would he let the base dry a bit before adding more coils?  At this point, I wished I had at least watched  a YouTube demo of someone creating a sculptural bust.  I could tell that the neck was going to be the tricky part, so I cut it back to where it felt self-supporting :
I think I will let that base firm up a bit, and separately I'll create a head from sections or using a pinch-pot technique (again, don't have much experience with that, but at least know the concept), and then once both pieces are a bit more firm, try to attach them.  Problem is that I won't be able to get my hands inside at that point, to properly smooth the clay inside, so I'll use more of a slip-and-score attachment.

For now, I've laid a moist paper towel along the rim of the neck, so it won't dry out too much, and have draped plastic over the whole thing.  It's late, so I'll get back to playing tomorrow night or the following.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

(Poor) Tribute to Eric Stearns - Pierced Vessel in Progress

One of the ceramic artists I have been admiring on Pinterest is Eric Stearns.  He does wonderful, precise pierced work, and finishes with beautiful crackled raku glazing.  Here is a photo I pulled from his website, which I would encourage you to visit, for more beautiful work, and information about the artist.

When I threw the spherical piece in workshop, I knew I wanted to do something with it - carve it, pierce it, distort it...  So I considered various ideas (which I may use on the next spheres I throw), but decided on a pierced item, inspired by the work of Eric Stearns.

Here's my go it marking out where I will do the piercings.  I like how it was going at the front / start of the piece :
Poor Tribute to Eric Stearns, preparation for a pierced vase / vessel.

Then I started to lose the pattern toward the side, partly because I wasn't sure where to take it, and partly because I was getting lazy...
Poor Tribute to Eric Stearns, preparation for a pierced vase / vessel.

I know now what I would have done to revive the pattern, but after finishing the back, even though it looks too plain and not as exciting as the front, I decided to leave it as is.  It will still be enough challenge to finish it, and will be a good learning experience.
Poor Tribute to Eric Stearns, preparation for a pierced vase / vessel.

I am thinking to trim the foot (I want to make the base smaller and crisper, and then add my artist's stamp) before I weaken the vessel by piercing it.  Just in case.  I'm not so skilled at trimming yet, and don't want to tempt fate too much.  :-)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Back in the Studio Again, with Mud in My Eye

After what seemed an unbearably long wait, I'm back in the studio again, taking a course with Jay MacLennan called "Here's Mud in Your Eye".  I just learned that this as an old English drinking toast.  Weird, but appropriate, since we are making beer steins and mugs and pitchers and goblets and other vessels related to storing and drinking alcohol (or substitute your favourite drink).

I was quite pleased by my ability to get back on the wheel, and coax the clay into shapes which were close to what I was trying for.  Jay demoed a number of pieces, which he always makes look so easy.  The one I liked, and tried to replicate, was this "weisen" beer glass, which is apparently for drinking wheat beer.  I don't drink beer, but I sure like the shape.  This was Jay's demo, using some wonderful new Yellow iron oxide clay, which will turn reddish brown when fired, to which he added strips of grey clay, and marbled it in, and then added a piece of glass, which will become a drip of glaze when fired (or at least that's the theory) :

So with this shape in mind, I threw 4 similar shapes, as well as the shorter "stein" shape, to which I'll add a handle next week.  Mine are thrown in white clay, with a bit of Jay's yellow clay marbled in (I'm so hooked on this effect, I am dreaming of the day he'll make it available for sale, and I can marble like crazy) :
Good thing that even though I don't drink beer, my husband enjoys it.  So I'm thinking there may be a Christmas gift or two in that set...

I was pretty happy with that result and output for our 3 hour class.  Then I stayed on for the next 4 hours, and made another 4 vessels, this time focusing on 3 vases where I was trying for a narrow neck at top (mine have so far been fairly open-necked), and then an attempt at a beautiful spherical shape.
I just realized I didn't take a photo of the big sphere.  I am toying with the idea of carving that one.  We'll see.

For one of the vases, I decided to try the "medieval" base which Jay demo'd during class.  So I intentionally finished it fairly straight, and gave it a rim which I could also alter, to match the feel of the base.  I'm really liking this one.
I can't wait until next week.  Except for that handle.  I don't like making handles.  Although I could make an exception for a marbled one...  :-)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Raku Results : Obvara Raku Vases and Plate

I had intended to post all the items from my Spring Raku pottery course, but realize that I had not gotten to the obvara items.  The obvara raku, which involves dipping the hot pottery into a fermenting yeast mixture, then into cold water (see this post for more photos of the obvara raku process), was the technique I was least interested to try.  I'm not sure I like the effect, but I'm glad for the experience.

I had seen some videos online of someone who used the obvara method to finish some sodium silicate crackled pots, and the result was pretty interesting.  So I decided to do the same.  Perhaps it was our obvara recipe, or other factors, but the obvara finishing didn't accentuate the sodium silicate texture, it seemed to make its own visual texture.  Oh well, still interesting, I guess.

Obvara raku fired vessel / vase, with sodium silicate crackle texture.
This first pot turned out quite dark, like burnt toast.  We noticed that if the items were allowed to cool a bit before immersing them in the obvara mixture, they turned out a lighter color.  So that's what I did for the next one.

Obvara raku fired pottery, sodium silicate crackle vase.
This one is almost too light.  I like the effect on the bottom, but the sides of the pot are quite pale, for my liking.  I think when I realized how light it was, I even tried dipping it back again in the obvara, but it had already cooled, and wasn't taking on more color.  I like that the crackle effect shows through nicely on the sides, though.

Obvara raku fired pottery / ceramic plate / dish.
I had created a couple of small plates from a clay slab, this one shaped over some sort of round disk, I think it was a container lid.  It gave me another item to experiment with.  I was amused by the very visible tong mark, which shows up 6 o'clock in the bottom left photo, and at 8 o'clock in the bottom right photo.  When I first started ceramics, this sort of thing would have driven me crazy, I would have seen it as a flaw.  Now I see it as a fun effect, an artifact providing clues to the artist's process.