Saturday, October 31, 2015

Unintended and Surprising Result

I passed by the studio today just to drop off my leafy goblet.  I can't wait to finish that one, and hold it in my hand.

While I was there, I peeked in the "cage" where all the finished ceramics are locked up, and tried to find my pieces that made it into this first firing.  I can see that one of them turned out really nicely, much like I had hoped.  But many of the others were a disappointment.  In particular, the marbling effect on my early beer glasses / steins doesn't show well through the glazes I used.  Perhaps I'll need to spray the glazes next time, instead of dipping, which tends to apply them too thick for my liking.

I also found my unnamed negro lady sculpture.  When I was staining and glazing her, I was told that I might be applying the red iron oxide too thick, that it would end up looking metallic.  I understood that to be a metallic sheen, but would have expected it still turn out a chocolaty brown colour.  So I sponged the oxide off in many areas, but the result was still this :
It's funny, my first reaction is that she is scary looking.  Certainly not the effect I was trying to achieve.  But when I showed a photo of her to my wildly creative friend, Miranda C, she absolutely loved the piece, and offered to give it a good home if I don't want her.  She had a wonderful story to tell about how this piece triggered great memories for her, from Hornby Island, I think it was...

I'll bring her home (hopefully tomorrow), and see if she grows on me, or whether she will be happier with Miranda.  I have to say I am very pleased that she seems to have survived the two firings very well, with no cracks or accidents.  That is a really significant success for such a large piece, and my first real attempt at a sculptural piece (other than my raku lady, which also amazingly survived her firings).  I am excited about the prospect of trying something like this again.  Watch out world!

Oh, and the other thing which really pleases me is that the red underglaze I used for her lips, turned out so brilliantly red, even without a glaze on top.  I am very pleased, and will be using that color again!  The yellow underglaze on the butterfly is also nice, although even a small layer of clear glaze on top seems to be adding an opacity which I am not sure about...  Next time I'd leave the yellow unglazed.  Good to know, since I really haven't done a test firing with these underglazes.  (Although that would be the logical first step.)

I'm looking forward to a raku firing tomorrow, with three of my pieces ready and patiently waiting (unlike me, who has very little patience, but luckily is distracted by other things while I am waiting).

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Leafy Goblet

I was thinking to roll a thin coil and attach that to the goblet, but as I started rolling a coil, I realized that either it would be too thick, or too difficult to wrap it on the goblet, without crushing or deforming it.  I guess if I had a thick foam pad, that may work.  But anyhow, I decided instead to make my own slip, by mixing clay and water, and used slip trailing to draw branches / vines onto the goblet.  Then I used the plaster sprig mold I made a few weeks ago, to make leaves.  Here is the result, from a few different angles:
Beautiful handmade ceramic / pottery / stoneware goblet with leaf design, in progress.
 You can see my glass cup with the slip I mixed up:
Ceramic / pottery / stoneware goblet with leaf design, in progress.
 ...and the round sprig mold lying on the counter, behind the goblet :
Ceramic / pottery / stoneware goblet with leaf design, in progress.
What do you think?  I'm really lovin' it.  If I had more time, I would be really tempted to throw a few more of these.  Although I guess I've run out of time this term, so I'll need to try again in the New Year.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Productive Day in the Studio - Throwing Jugs

I am only somewhat following along our course content, throwing and creating the pieces which inspire me, and observing but giving the others a pass.  One which did inspire me, but I was busy with other activities at the time, was a wine or beer jug called a Bellarmine or Bartmann jug.  The name Bartmann comes from German "bearded man", and the jug, decorated with a face of a bearded man, was made in Germany (and perhaps surrounding areas) in the 16th and 17th centuries.  The name Bellarmine apparently comes from Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine, an opponent of Protestantism, and thought to be caricaturized in the jugs.  But even if some were caricatures of Cardinal Bellarmine, the jugs were popular long before his time.

Anyhow, my search for images these jugs peaked my curiosity, and I decided I've got to make one.  Since I didn't have a face to add, I thought I'd first make a sprig mold, but then I realized I could use slip trailing to add the face.  So today I started throwing jugs.  Here is the instructor's jug, before the handle was added :
Here's my first attempt a similar jug :
Ceramic / pottery Bellarmine or Bartmann jug, in progress.
I was really pleased with the result.  It is not easy to throw this shape, and get the nice round belly, then pull in the neck so narrow and tall.  I went on to throw 3 or 4 more jugs, most of them similar in size, one smaller.  None of them turned out quite as nicely as the first one, in my opinion.  But I'll have my work cut out for me next week, adding handles (which I dread), and adding the bearded man (which I look forward to, but don't know if I can get so many done in the allotted time).

I also threw a sake container, and I think the shape of it turned out really nice, although it was a bit shorter than I had hoped.  But I guess I didn't take a photo at the time.

I also went on to throw other round shapes, like my favourite spheres, and vases which had a sort of spherical shape and a straight neck/rim.  I was very pleased by the results :
Wheel thrown ceramic / pottery pieces in progress.

You'll notice in the last photo, the little vessel with hearts cut out of the sides.  This is the double-walled vase I threw last week.  The shape is not beautiful, so I didn't want to spend too much time fussing over too complicated a pattern.  But since the cutouts are in the outer wall, the inner can still be filled with water.  I think this will make a cute little vase, even if the opening at top is a bit wider than I perhaps would have chosen.
Double-walled ceramic pottery vase or vessel, with carved outer wall.

Today's class was all about throwing goblets, and our instructor showed us a number of different options for throwing the cup and throwing the base, and even a very tricky one where he threw both as one piece.  I didn't much like his examples, and most of them were too small, so once they shrunk, they would be the size of shot glasses, not goblets.  I was already winding down and cleaning up when he passed by the studio and asked if I had thrown any goblets.  So I decided I'd give it a quick try, and in 10 minutes, threw a base, a cup, and even a stem to add between, since I figured that would look better than the stubby ones he showed us.
Pieces of a ceramic goblet in progress.
Because the timing would be very tricky, of drying it enough to work with it, but not letting it dry out too much by next week, I decided to bring those 3 pieces home, and assemble them before returning them to the studio.  I've already added the stem to the base:
Parts of a ceramic goblet in progress.
I think it has some potential.  I have some thoughts in decorating it also, if I have time (which is not usually a problem, I somehow can always make the time).

Next week is the last class before the bisque deadline.  Wow, time has gone quickly, as always.  But I am pleased the size and number and level of difficulty of the pieces I've been throwing in this class.  As well as some new decorating ideas I've picked up.  And then, I am super pleased by my experiments in my spare time, exploring sculpture and piercing and carving and other techniques.

P.S. Before going to bed, the pieces were not quite leather hard, but firm enough to handle, so I added the cup to the base :
Ceramic / pottery stemmed goblet in progress.
It's funny, but I really like the shape.  That seems like a goblet to me, and may even be big enough to be useful for drinking.  I have 3 thoughts for decorating : (1) hold off, and use glazes to decorate, (2) add some simple sprigs, like the grape leaf I used for the beer stein, or (3) add something interesting, like a vine twisting up the stem and onto the cup.  I consulted my 14-year-old, and he thought I should add the vine.  Hmmm.  That is also what I want to do, the most.  But I wish I had two goblets.  One which I could experiment with, adding the vine, and the other to just leave alone, and experiment with glazes.  We'll see.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Another Leaf (Fern) Imprint Vessel

I was so pleased by my experiment yesterday, inspired by @leavesofclay, that I decided to decorate my other more spherical vase using the same technique of imprinting leaves.  This time I foraged for leaves in the garden before it was dark.  Good thing, since it is a gorgeous full moon tonight, but I wouldn't want to be out there with a flashlight looking for leaves tonight.  I have too vivid of an imagination, and have watched too many movies...

I was thinking of decorating with various different types of hardy geranium leaves.  But then I pinched a few different kinds of ferns too, and soon decided to make an all fern design.  It incorporates four different kinds of ferns.
Ceramic pottery vessel with leaf imprints, this time fern fronds, in progress.
It is somewhat therapeutic to make the little indents all around the fern fronds.  The time seems to pass quickly.  Although afterward my neck is a bit sore, and often my left hand is sore from holding the vessel.  This time I was careful to rest my hand against the counter, so it wouldn't be bearing too much weight.
Ceramic pottery vessel with leaf imprints, this time fern fronds, in progress.
When the ferns are removed, the imprints left behind are not as dramatic as those of the viburnum leaves, but I think they look really pretty.  What do you think?
Ceramic pottery vessels with leaf imprints in the clay, fern fronds versus viburnum leaves.
Ceramic pottery vessels with leaf imprints, fern fronds versus viburnum leaves.
That's the only two vessels I have at home, so I'll need to wait until Wednesday to do any more playing with clay.  Hopefully these will dry by then so I can take them in to get them bisque fired.

The one with an opening, I will give it a nice glaze inside, and just leave the outside rough and stained.  I think it would make a really nice vase.  If I could bear it, the other one would make a really nice ceramic totem topper.  Although I suspect it may want to stay indoors.  We'll see.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Learning from the Masters - Leaf Imprint Vessel

I was again blessed to be able to go into the studio on a Sunday afternoon, and make some more progress on my pieces.  As for the class assignments, I have opted out of most of the recent ones, since I have so much else on the go.  But I intend to come back to a few of the concepts, such as throwing a sake container, and a Bellarmine (aka Bartmann) jug.

I was really surprised that it took more than 2 hours today to stain and glaze my sculptural piece, which is still unnamed.  Here she is, with just black stain applied (sorry for the out-of-focus photo) :
Sculptural clay pottery bust of a Negro woman, in progress.
... and then with red oxide stain applied :
Sculptural clay pottery bust of a Negro woman, in progress, stained.
I was told that my red oxide application may be too thick, so then used a sponge to thin it out...  Now that I think about it, I used red underglaze on her lips, and forgot to glaze them with clear.  Oh darn.  She may even go into the kiln this weekend.  I wanted her to have shiny lips.

Anyhow, I then used the remainder of the drop in session to trim the bottoms of my other pieces, and add a cord to the floppy sack vase :
Recovering from a failed thrown pot by making it look intentional.
Not a bad recovery to a vessel which collapsed while trying to throw the double walls together, what do you think?

All four of the other vessels were still very soft, so it was a bit tricky to trim the feet.  This one was a combination of trimming and throwing (to get that edge), which I was particularly pleased with :

I have brought that vessel home, since I wanted to try a new technique I discovered from a very talented artist, Michele, whose account is @leavesofclay and Etsy shop is here.  Hmmm, her prices are very reasonable, too.  I encourage you to check it out.

Anyhow, I'll start with the almost-finished piece (I will stain it once bisqued) :
Ceramic pottery vessel with leaf imprints, in progress.
What do you think?  I am really loving it.  I will try this again, hopefully even this Fall before I lose my supply of leaves.

It started with a visit to the garden with a flashlight, gathering leaves in the dark.  I chose a viburnum bush, since it had lots of small and medium sized leaves, and I love their deep grooves.  If I had a larger piece, I would have chosen leaves from my Davidii involucrata (dove) tree, but they don't come in small sizes.
Ceramic pottery vessel with leaf imprints, in progress.
I cut off the stems (the part sticking out from the leaf), and pressed them into the leather soft clay with the side of a ballpoint pen.   I tried to overlap them, and cover most of the vessel :
Ceramic pottery vessel with leaves imprint, in progress. which point I got out my rubber tool, and used the round end to make impressions in the clay between the leaves, very quickly realizing that I had better start at the bottom, so I could hold it in a spot which was not poked, and then set it down to finish it :
Ceramic pottery vessel by Lily with leaf imprints, in progress.
..and then I set it down and finished :
Ceramic pottery vessel with leaf imprints, in progress.
It was very pretty at this point, but I really like the effect when the leaves are removed :
Ceramic pottery vessel with leaf imprints, in progress.
I really am quite excited with the outcome, and will be anxious to see the final product.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Exploring More Shapes

Today I spent the morning glazing many of my pieces which came through the bisque firing.  Then I decided to throw a few more.  Unfortunately, I'll need to trim them before I can start playing with carving.
Ceramic pottery wheelthrown and altered pots in progress.
The one at front was an attempt at making a double-walled vessel, which actually succeeded.  So I will be able to carve / pierce the outer spherical section, without damaging the inner section, which could hold water.  That's the concept.

The one at the back is my favourite shape at the moment, the sphere.  If I feel up to it, I'll make more pierced vessels, like the one in this post.  The one to the right is a variant of it, with a small hole in the bottom, and coming to a point at top.  I love this shape also.  It may even become a very nice topper for another garden totem.

The one on the left was an attempt to make yet another variation, but the walls became thin and soft, and I lost a bit of control over the piece.  I had recovered from that, but still ended up with the rim being a bit uneven.  So I'd need to carve or alter it in some way, to make it look intentional.  I decided to make a large warpy bowl to match the small warpy cups I just made recently.  I really like the result.

Then I went on to try another double-walled vessel, a much larger version.  I was doing fairly well, and was getting the walls pretty close, but not quite in contact, when the outer wall became weak and started collapsing.  I tried to revive it, but could see it wouldn't make it.  So I squished the outer wall to meet the inner, and ended up with this shape :
Double-walled ceramic pottery vessel which didn't quite succeed.
I think it has some potential.  For example, I could add a clay "tie" around the top, and make it look like a sack which was being tied to the inner vase.  It could even be functional, holding water and flowers.  We'll see.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Finished Carving My Fish Bowl

I spent a bit of time tonight carving my fish bowl.  I think I am done.  The last touch was to add texture to my fish, although depending on the glaze, the texture may be lost :
Ceramic handthrown carved pottery fish bowl sphere.
 Ceramic handthrown carved pottery fish bowl sphere.

Here it is, just before adding the texture :
Ceramic handthrown carved pottery fish bowl sphere.
 Ceramic handthrown carved pottery fish bowl sphere.
 Ceramic handthrown carved pottery fish bowl sphere.
I think it's done for now.  Hope to be able to glaze it in greens with red and orange for the goldfish.  Perhaps the raku firing will provide what I need, although I'm a bit afraid of it being broken while handled.  But our Cone 10 glazes don't seem to give me any of those colors, unless I can achieve it with my underglazes.  We'll see.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fish Bowl

I am continuing to explore new methods...  This latest inspired by Federico Becchetti, an Italian ceramic artist I have been following on Instagram.  Here's a little sample of his work, I hope you will check out his account for more :

Anyhow, I was trying to think of what to do with my third sphere, and at first I considered doing an abstract sort of design.  But it came to me while lying in bed at night (when the best inspiration tends to come), that I would do a sort of multi-layered fish bowl.  So I started by tracing out plants for the fish bowl :
Ceramic pottery sculptural fish bowl in progress.

Today I had the good fortune that my kids both had homework, and my husband had work to do also, and anyhow it was raining, so they let me slip away to the open workshop at the studio.  So I was able to add the second layer of fish and plants :
Ceramic pottery sculptural fish bowl in progress.
Ceramic pottery sculptural fish bowl in progress.

The next step will be to carve out the areas between the plants (the parts scored with lines).  I'm pretty excited about this piece.  If I can get some brightly colored glazes for the fish (I'm thinking of raku firing it), this could turn out pretty cool.  Since it will have lots of open spaces, it could be a pretty cool candle holder, as well as "fish bowl".

I applied terra sig to my other spheres, at the bottom, where they will not be glazed.  I don't usually photograph other people's work, but when I set the sphere on the shelves to be bisque fired, I was so intrigued by this little roll, it looks like a yummy cocoa roll, doesn't it? 
I want to get my hands on that dark clay, eventually, too.  Especially if it stays that dark when fired.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Today's Pottery Adventures

It's too late at night to post from today's class, but in summary, the day started out very slow and frustrating, but in the evening I was able to recover and make progress on what could be some very nice pieces.  As a teaser, here is one photo :
Pierced ceramic pottery spheres, in progress, inspired by Eric Stearns Pottery.
Stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sake Cups and Other Fun

Today's class focused on small cups, for sake or tea or whiskey or whatever one would drink from a small cup...  Jay demo'd various different variations, most of them meant to look imperfect and fluid, like a mini version of a tea bowl.  Apparently potters refer to them as "guinomi" which translates to "one gulp", although Jay said he spoke with a Japanese person, and this is not a term they use for those vessels.

Speaking of Japanese, there was a very nice Japanese lady in the drop in workshop this afternoon.  She has only been in Canada for 4 months, so her English is not strong.  I wish I had installed my Google Translator app, so I could have better communicated with her.  I installed it tonight, so I'll be ready if she comes next week.

Anyhow, back to the sake cups.  I made these 8 :

Looking at these closer :
The one at front was thrown and then a course groggy slip applied.  The two at back were thrown and then deliberately pushed out to look wonky.  The one on left was thrown with a few strips of the yellow clay marbled in.

The two at front were thrown and then a pattern applied by roller (while pressing from the inside).  I also dented the left one with a wooden stick.  The one at back left was also thrown wonky, and dented with a stick.
This one was a nice marbled cup, but then I decided to also apply a pattern, using one of Jay's handmade rollers.  I think it was a bit too wet at the time, it was sticky and the pattern didn't apply very distinctly, but it still is an interesting effect.  Most if not all the cups will require their feet to be trimmed next week, so it will be a busy class.

In addition to the cups, I altered the rims of the double rimmed vessel and the one with a flopped top, from last week.  Then I went on to throw three more big spherical shapes (but didn't remember to take a photo), which I will pierce like the recent one, if I have time.  This time I used sculptural clay, in case I want to include them in the raku firing.  We'll see if I can get them done in time.  Time is ticking...

I also trimmed a number of my pieces from last week.  So I have lots on the go.  I was happy to see that many of the beer mugs / steins have come through the bisque firing, and the yellow clay has turned into a beautiful reddish color.  I think these will turn out very nice, if I can find the right glazes to let the pattern show through.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sculptural Piece - Maybe Finished

I know I'm pretty crazy, but on nights like this, I'm glad I am.  I just returned from a long working weekend, and was really tired, but had to get my hands into clay for at least a little bit.  I ended up working on, and perhaps finishing, my sculptural piece, which I started a week ago :
Ceramic pottery sculptural bust of negro woman, in progress.
Ceramic pottery sculptural bust of negro woman, in progress.
Ceramic pottery sculptural bust of negro woman, in progress.
On Wednesday, I had thrown a piece which was to be the head.  I knew the base would be a bit heavy, and I wouldn't be able to trim it, so I threw it upside down, and formed a "neck" opening about the size to match the neck on the handmade coiled/pinched piece.  Then once it firmed up a bit, I trimmed it with a knife, and opened up the top, so I could get my hand inside, to work from both inside and outside.
Ceramic pottery sculptural bust of negro woman, in progress.
I knew the head would not be perfect, so planned that my beautiful lady would have flowing hair covering the imperfections.  Once I gave her the big lips, I realized that she was a negro, so I gave her a tight afro, by adding balls of clay and pressing them with a handmade stamp.
Ceramic pottery sculptural bust of negro woman, in progress.
Finally, I flattened a piece of clay and closed up the skull, and then let it firm up a bit before pressing the curls of hair to cover it.
Ceramic pottery sculptural bust of negro woman, in progress.
Then I added a lucky butterfly, for interest.  I thought I'd add a necklace and some other finishing touches, but I kind of like it the way it is.  She is a classy lady, but not too sophisticated, and not too perfect, just down to earth, and comfortable with herself.
Ceramic pottery sculptural bust of negro woman, in progress.
I added my signature stamp behind her right shoulder.  I think I am done.  I've covered her for now, to dry slowly, and will re-evaluate again tomorrow whether I need to add anything more, or just let her be.