Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pottery Tools and Throwing

I'm exhausted, but in a wonderful way, after spending the day doing pottery.  Today, our pottery tools class focused on making some clay tools, as well as using some of our tools while throwing.  Here are a few of the items I made today :
Those three pieces which look like upside down mushrooms, are clay tools.  Next week we will trim the tops of these mushrooms, and they will become clay anvils, used to hold against the inside of the pot while paddling (or stamping) from the outside.  I think mine are too big for any of the pots I'm making at the moment.  I'm going to try building something smaller when I have a chance, maybe just the round side, with holes to tie a string for a handle.  We'll see.  Or something on a stick, since that could be useful when applying my signature stamp.  There were a couple of other clay tools we have in progress.  I'll post when they look closer to the final result.

One of the exercises in class today was to throw "tea bowls", and then use the textured paddles we made.  The three I made (see two above) were textured with the paddle I wrapped in the poly rope (see post from last week).  I don't think I whacked mine very hard, some of my fellow students as well as our instructor got a deeper texture from their paddling.  But I think mine will still show nicely.

Jay has finally made available for sale the yellow (iron oxide rich) clay which I was experimenting with last term, so for the open workshop, I threw some marbled pots.  I also added a grape leaf sprig, although I should have waited until next week, when they are more firm.  But I still managed to apply the sprig fairly successfully.  When fired, the yellow will turn to a chocolate brown, as I learned from last term's experimenting (see, for example, this post).

I made a third pot / vase which is marbled, and then I used the smooth side of my newly made paddle, to flatten front and back.  I have a few ideas how to finish this one, but we'll see next week.

Pretty much all my items from today need trimming and stamping next week, so I'll be pretty busy with that.  I believe we'll also be back to some wood tools next week, and putting handles on wire cutters, and who knows what else.  Jay always manages to keep us more than busy with his ideas.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pottery Tool Making - Second Class

I'm still loving my pottery tool making course.  Today we continued to make tools, most of them wood or bamboo.  I made another paddle, this one with wound poly rope for texture :
The one I made last week, I left one side smooth, and instead of texturing it with saw cuts on the other side, decided to make lines with the hot glue gun :
They ended up as wobbly lines, but seem to make a pretty interesting texture, and when tapped twice, make wobbly squares, as seen above.

I created a couple more dragon scale tools today, as well as various shapes of ribs and other tools which could be useful for throwing, or shaping in various ways.  Some from searching Google and Instagram during the week, for more ideas on what tools people find useful in pottery.

One of the highlights today, besides using my favorite belt and disc sander, was applying tung oil to the wood tools.  Wow, what a beautiful transformation of color and visual texture, as the wood grain magically appeared.  Here is the large throwing tool from last week, with the oil applied :
It was interesting to see the different colors - some yellow, some red - appear in the wood, which seem to be various different varieties (I really wish I could identify them) :
One of the tools I wasn't excited to make, but I didn't want to be left out, especially since it involved many more steps, such as drilling and screwing and such, was this cutting tool, shown along with one of the funky shaped rib which I created from some of the scraps of wood :
The tool is way too complicated for me, for what it does, which is to cut clay.  I could use a simple wire for that, and this doesn't even seem to be a tool which I could operate in one hand.  Not to mention, it needs to be tightened by twisting that string at top, which I way too fiddly for me.  But what was cool is that if I didn't add the dowels to keep that middle piece in place, the whole thing could be pulled apart for easier storage (you just have to keep the 3 pieces together, or it's not useful).
Anyhow, I am the type that I never miss lunch.  In fact, I am known for slipping out of class at 12noon (it ends at 1pm) to have a quick lunch, otherwise I become light headed, and eventually get a headache.  Today, I was so carried away with making tools, that I didn't stop until 2:30pm for lunch, even though a number of people asked me before that, whether I had taken a lunch break.

By the time I pulled away from the tool making entirely, I had only 1.5 hours or so of useful time to play with clay.  I needed to at least finish that coil bowl I started last week.

I was very happy when I popped it out of its mold, to find that it looked good, and seemed to have held together very nicely.
Coil bowl in progress.
When I made it, I had considered giving it a foot which was a coil, or a number of little coils, or little feet which were decorated in coils...  But when I saw it like this, I realized that it already had enough coils, and what would balance the rim nicely would be a foot which was a similar smooth ring.  I didn't want to throw on the wheel, and then spend time cleaning it, but probably ended up spending much more time hand building and shaping a ring for a base.  But I am happy with the result :
Coil bowl in progress - pottery by Lily L.
I'm really liking the result.  I can imagine accenting the coiled part with stain, and then glazing it in a light color, but glazing the rim and foot ring in a nice brown to complement the stain.  Or maybe do something in a celadon / dark blue combination.  I can't wait to try this.  In fact, I may want to try a couple of versions of this type of bowl, until I get the combination I really like.  We'll see.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


I love it when creativity inspires creativity.  I was happy to share my first large sculptural piece with Miranda Clingwall, aka "Warningbell Carousel", who has named her "Sedna".
Here is Sedna, getting a felt base, so she will not scratch any tables in her new home.

And here she is, looking out longingly, wondering how she will like her new home.

(See previous posts about my sculpture, starting from here.)

Miranda loved her at first sight (photo) and was happy to give her a good home.  Here she is after arriving at Miranda's house, surrounded by some of the herbs (Russian Tarragon, Blackberry Leaf, Lemon Verbena, Chamomile & Purple Sage Flower) which Miranda grows and dries.

Miranda continues to be inspired by Sedna, and has since been sharing with me some of the inspiration that the piece has brought her.  She recently shared this poem which she has written about Sedna, and an image which has meaning for her :


My name is Sedna

I come from the deep

I represent all that is.

I speak in mysteries and enchantments....

Inspirations that emanate 
from layers of portals of possibilities....

There is no time, only essence......

I am 
what becomes.

and I become 
what I am.

(Copyright - Warningbell Carousel - Jan 16 2016)

Pottery Tool Making - First Class

I wasn't sure what to expect from the "Pots and Tools" course when I signed up for it.  The instructor, Jay, is a really handy person, he does all the technical work and even some of the construction work around the studio, and has made many of his own tools.  But he is also amazing at throwing.  So I imagined that we'd start throwing, and then along the way we'd think of some tools which would be useful, and have some diversions to make or alter our tools accordingly.

Instead, our first class was a full-on woodworking class.  Jay showed us a large variety of pottery tools, made of wood and bamboo and brass and other materials, and indicated that we'd make many of them in this course.
That seemed pretty cool.  And he had the longest and widest piece of bamboo which I'd ever seen, which we were going to cut up and shape into tools.  That was even cooler.  And there were a few power tools set up around the studio, which we were going to use.  He demo'd a few items and then told us to get started.  Wow.  I'd never really used power tools like that before.  I was a bit intimidated, and even scared that I would hurt myself.  But I soon became very hooked on the raw power and the results that they could produce.

There was a band saw, with a very narrow blade, to cut out some hand tools from planks of wood (we weren't sure what types of wood they were, but they were very fragrant).  An axe for splitting the bamboo.  A very blunt hand saw, to cut bamboo strips in the mitre box.  A dremel tool.  And my favourite, the bench top belt and disc sander.  A few of us were so hooked on this tool, that we were talking about buying one.  It looks like I could get one for about $200.  Tempting.

[ Edit : I have since discovered that the special saw is called a scroll saw, not a band saw. ]

Anyhow, here are some of the throwing tools which we made :
This one is for throwing large pots.  I haven't needed something like that yet, but who knows.  When I do, at least I'll have it.
Instead of giving it a fatter handle, like the example piece we had, I narrowed both ends, so presumably I could use either end for throwing.
Look at this sweet little throwing tool.  I was able to get these pieces quite smooth on the belt and disc sander, so I don't think they even need touching up by hand with sandpaper.  We will apply oil to finish them.  And I'll write my name on them, in large letters.  Next week.
I already have a small tool I can use for paddling, but now I have my own large paddle.  It is also beautifully smooth to hold.  I will leave one side smooth, and texture the other side.  I haven't decided how to texture it, but I wasn't sure about making the saw cuts that others were making.  I could also apply some texture, like with hot glue?  Jay is also making one which will be wrapped in string, to create a texture.  I wanted to make that one, but he encouraged me to try this simpler one first.
With the bamboo, we made this trimming / cutting tool.  It apparently holds up better to moisture than the wood tool I have (from my little pottery starter kit).  Which I should remember to sharpen next week, on the belt sander.  I spent a lot of time smoothing out the bamboo, so it wasn't too sharp to hold, and made a comfortable indent on most of my tools, where I'd be holding them.  So cool.
I made two profile tools, using the dremel to make the jagged edge.  That part was quite tricky, and hard to produce the result I wanted.  But I think these could become useful to me.  This gave me the thought that I could try the dragon scale tool that I've looked at online (the one I saw was metal, and they were selling for something like $20!).  I was pleased that I could get a pretty reasonable result, even from bamboo :
I have started two more, because I realize I want to leave the hard bamboo shell all the way to the tip (which is the part which is likely to wear out or break first), and I want to make a few different sizes of dragon scales.  This tool could be really handy for me.  Jay suggests I make a metal one.  Awesome, I would like that.
We also made some cutting wires, from nylon, from very fine brass, and from string.  I still need to add the handles to them.  One of them will be a one-handled cutting tool, specialized for cutting off the hump.

I'm excited, and can hardly wait until next class, to play with more power tools, and make more pottery tools.  I think I'll research more ideas, different shapes of tools I may want, since I want an excuse to cut and sand more wood.  :-)  It occurred to me during the class that if I were organized, I could also make tools for friends, especially my good friend Mariana, but I also know Jay, he manages to stay way ahead of us, and I'll probably have a challenge keeping up with his ideas, never mind making extras along the way.  But we'll see.

Our class was supposed to end at 1PM, but I couldn't pull myself away from the sander and dremel until about 3PM.  Which left only 2.5 hours in the open workshop.  At that point, I was happy to get my hands into clay, but didn't want to make a mess at the wheel, and spend half an hour cleaning up.  So I did some hand building.  Mainly, I spent time making a coil pot.
I used a combination of spirals which I made from coils, with smaller discs of clay stamped with my handmade coil stamps.  I think that may look fun.
I've tried a pot made just from coils, and tried joining them together, but they split apart during the bisque firing.  So this one, I used fresh clay to connect all the coils together.  So it will be smooth on the inside of the pot (I'll glaze it in a bold colour, like green or blue, I think), and textured on the outside.
If I glaze it on the outside, I think I'll keep it clear or celadon, or something that will let the clay texture show really well.  One day I want to make one which is accented with iron oxide outside, and only glazed inside.  But I'm not sure this is the one.  I'm hoping that if this coil pot works out well, it will be the first of many, since I found the process of making it very therapeutic.  Funny that a lady in the workshop commented that it would drive her crazy, doing all that fiddly work.  She sticks to throwing on the wheel.  To each their own, I guess.  That's what makes life interesting.