Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Birthday Surprises

My dear sister, Rose, is a great encouragement to me in my ceramics journey.  So I wanted to make her a few items for her birthday this year.  Now that her birthday is past, I can post a couple of photos of the items which I was saving as a surprise for her.

This candle holder was raku fired last month.  I really like how the red is very vivid, there is a nice crackle in the white glaze, and there is a beautiful iridescence in the turquoise glaze.  It sure looks different than when it was greenware :

Here it is, from a few more angles :

The second item is a round vase with vine maple imprint, which I made for my sister since she wanted a similar one at the charity pottery draw in April, and didn't win it.  So this is the replacement:

Here's a photo of the two of them, before heading to their new home :
I'm so glad they went to a good home.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Bob Kingsmill Workshop

I had the joy of attending a workshop this past weekend (Sat & Sun) taught by Bob Kingsmill, a delightful BC potter known for his masks and murals.  He opened the workshop by banging together this wonderful whimsical mask before our eyes:

Then it was our turn.  I managed to make an attractive tree person:
I am very pleased with the result.  The piece will be stained and fired, and will end up in beautiful brown tones.

Bob went on to bang together a beautiful and very large bowl :

It will turn out something like this one when stained, glazed and fired :

I was excited to make one of these large bowls on Sunday, and collected a number of inspirational quotes on Saturday night, but then Sunday morning, Bob demonstrated what he calls a "Norwegian chicken wing delivery system" (a sort of Viking ship shaped bowl with decorative ends).  Bob's bowl featured chicken heads on each end :

I decided that I'm more of a dragon person, so made a dragon bowl, with dragon head on one end :
...and a dragon tail (albeit a short one) at the other end :

Here is the whole bowl.  You may be able to see the scaly texture inside :

I really wanted to make a big bowl, but felt short on time, so pulled together another mask, not too different than the first one, but not quite as tree-like :

Here are both masks, outside drying :
I'm really pleased with the results, and I loved the yellowish clay, called "Little John".  I ended up with a second bag which I didn't open, so I feel another mask or sculpture coming on, some day when I have time...

Here are a few masks of my fellow students, in progress.  I hope we can get better "group photos" when they're all done.

At the end of the class, Bob asked us all to contribute a small sculptural piece, which he combined together into another mural piece, which became a gift for my Shadbolt instructor, Jay (photos credit to my friend Mariana) :
On this side, I contributed the nautilus / seashell on the left (the horse-like creature on top middle was from Mariana).
On this side, I contributed the climbing frog on the left, and the funny hedgehog on the right (I tried to contribute as many as I could, since a few other people were too busy finishing up to contribute a piece, and I wanted it to look like we had full class participation).

What a weekend!  I can't wait to get back into the studio, to tidy up the pieces (cutting clay from some of the thicker areas, from the back of the mask, to lighten it up), and get them into the bisque firing.  I hope my dragon piece will not lose a head or tail.  I tried to reinforce them well, but it still seems a bit open to chance, for the outcome.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Awesome Bonus Pottery Day

"Any day I can have my hands in clay is a good day." - Me.

The pottery studio at Shadbolt Center is closed (other than weekend workshop courses) for all of June, so I was super excited that Fredi, an accomplished potter and pottery instructor, was willing to open her studio to me for some "collab" work.  Here is her studio, tucked away in a gardener's paradise, in her back yard :

Fredi can throw pieces which are about a third of the weight of my best pieces.  So it was a pleasure to work with pots which were so light, I wondered how they could be clay, and to just indulge in playing and decorating all day.

The first part of the day, we experimented with mocha diffusion, trying both a green and a blue stain, in both apple cider vinegar and mouthwash.  We also experimented with different slip formulas, starting with a porcelain slip, and then adding a white clay based slip, and trying different consistencies.  None of the results were spot on to what I was hoping, but we got some nice dendritic growth, and it was at least encouraging that this could one day be another form of surface decoration.

We played with lots of test tiles :

When we were happy enough that we were getting somewhere, we decorated two bowls which Fredi had thrown.  I forgot to take a photo of one of them, but here is the other :

Then Fredi trimmed a few pots / jugs she had thrown, and I started playing with decorating them.  On this one, Fredi had pressed a beautiful curve across the vase, which made me visualize some sort of pot emerging from another form.  So I textured the top part (poked it with the wooden handle of one of my tools).  I wasn't sure about it, as I was poking, but I think the end result turned out pretty nicely:

The other two, I knew I would resort to my current favourite technique, of leaf imprints and texturing.  I started one with viburnum leaves while at Fredi's studio (finishing it while sitting in her beautiful park-like back yard).

The other, I took home, and imprinted with vine maple leaves.  Here are the three finished pots / jugs, on my kitchen counter :

... and with leaves removed :

I hope to fit all of them into the soda firing in July, or at least whichever ones I have room for.  I think I have more than enough now for my allotted 2 cubic feet of space.

I am loving these new pots.  There are so light, I keep walking by and picking them up, just to be pleasantly surprised that I can easily lift them with one hand.  And what a wonderful way it was to spend the day.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Porcelain Workshop and Big Lantern from the Garden Pottery Course

This weekend was wonderful, I had the opportunity to play with porcelain for the first time, under the guidance and inspiration of Tanis Saxby, a Vancouver area artist known for her beautiful white porcelain flowy sculptures, like these ones currently on display at Shadbolt Center for the Arts :
Beautiful porcelain sculpture by Tanis Saxby, on display at Shadbolt Center for the Arts in Burnaby BC.
Beautiful porcelain sculpture by Tanis Saxby, on display at Shadbolt Center for the Arts in Burnaby BC.

I was inspired to something more floral, and have almost finished these two pieces, I will just need to return to trim up the bases / feet a bit more before declaring them done :
Beautiful floral porcelain sculpture pieces by Lily L - in progress.

The process was really fun.  I started both of these by throwing a bowl (although Tanis showed us other methods, such as hand rolling a slab, which I may want to try in future) :

Tanis started her pieces by manipulating the shapes, and noticing the shapes and shadows made by the edges and the form.

For my first piece, I did the same, playing with the edges and form for quite a while, letting it take shape as I played, but for the second one, I knew I wanted a flower, and so started with cutting first :

Tanis gave us blow torches (that was fun!) and showed us how to firm up the piece as it was being manipulated.  I was surprised by how much the Plainsman P600 porcelain stood up to the abuse.  That was truly fun, to push the limits of the clay, and see what it could do.  It was great also to work with other creative people, and get great ideas and suggestions from them.
Beautiful floral porcelain sculpture by Lily L - in progress.

I was intrigued at how each student took inspiration from Tanis's work, but also had their own style and expression.  I don't usually take photos of other people's work, but I had to take one of Teena Martin's wonderful porcelain creation :
Beautiful porcelain sculptural piece by Teena Martin.

This afternoon, there was a timeslot for picking up finished pieces, and I was delighted to pick up my big lantern, and find it in perfect shape, nothing broken, and the Sombright Green was applied thickly enough to create a beautiful green with only hints of brown.
Beautiful green floral (clematis vines) pottery stoneware garden lantern by Lily L.

Here it is outside, where it should be, in the garden :
Green floral clematis pottery stoneware garden lantern by Lily L.
...or deck :
Beautiful green floral pottery stoneware garden lantern by Lily L.
...although I suspect this piece may end up staying inside.  It has a hole in it to rig a light fixture, if I want to make it into a sort of lamp.  Or it can hold a tea light.  Or just be a very large and beautiful decorative piece.  I am super happy with the result.

What a wonderful way to spend a weekend, with hands in clay, and with such beautiful results to show for it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

More Finished Items from the Garden Pottery Course

I was happy to be able to pick up 3 more finished items today:
Pottery by Lily L.

I was super pleased with this one, I think it may be my favourite "twisty pot" so far:
Twisted pottery by Lily L.
7) This twisty pot was started back in February during my Pots and Tools course.  It was formed from 2700 yellow clay, and decorated in turquoise and black slips.  The inside is glazed in Amber Celadon, and it is sprayed Clear on the outside.  I was worried at the time that some of those beautiful jagged edges would be sharp, but I read somewhere to smooth them with a damp sponge, I can't remember now whether this was at the greenware stage or bisqued stage, but it seemed to work.  None of the edges are cutting sharp, they just have a very distinct texture.  Here's some more angles on this beauty:
Twisty ceramic stoneware pot by Lily L.

Beautiful vine maple imprint ceramic vase with hollow rim, by Lily L.
8) I don't think I can ever make too many of these leaf imprint vases, especially with the vine maple leaves.  I like the spherical shape of this one, and the wide hollow rim.  It was formed from 2300g of grey clay.  The leaf imprints are highlighted with iron oxide (although a bit more pale that I would like), and it is glazed inside and on the rim and foot with Khaki.  The remainder is unglazed, so it retains the texture of the leaves.  It has the spirally foot which I like to experiment with, and it has a "blooper" in that my signature stamp was applied upside down.  Here is a photo of the vase in progress.

9) This is the tall lantern piece which was formed from an extruded piece of recycled clay.  It is sprayed Sombright Green, which is not a food safe glaze, but is fine for pottery which will end up outdoors, as I have planned for this one.  It ends up green where the glaze is thick, and brown where it is thin.  As you can see in the earlier photo, I successfully managed to spray the roof so 2 sides are green, and 2 sides are brown.  I tried also to spray lightly on the birds too, so their backs are brown.  This will be a fun piece for the garden, I think.

I was worried that I may not make enough items for my 1' x 1' x 2' allocation in the soda firing in late July, so I've been saving up pieces which I think may get interesting results when soda fired.  I think I'm pretty close to having enough, so there isn't too much pressure to make more in early July when Shadbolt re-opens:

I will likely try to make some more smaller pieces, which can either augment or replace some of these pieces.  Whatever I don't use for the soda firing, I'll put through the regular gas firing, so no pressure either way.

As for items remaining to pick up, I have 2 totem pieces and the big floral lantern which haven't been fired yet, but hopefully will be ready this weekend.  And the other twisty pot selected for another student display.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

First Finished Items from the Garden Pottery Course

I was happy to drop by Shadbolt Center today, and find 7 of my pieces out of the kiln.  6 of them I was able to take home, and the 7th, another of my twisty pots (the striped one in the center of the photo), was selected for another student display:

I took photos of it, and said good-bye for now (see this post for the "making of" photos).  This one was white clay, with black and turquoise slip, and finished with Celadon inside, and Clear outside:

Cool.  I still have another one of my early version twisty pots on display in the main atrium.  For this one, my notes say that it is yellow clay (which turns a beautiful brown color when fired) and finished with iron oxide and Gerstley Borate outside, and Amber Celadon inside:

I can't wait to get those little babies home.  I have a few more also in the kiln, hopefully ready next week, and a couple more I may save for a soda firing in July.

As for the ones I brought home, here they are :

1) If this one looks familiar, it's because I've made a few of these now.  It may even be my "best seller", since this style of pot was very popular at a fund raiser earlier this year.  This one is a bit paler in colour, but still nice.  2500 g grey clay with vine maple leaf imprints, tinted outside with iron oxide, and Matt Green glaze inside.  I really like the spiral on the foot of this one.  The shape is a bit frumpy, but at least it is not as heavy as some of my previous vases.   (See an in-progress photo in this post.)

2) This one is a nice large pot, from 2600 g white clay, with a bit of yellow marbled in (hardly visible), and then I experimented with my new dragon scale tool to texturize the shoulder.  I'm pretty pleased with the result.  Here is a closeup of the shoulder and foot :
I'm really loving that triple foot.  It's something pretty unique to me, I think.  I am using it on all my larger pots, where I can.

3) This big boy is another piece for another garden totem.  It started as 2200 g of yellow clay, which has turned a rich dark chocolate colour.  Delicious.  I sprayed it with Carbon Trap Shino, which didn't do anything spectacular, but is a good rich colour.  The stamp is something I borrowed from Herb, it was a wooden stamp from India.

4) This is another totem piece, inspired by my classmate Rob.  My notes say it was drips of turquoise and black slip, and sprayed Clear.  But it appears it was turquoise and blue slip.  Either way, it turned out pretty nice, and will contrast nicely with the other totem pieces.  I can't wait until I have enough to assemble a totem.

5) This plate / shallow bowl has been attracting lots of attention.  It was 1200 g of my favourite Plainsman 570 white clay, pushed out with a cow's tongue, and decorated with turquoise and black slip.  Glazed with Amber Celadon on the outside/bottom, and Clear on the inside/top.  Nice effect.  Not quite the pattern I was trying to achieve (inspired by something I saw on Instagram), but still quite a nice texture and pattern.

6) This was 3000 g of yellow clay, which I was attempting to shape into a donut, but the donut didn't quite close, so I went with a backup plan, and made what could be a fairly attractive and practical cactus / succulent planter, with drainage holes and pretty attractive feet.  It was also sprayed with Carbon Trap Shino.  What a yummy colour.  I'm glad I went for this colour, instead of a green.  Although another time, a brighter / lighter colour would be fun.

All pieces bear my artist's stamp.  I'm getting pretty good at remembering to stamp before my pieces are too dry, and finding a place where the stamp will show up.

Stay tuned for more pieces.  By next week I should have more, for sure.  If I'm really lucky, I may even have my monster lantern with clematis decoration.  I glazed it today :
I have my fingers crossed for this one to make it through the final firing okay, after all the hours of work put into it.  So far it has held up well to being carried around.  It lost one leaf during the bisque firing, but I can't even see the spot where it popped off from, so that's good.