Sunday, April 30, 2017

Yet More Leaf Imprint Vessels and More

This is a great time of year to do more leaf imprinting, as there are many fresh leaves becoming available.  My Davidii involucrata (dove or handkerchief) tree has just sprouted a fresh set of small leaves.  In a few weeks, it will be covered in larger leaves, so I took advantage of this opportunity to imprint with some of the small leaves.

First I needed to throw some pieces.  I am enjoying throwing closed shapes, to which I can add an opening anywhere, as I did on Wednesday.  For this first one, Fredi made a suggestion that I could paddle the bottom so that it was slanted.  What looked good to me was when it was reclined quite noticeably on its side :

I added an opening, which was neither on the throwing axis nor the vertical axis, so was really wonky looking, and pressed the leaves :

Then added the No. 6 soda slip, which will behave somewhat like a flashing slip in the soda firing :

Then peeled the leaves :

I am trying to think of different combinations of slips and glazes, and unglazed areas, so I can experiment and find some winning combinations.  This one is so textured I may just leave it as is, and see how the soda ash glazes the leaves, but behaves differently with the slip.  I'm hoping for some dramatic oranges between the leaves.  But we'll see.  The soda firing is very unpredictable.

Next I used some sculptural clay to throw a very fine shaped egg.  The sun and wind today was awesome, it helped to dry my pieces very quickly, so I could work on them the same day.  This one was no exception.  By the time I played with some claws, it was nearly ready to assemble :
This is not the best hatching dragon egg I've made, I think I did better with these previous eggs, but not bad in a single class, with lots going on.  I think I'll put this one in the soda firing, so I can play with some of the soda glazes.

Finally, I threw another closed form, to which I added an off-set opening, and found that I could re-use the Davidii leaves, as I had otherwise run out of my supply.
Between the leaves is black slip.  I made add black stain to highlight the leaves, or may not.  I plan to experiment with both approaches.

Next I played with rolling a very thin slab, and pressing small viburnum leaves into the clay, to make pendants.  I am still looking for something to collaborate with my friend Shelley, who makes wonderful beaded bracelets and other jewelry.  We'll see.  My idea was to press a leaf into both sides, since I don't like pendants or beads which are only finished on one side.  If I leave them unglazed, I can fire them without any extra trouble (although I do have some high temperature wire and a bead rack which I made a long time ago).

But I realized that I should also make a small plate or something that I can set the leaves on top of, so they won't be lost in the bisque or gas firings.  So I pressed a few more viburnum leaves into a slab, and draped it on a pentagonal mould.  I didn't have enough clay to go all the way to the edge, so I cut an intentionally wonky edge.  Here it is, with some of the leaf pendants lying inside :

I was too lazy to fight with a coil or other foot, so used some of the trimmings to make a funky looking foot. I was really pleased with the outcome :

Not bad for one day of pottery.  And better yet, I'll be back at pottery again in 3 more days.  Good thing, as I will sadly miss class next Sunday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

More Leaf Imprint Vessels

Last week I was decorating with scented geranium leaves, which I have since learned is referred to as a "mosquito geranium" (Pelargonium citrosu).  This week there are many more options, as there are many perennials and shrubs and trees leafing out now.  I decided on a Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis), since it had very distinctive veining in the leaves :

Here it is, in progress :
This was a bottle I threw a week or so ago, and today I covered it in "No. 6 soda slip", which is a slip which Jay formulated, so that it already has properties of a flashing slip for the soda firing.  So I think with this one, I will stain to show the details of the veins and texturing, and then leave it unglazed (except inside).  I want to try various different approaches and see which one I like the best.  Hopefully all of them.

This class, I threw 2 spherical shaped closed vessels, and accelerated their drying in the wind (and bit of sun) outside, so that I could trim and finish them today also.  For both, I decided to cut an opening off-center, so that they could be used as a funky vase.  Funny, but my instructor Jay passed by, and commented that the hole was off center.  My other instructor, Fredi, commented that she liked how the hole was off center, and the "movement" that it created.  It's fun to see different reactions and perspectives.  But most people respond positively to my work.

Here is the first one, also with the anemone leaves pressed into the No. 6 soda slip, and then black slip painted around them :

Here it is, in progress :
With the help of the heat gun, I was able to dry the slip enough to be able to handle it.

By the time I got to the final vase, I had run out of the anemone leaves, so I went for a short walk and picked some flowers and leaves of Pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa).  The flowers didn't turn out so well, but I like how the leaves worked out :
(Sorry I'm too lazy to crop those photos.)

I also threw another vase with a bulbous shape, and decorated with a texture slip (I think it was the one labelled as "Arlynn's soda slip", but I don't know if it has any flashing slip qualities to it, so I may add a flashing slip on top).

The other exercise was to combine those two big pieces we threw last week, and then add a coil and throw a third piece on top.  First I had to cut off the rim of each piece, as they were a bit too thin at the edge.  Then I needed to push one out a bit, as it was no longer the same size.  
Finally I managed to get my pieces combined, but it was a long and painful process to make sure they were really connected well.
I ended up adding a coil (with clay that was perhaps a bit too dry) to the outside of the seam, but then spent a lot of time trying to smooth done the bump that it created.
Then I moistened and pulled the top, which was otherwise a bit heavy.  And added a coil, but never managed to get it centered well, so the whole thing became a mess, and I ended up cutting off at least as much as I had added, and then I rolled out the rim to make it even again.  The result was a bit too off center and uneven for my liking.  But with a bit of texture, I think I managed to recover and end up with a piece that could be quite a statement :
It was a fairly difficult process, but I'm sure I will try it again, as it makes for an impressively size piece.  Although normally we wouldn't be allowed anything over 18", as that is the constraint of the electric kilns.  It sounds like Jay will make an exception for our class, and fire them in the gas kiln.  If I didn't have so much fun with my leaf textures, I would have been tempted to throw two (or even three) more pieces, and create a shape (and size!) which I wouldn't otherwise be able to achieve.

I'm happy that I have a half dozen pieces now, which are suited for the soda firing.  With a number of others which could be used in the soda firing, or regular gas firing, depending on how I feel.  I am still waiting to receive my bag of No. 6 clay, for the soda firing.  I missed the distribution on Sunday, so will get some from the next batch this coming Sunday.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Throwing Big and Other Challenges

Too bad I will be missing Fredi's class this weekend, due to the Sun Run.  So I'm so glad I have Jay's class to keep me going...  This past week I trimmed and decorated a few pieces from the prior week, and then threw 4 more pieces.

After decorating that sphere last week with the scented geranium leaves, I had the great idea to make a geranium decorated vase for my friend Beth, who gave me that beautiful scented geranium, which I have been enjoying all winter on my windowsill.  She is a wonderful and creative person, and I think she will really enjoy this surprise.

I got to talking with a classmate about double-walled vessels again.  I had that one from last week, which was sort of plain, and didn't suit itself well to carving the outside wall, so I shaped the rim into a floral shape.  I'm really pleased with the result (top vessel, photo below).
I decided to throw another one (bottom vessel, photo above), this time trying to make the outside wall rounder, and the inside straighter, so I could carve the outer wall.  Funny, but I ended up with almost the same shape again.  Not suitable for carving, and too ordinary on its own.  So I shaped that rim also :

The challenge Jay gave us in class was to throw a vessel bigger than we have ever thrown before, and then throw a second similar one with no bottom, which will be combined with the first one, and then we'll throw a coil on top.  So we'll end up with something roughly 2.5 or 3 times as tall as we can throw.

I was pretty impressed that I was able to throw a pretty nice pot from 3200 g (7 lb) of clay.  I don't remember that I've thrown more than 5 lbs previously.  And this one is certainly larger, as I am throwing much thinner now.  The rim was a diameter of 8".  Here are the two pots :
I was trying for a rounder shape, not so cylindrical, but I'm still pleased, and can't wait to see the monster vessel I will get when I combine them and throw a neck on top.  Of course, Jay threw probably 15 lbs for each pot, but that's just something for me to marvel at, and to aspire to one day, but I am really pleased with my pots, and the possibilities this method provides.

Before I packed it in, I ended up throwing a beautifully shaped egg, which I suspect will hatch one of these days.  More photos to come, I'm sure.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Continuing in Jay's Course

I haven't quite settled into pottery two days per week, with missing last Wednesday's class due to work, and missing this Sunday's class due to the Easter holiday.  But when I do, I will surely be very productive, as I was again today.

I started first by finishing off the 5 pieces which I threw on the weekend.

The twisted piece (at the back), I just tweaked and cleaned up the bottom and stamped.  The other three pieces which were too "ordinary" looking vases, I finished with the thick white slip, just like the 2 pieces from last class.

For the final one, a pretty little sphere, I wanted to try another leaf imprint vessel, so I went into the garden yesterday evening, looking for leaves with lots of texture.  Most of the trees and a lot of perennials are only starting to bud out now, but there were a few promising ones.  Strawberry leaves, and hardy geranium leaves among the most promising.  But then this morning it was miserably rainy, so I decided to pick leaves from the scented geranium (a gift from my friend Beth) on my kitchen window sill.

The first step was to press the leaves into the sphere.  The leaves were quite resilient, and it took a bit of coaxing and rolling to get them settled into the clay, but I knew that the strength and thickness of the leaves were a good indicator of the impressions they would make.

In the past, I've textured around the leaf imprints, but this time I decided to try something new (and faster), so I painted black slip all around the leaves.

Then I let the slip dry a bit, and peeled the leaves out.  After the bisque firing, I will likely highlight the leaf textures with black (or perhaps another colour) stain.  But even now, the result is looking very promising.

I created quite a stir in the class, and a distraction to Jay as he was trying to demonstrate throwing of pitchers and other larger vessels.  I can't say I don't enjoy the attention.

After that, I decided to connect into the class activities, and participated in one which I had missed the previous week.  The challenge was for someone to sketch an idea for a ceramic vessel, and then try to throw it according to the drawing.  Then for another person to take that same sketch, and also try to throw from it.  So I picked a sketch, and this was my attempt :
I think it turned out pretty good, except that my base was a bit wider, and the belly of it was a bit lower than in the drawing.  I need to work on lifting up that belly, in future.

Anyhow, the thing ended up being far too ordinary looking for my liking, and I really didn't want to pull a spout and attach a handle, and make a pitcher, as much of the class was working on, as a ceramic pitcher just doesn't interest me at this point.  So I decided to decorate as follows :
That will make a fine vase, I think.

My next piece was also inspired by Jay's demos.  He had made a pot which was cylindrical, except it was drawn in at the center.  His was quite nice, actually.  Mine didn't turn out so beautiful, but I decided that with a bit of embellishing and a flattened shape, it could also be a pretty attractive vase.  Funny thing is that I don't seem to have any photos of it now, even though I was sure I had snapped some.  Nor do I have photos of the large double-walled vessel I threw, nor the two near-spherical shapes which I finished with a short neck, nor the smaller pieces I threw off the hump, which will be components of little goblets (or stemmed ice cream cups).

So I guess that's it for now.  I will be at it next Wednesday again.  I came close to throwing a large sphere which would have lent itself well to being carved (perhaps over the holiday), but now I'm so glad I didn't manage, since I have lots going on in my life, and I have a feeling the two days of playing with clay will be all I can manage for now.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Continuing in Fredi's Course

I am learning so much in Fredi's course, and today I had a very productive second class.  I finished off the 8 items I threw in last class, and threw another 5 more.  Not to mention, I mixed and revived a number of partial bags of clay.

The vessel with the hearts, I finished off the sides with the surform tool, which exposed the rich brown clay, and also added an interesting texture.  The vase beside it, I played with adding thick white slip, with my fingers.  I'm very pleased with the result.

The one on the left, I also added white slip with my fingers, and played with a wavy pattern.  The vase on the right, I was so tempted to decorate it more, but it was such a beautiful shape, and so light (I'm so pleased with my progress in throwing!), that I decided not to muck with it.  Maybe it will give me some beautiful variations in the soda firing.

The one on the left, I also resisted playing with it.  I could always try some creative glazing.  The one on the right, I messed around with scraping it, so that the rich brown clay showed through more clearly.  If I need to, I could also sand it a bit after the bisque firing.

This sweet spherical shaped "topper" for my totems, I decided to decorate with bees and honeycomb.  I'm really happy with the effect.  I may even send it through a soda firing.

Finally, I decided to play a bit with the more runny slips.  This one I added turquoise slip, and then while it was still wet, loaded black slip on the rim until it ran down the outside and also inside of the vessel.  I'm pretty happy with the drips, and will probably try something like this again.  That was the first 4 hours (almost 1 hour of which was settling in and watching a demo from Fredi).

In the final 3 hours, I threw these 5 pieces, which I will trim or just smooth out the bottoms and maybe decorate, next session, which will be either 2 weeks from now (due to the Easter holiday) or during one of my Wednesday classes.  We'll see.

Here they are, in closeup :
The one on left is another attempt to make a pleasantly shaped vase, which I could either decorate, or let the soda firing do some magic for me.  The one on right is something I had a bit of fun with.  It started like this :
...then I pushed out the shape.  Since one part of the rim split, I decided to split it in 3 more spots, and make it look intentional.

I played a bit more with spherical shapes.  If I can make them big enough, I would like to carve one into a candleholder.  The one on the left is a near-perfect sphere.  I love that shape.  The one on right, is almost spherical also, but finished as a vase.  Mostly for decorate purposes, with that little opening.

I would love to have decorated these will pressed leaves, but the leaves are only budding out at the moment.  I'll have to wait a few more weeks before I can make more of those.

Finally, this fairly large spherical vase.  It was thrown from 2kg of porcelain clay, quite a bit more than the 1300 g used in the previous two spherical shapes.  So I was disappointed that I couldn't make it bigger than I did.  But I think being the last one in a very long and busy day, I was getting tired.

I am so pleased by all the progress so far.  A few of the pieces I picked up today to finish, I could hardly believe they were mine.  They were so light, in comparison to what I've done in the past.  I hope I have compressed the bottoms enough that I won't get any cracks, as all of these pieces are quite dear to me.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

More Finished Items : Nearly All Now

Continuing with my finished pieces from the Spring Ahead course, I have nearly all of them now.  These are some of the latest pieces.

36) This little piece was thrown from P570 white clay, and when trimming, I ended up chattering the sides.  So I decided to glaze with Amber Celadon, to show the texture.  The glaze behaved beyond my expectation.  The result is smooth to the touch, but with a beautiful visual texture.  I'm very pleased with this result.

 37) This big open bowl was thrown from a mix of P600 porcelain and WSO sculptural clay.  It is glazed in Khaki (reformulated to be brighter than before, I'm not sure I like the new colour yet), and then Copper Red.  It is an interesting result, with quite a bit of crazing and variation in colours.  I like the visible rings from throwing, and the double/triple foot.  All around a pretty good result.

38) This little bottle was thrown from a reclaimed mix of P570 white, H550 grey, and various other clays mixed in, including the Willamette Yellow.  There is some nice marbling of the clay, but the Celadon glaze (sprayed on) dulls the impact.  Still not a bad result.

39) Last but not least, this sweet hatching dragon may be may favourite so far.  He is formed from Big White sculptural clay, which is quite gritty.  His features are highlighted in Red, Black, and Forest Green underglazes, and then he is sprayed with Celadon glaze, and the egg sprayed White.  He has a really nice weight to him, the egg texture is beautiful, I couldn't be more pleased.

What I'm missing is a photo of the big obelisk shaped piece which I brought home and immediately took outside, to become the base of one of my garden totems.  So I don't remember if I even took photos of it.  I'll need to get out there one day when it's not raining (that's so April in Vancouver!) and take some photos.

If my notes are correct, I seem to have 2 remaining pieces which I never did find on the pick up shelves, and then one little sodium silicate vessel on student display. So hopefully they will all come home with me soon.  In the meantime, I'll be back at pottery again tomorrow, creating more in my Soda course with Fredi.  I've got so many ideas of things I'd like to try, I don't know what to start first.  But at some point, I will need to settle down and create some pieces which are worthy of and suited to the soda firing.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Great Start to the New Season

This Spring season, I will be doing pottery twice a week.  Wow.  Life is wonderful.  Except for today, I got called into work, so missed my first class with Jay.  But on Sunday, I had my first class with Fredi, and was really excited.  I made so much progress in improving my throwing, from Fredi's instruction.  I experimented with vessels which should not need to be trimmed at the bottom, and with pulling up as much clay as I can from the bottom corner (which is where I usually have so much weight).  The result was pots which were larger and lighter than I've ever thrown before.

These were my first two.  1500g and 900 g.  About 50% larger than I think I've thrown previously, with that same amount of clay.

I was being so disciplined the first 3 hours, reworking and blending some old clays I had in the garage for too long, and focusing on my centering and throwing, that on the third pot, I finally had to break down and "play".  I'm by nature a decorator, and I couldn't hold it back any longer.

I have been intrigued by the techniques of Cory Brown, which involve overlaying sheets with inlaid design over pots, and then using special handmade rollers to press in the inlay while throwing the form.  I was intrigued to try this, so created a sheet with a pattern of hearts, punched out of Plainsman H440 brown clay.

Too bad I was being too lazy, so didn't check the dimensions of the thin slab I was preparing.  So it didn't quite fit on the cylinder I had thrown :
Being lazy, I decided just to use a pastry roller (I don't have nice smaller rollers like Cory), to try to press this sheet (which is still quite thick) into the cylinder, ignoring that I had some gaps where the sheet didn't meet.  It worked to some degree.

Here is the final product :

I learned enough from this, that I think I could attempt a more interesting form and design one day, using a thinner inlaid sheet (Fredi suggested I could roll it out onto a plastic sheet, so I could use the plastic to lift it into place).  I could also try to "throw" the piece from the inside, to get the interesting twist on the design which Cory Brown achieves.  But for now, I was at least happy to get the two clay parts to adhere - or at least they seemed to.

After that experiment, I went back to working on improving my throwing.  I have always loved spherical forms, so I played a bit, and got this one, which has a hole in the bottom and top, so it will become a garden totem piece:

I played with a couple more spherical pieces, one with a very narrow neck at top (but not as tall as I was hoping to achieve - I forgot to take a photo of it), then the complete sphere below (left).  The one in the middle, I inset a couple of pieces of H440 brown clay before throwing, but the brown clay was too stiff, so it was hard to control, and I ended up with a wonky top.  So I made it even more wonky, to make it look intentional.  Finally, the one on the left is another cylindrical piece, thrown with a relatively light bottom and sides.
I don't think any of them are suitable for the soda firing (which is the intent of the course), but since I throw so many pieces (8 this time, which are almost done, since most won't need trimming), I will not have any problem throwing enough to fill my 2 cubic foot allotment.  Especially since I'll be doing pottery twice a week now (when work or other plans don't interfere!).