Monday, June 29, 2015

Workshop at Archie Bray, Next Month

Next month I'm heading to Montana to take a workshop with Peter Beasecker at The Archie Bray Foundation. I signed up for the workshop a few months ago and am looking forward to being a student for a bit. I haven't taken a wheel-throwing class since my first year in college. In graduate school I learned from other potters and since then I mostly learn from videos online. Of course I had years of classes in hand-building, kiln firing, kiln building, and glaze and clay chemistry, but very limited instruction on the wheel itself.

throwing sculpture parts

My own work is mostly sculpture, though I use the wheel as a tool for throwing pieces with which I later build. Most of my clay teaching for the past 12 years has been on the wheel. I spend lots of time instructing beginning students on the basics of bowls and cylinders, handles and lids, as well as clay, glaze and firing basics. But those students of mine who spend quarter after quarter throwing on the wheel, sometimes end up practicing techniques I do not get a chance to practice (throwing big, making matched sets, copying complex forms). I get lots of practice throwing simple shapes for my students and sculpting complex ones in my home studio, but I don't spend a great deal of time refining my own thrown forms directly on the wheel, and I only occasionally thrown functional work at home.

thrown sculpture parts

My hope is that this workshop will be inspiring and will give me some good ideas for my pottery classes. I'm not sure what those ideas will be--maybe new throwing techniques or suggestions for improving what I (and my students) already do, or perhaps ideas about form, inspiration and developing a coherent group of functional works. At the very least, the workshop will give me one solid week to be a student and to throw pots for myself (not as a demonstration for students).

thrown work in low fire work

I threw for a few hours last week because the workshop materials list asked us to bring some bisque ware. It didn't occur to me until after I threw most of a box of clay to ask what temperature the bisque ware should be. My main throwing clay is low temperature, but at the Bray we will be firing to cone 6. So, I went to Seattle on Thursday for my shift at CORE Gallery and picked up some higher temperature clay on my way in.

 
high fire clay ready for throwing, and thrown

I've thrown 25 lbs this morning and plan to throw some more later today and pull handles and trim today or tomorrow. I'd like to get the work dry this week to fire next week, in time for the workshop. I threw mostly bowls and mugs, though I may make some pitchers or even a teapot if I have time.


mugs in low fire clay

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First Week of Summer Work

Last week I spent some time in the studio, as well as some time at school. I finished a few things, including a window box for some tools. I usually set jars of tools on the window sill behind my work table, but they tend to get top heavy and tip over. This box should be sturdy enough to stay put and narrow enough to fit well on the sill.

box in progress
I made it with red clay slabs. It isn't very exciting, but it's functional. I painted orange slip on the surface and carved it with small loop tools.

finished box drying on the window sill

I'm letting it dry slowly so that it doesn't cracks. I have some other work in the kiln today, for my first summer firing. I made two of these pieces during the spring, one at the Tour of Artists' Homes and Studios, the other while working a shift at CORE Gallery. These sculptures I kept intentionally small because I had to travel with them while they were wet.

pieces in progress at the Tour and CORE

I finished three more sculptures this week in my studio. I kept them intentionally simple so I could get them fired quickly. For two of them, I skipped the bike parts, the other is intended to have just one bike part, as well as some small pieces that will be adjustable. 

sketch of bike piece, adjustable elements, and bike part piece in progress

One of these pieces is in the kiln today. The others are still drying. I hope to start working with the adjustable parts this week and check for fit on the bike part once the pieces are out of the kiln.

three pieces I made last week, drying



Saturday, June 20, 2015

New Building Photos

I finally got myself into the new building with a camera. (Too bad all my iPhone pictures look blurry lately). So here, finally, are some pictures of the new clay studio (I didn't get pictures of the other studios, yet). 

throwing space in the main studio

The main room is divided into two main sections with a throwing side and a hand-building side. The throwing side consists of 16 student wheels, plus an ADA wheel and a teacher's station wheel. All but the ADA wheel are Thomas Stuarts. The hand-building side has 5 or 6 work tables and lots of space to move around. In the old studio we had 16 wheels, plus one that didn't have a pedal, about 4 work tables, plus one that usually was over taken by kiln-related items or metalsmithing scraps.

studio from the teacher's perspective

The major improvement in the new studio space is the space! I am so accustomed to walking over students, asking them to stand up so I can pass, or rearranging shelves, boxes, etc, so that students have (temporary) room to work). The new studio boasts increased counter space by the wheels and an entire damp closet in which students can store their work, not to mention the simple fact of room to walk around, through and past work stations.

teacher "station" at the front of the hand-building space (incomplete wedging tables along back wall)

The teaching options are also greatly increased. First of all, there is a teaching station in the studio, complete with computer, AV and whiteboards where students can actually see them. I said my goodbyes to the projector cart in the Media Center and plan never to roll it on its tiny wheels across the cracked and uneven path to Palmer Hall where I then have to move my class to a different room in order to access a portable screen on which to project a partially visible Powerpoint. I am also looking forward to having internet access in the classroom where I can show a whole class an image on the spur of the moment.

glaze room with ventilation, sinks, (small) drawers and shelving

One of the reasons the room feels so much larger is that the glazing room has moved to a separate space. The glazes, underglazes, dry materials, spray booth and two sinks are all going to be kept in a glazing room. The old operating procedure was to store the glazes under a table next to the wheels. When they were pulled out, the students glazing inevitably got in the way of the students throwing, and vice versa.
washer dryer and (small) mixer in the clay storage and recycling room

Clay storage, mixing, laundry and kilns are also housed in spaces separated out from the main work space. This not only increases ease of navigation and use of the classroom space, but it should cut down on noise, heat, distractions and even dust in the main studio space. 

the indoor kiln room (old gas kiln and new electric kilns)

The kilns are in a separate room with plenty of space. The main problem for the last month in the Palmer Hall studio has been the inability of the air conditioning to keep up when any of the kilns are running, or even cooling down. In the new space there is a door between the work space and the kilns, not to mention the fact that the AC and heating are likely to be more reliable in a new building, as opposed to a building which has been in its current state for 20 years at least. 

the outside kiln yard with a pit and a disassembled raku kiln

I'm not entirely sure how old Palmer Hall is, but I believe it may have been the art building since the 1980s. I have been in it for 9 years and when I came to YVCC in 2006, there had already been one attempt made to replace the building. Before it was an art building, moreover, it was a library, which makes some sense out of the odd arrangement in the very middle of the building, which has been used for storage, office space and a teeny tiny bathroom.

YVCC Campus circa ? (16th Ave is on the bottom/right, Nob Hill is top/right)


When I was in the Facilities Operations office this week, waiting to discuss kiln placement, I noticed this picture on the wall. It is of the campus long ago, but unfortunately didn't include a date. If you look closely, you'll notice Palmer Hall, Prior Hall, Larson Gallery and earlier versions of what I'd guess are the HUB and Sherar Gym.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Moving the Kiln

In the new building, Palmer-Martin Hall, the clay studio will be mostly equipped with new stuff: new wheels, new kilns, a new clay mixer, but the gas kiln is fairly new itself--at least, it was brand new when we started planning Palmer-Martin Hall 10 years ago. So the gas kiln will be the same in the new building. 

The kiln in the old studio, after the tracks were removed. Notice the carts are in the  way even now.

I was in the studio this week, waiting for someone, while facilities folks were moving the kiln. Moving it is quite an operation, since the kiln is so big. All the furniture in the studio has to be moved back out of the way and then the middle section of the door frame has to be removed.

The kiln slowly leaving the Palmer Hall and its home for the last 6 years.

 This is a car kiln with the bottom section and front wall on rollers that come out on a track. This part of the kiln was rolled out separately and parked for a time in by some benches outside Palmer Hall, while the rest of the kiln was navigated out the doorway.

The kiln car enjoying some time in the sun.

The kiln then had to be raised up onto the truck with a fork lift (and fork lift extenders) before it could be driven across campus to the new building.

The kiln getting loaded for its short ride.

I missed seeing the kiln brought into the new building, but I did get to visit today to discuss its orientation. I am looking forward to opening the kiln door without first moving several carts out of the way. By the look of the new kiln room, one could feasibly be loading all three kilns at once without knocking into one another. This was basically impossible in the old studio.

The kiln, its new friends, (and detritus) in the new building.



Saturday, June 13, 2015

Packing and Moving to Palmer Martin

I put a moving sign on the gas kiln once we unloaded the last batch of work on Wednesday.

This week I am officially done teaching in the Palmer Hall. This is the round building in the center of campus where I have taught art classes since I came to Yakima in 2006. The building has been an art building since, the 80s, I believe, but was a library before that. We move into the new Palmer Martin building over the summer and begin teaching there in the fall.

Palmer Martin (from the campus bridge), image from BORA Architecture

The opening reception for the new building was held June 2. The new space looks great and most of the rooms are completely built and mostly furnished. Of course, I forgot to bring a camera when I visited the building, so pictures will have to arrive on this blog later this summer, when I have a key. 

The mural in the art hallway, picture from the Yakima Herald article about the new building
People who came to the ribbon cutting ceremony on June 2 were able to see the classrooms mostly set up, though the art studios are missing some equipment still. I visited the space again on Friday to check on things that might be missing or things that seem to have changed a little over the course of the ten years since we started planning the project (planning began before I had ever heard of Yakima).

the studio, in the midst of packing for the move

The new clay studio, especially, is massive. My first impression of the clay studio in Palmer Hall was that it was bright and clean and not bad for a school and art program of this size. The new studio retains the bright and clean feeling and increases the size considerably, while also greatly improving on the setup.

boxes and buckets packed and ready to move to Palmer Martin

The major problem with the studio in Palmer Hall is that there isn't really enough space to get around when everyone is working. During throwing classes, I sometimes have to literally climb over wheels to get to the other side of the class. When students are glazing and throwing at the same time, the problem just gets worse. In the new building, the glazing room is almost entirely separate from the wheels. 

ware cart blocking the gas kiln tracks (bottom left)

We have a similar issue near the kilns. We have rolling carts on which we put our work to be fired, but we have to roll them into another part of the studio if we have the gas kiln open. If students are working when we open the kiln, they have to stand up so we can roll the carts past them. In the new space, theoretically, students can work undisturbed in the studio while kilns are loaded and unloaded, while students glaze, and while I move from one student to another.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Last Raku at Palmer Hall

Yesterday was officially the last raku firings at our "old" building. The art program is moving to the new Palmer-Martin building over the summer and all our classes will be on the south side of the street next year. 

raku pieces cooling off after firing

There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house this coming Tuesday at YVCC.  I will not be able to attend, since it is scheduled during one of my class critiques, but I believe the studios will be open. I hope to get over there later in the day or later in the week.

hot pieces being removed from the raku kiln

My students and I fired the kiln for about five hours yesterday and got through at least five rounds of work in the super heat. The morning was actually fairly nice, but the heat, sun, and smoke started to be exhausting by the middle of the day. One thing I'm looking forward to in the new space is air conditioning in the building that actually cools the building.

 
spraying water on a piece before dropping it in the reduction bucket

It might not be fair to blame the air conditioner, since our gas kiln was cooling down from about 600-700 degrees in the morning, but the studio has been unbearable most of the last two weeks. In the new building, kilns will be in a separate room from the rest of the studio, so hopefully we can keep cool in the warmer months.

taking work from the hot kiln

Yesterday's firing went well, we only lost two pieces, one was dropped, the other was too fragile to raku safely. The glaze results were pretty good all around and we had a lot of variety. We horse-haired a few things and several students tried resist techniques and layered glazes in new and innovative ways.

cooling work with resist, layered glazes, and burnt paper

The day was pretty warm in general. The high according to the NWS was only 90, but I think the forecast was higher than that. I know we felt warm because of the heat inside the building and because we were adding to the heat in our space with heat from the kiln. The smoke from the reduction buckets made it unpleasant to be outside in the shade much of the time.

a hot pot with horse hair burnt onto the surface (the shelf is on top to contain the smoke inside the pot)



Thursday, May 28, 2015

Watering Cups for Planters

The other things I built last weekend at the Gallery were some pots to put in my planters. I read about this method to keep potted plants watered correctly. I tried in in three of our planters.

Strawberry planter with watering cup inside the top opening

You're supposed to fill the planter with soil, but leave a space in the middle for a smaller terra-cotta planter. Then the plants go around the exterior. You pour the water in the small planter. The terra-cotta holds the water, but it seeps through the porous ceramic into the soil and waters the plants slowly. it seems to be working pretty well for our hanging tomato plants and our strawberries this year.

hanging planter (tomatoes) with inset watering cup

I decided to make a few extras to go in other planters and the porch box, where our flowers and basil are very sad indeed, despite regular watering. I made some small cups at the gallery and boxed them up for the drive home. The simple, small shape was easy to transport, wet, in a narrow box.